George Fisher Baker

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George Fisher Baker
George F. Baker cph.3b20692.jpg
Born (1840-03-27)March 27, 1840
Died May 2, 1931(1931-05-02) (aged 91)
Citizenship American
Net worth USD $100 million at the time of his death (approximately 1/758th of US GNP)[1]
Spouse(s) Florence Tucker Baker
Children Evelyn, Florence Bellows, George Fisher, Jr.

George Fisher Baker (March 27, 1840 – May 2, 1931) was a U.S. financier and philanthropist.

Banking career[edit]

Baker was a co-founder—along with his mentor, John Thompson, and Thompson's sons Frederick Ferris Thompson and Samuel C. Thompson—of the First National Bank of the City of New York in 1863. The first national bank to be chartered in New York City under the National Currency Act of 1863, and was a forerunner of today's Citibank N.A.[2]

He became First National's President on September 1, 1877 (aged just 37) and Chairman of the Board in 1909. Mr. Baker's 20,000 shares in the First National Bank were worth twenty million dollars (~$501 million in 2011). An avid investor, he held interests in many corporations and was the largest stockholder in the Central Railroad of New Jersey. In addition, he was a director in 22 corporations, which together with their subsidiaries had aggregate resources of $7,272,000,000.

It is claimed he made $25,000,000 in 2 days in a stock exchange event and $42,000,000 in the same week, making him the fastest money maker of his day.[citation needed]

Media depiction[edit]

The April 14, 1924, Edition of Time Magazine said of Baker:[citation needed]

True, he is twice as rich as the original J. P. Morgan, having a fortune estimated at 200 millions. True, at the age of 84 when he has retired from many directorates, he dominates half a dozen railroads, several banks, scores of industrial concerns.

The March 26, 1934, Time magazine article called him

the richest, most powerful and most taciturn commercial banker in U. S. history[3]

A 1934 article in Newsweek describes him as one of the most imposing figures in banking history.[citation needed] In the November 1994 issue of Worth magazine, in an interview with James Grant, editor of a financial newsletter, Baker is described as the hidebound turn-of-the-century banker who always got his loans repaid and was one of Grant's heroes.

Philanthropy[edit]

Baker provided much of the initial funding for Harvard Business School with a 1924 grant for $5 million.[4] In reciprocation of this generous donation Harvard made him an honorary Doctor of Laws and named the library after Baker. In addition, he also made several large donations to charitable causes throughout New York City and funded the construction of Baker Field, Columbia University's primary athletic facility. He also provided $2 million for Baker Memorial Library at Dartmouth College, which has since become one of the school's symbols.

Personal life[edit]

Baker was born in Troy, New York, of Eveline Stevens Baker and George Ellis Baker, a shoe-store owner who was elected in 1850 on the Whig ticket to the New York State Assembly. At 14 young George entered S.S. Seward Institute in Florida, New York, where he studied geography, bookkeeping, history, and algebra. At 16, he was hired as the junior most clerk in the New York State Banking Department. He enlisted in the 18th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteers at the start of the Civil War, and rose to the rank of first lieutenant and adjutant.[5]

He was a member of the famous Jekyll Island Club (aka The Millionaires Club) on Jekyll Island, Georgia.

He married Florence Tucker Baker (daughter of Benjamin Franklin Baker and Sophronia J. Whitney) in 1869, and was the father of:

His son George Fisher Baker, Jr.'s daughter Edith married John M. Schiff of Kuhn, Loeb & Co.

Top Hat LeBaron Pierce-Arrow[edit]

In 1929 George Baker commissioned the construction of a one-of-a-kind Pierce-Arrow town car for the wedding of his daughter. Built by LeBaron, the car's roof line was 5" taller than standard models, as specified by Mr. Baker, who wished to wear his top hat while riding. At the time of its completion Mr. Baker was one of the 10 richest men in the United States.

The car was rediscovered in 1978 in a barn in Ohio alongside a Rolls Royce Boat Tail Speedster formerly owned by Fred Astaire.[citation needed]

Details in the Pierce Arrow reflect the affluence of its former owner. Trim lining in the rear compartment is made of 24 carat gold, as are perfume dispensers and an intercom.

The car is currently part of the White Glove Collection in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Klepper, Michael; Gunther, Michael (1996), The Wealthy 100: From Benjamin Franklin to Bill Gates—A Ranking of the Richest Americans, Past and Present, Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Publishing Group, p. xii, ISBN 978-0-8065-1800-8, OCLC 33818143 
  2. ^ James Grant. Money of the Mind. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux. 1992. p 55.
  3. ^ "All Paths Unite!". Time Magazine. 1934-03-26. Retrieved 2008-08-09. 
  4. ^ James Grant. Money of the Mind. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux. 1992. p 197.
  5. ^ James Grant. Money of the Mind. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux. 1992.

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
George V
Cover of Time Magazine
14 April 1924
Succeeded by
Lou Henry Hoover