John Stewart Kennedy

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John Stewart Kennedy
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John Stewart Kennedy

(1830-01-04)January 4, 1830
Died(1909-10-30)October 30, 1909
OccupationBusinessman, financier, philanthropist

John Stewart Kennedy (January 4, 1830 – October 30, 1909) was a Scottish-born American businessman, financier and philanthropist.[1][2] He was a member of the Jekyll Island Club (also known as The Millionaires' Club) on Jekyll Island, Georgia along with J.P. Morgan and William Rockefeller among others.

He married Ms. Emma Baker (1833-1930), of Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1858 (two years after moving to New York City). He had no children but mentored his sister Mary Kennedy's son John Kennedy Tod in the international banking and investment profession.


Kennedy was born near Glasgow in Scotland, received a scant education in school, studied in his spare moments as a clerk, and at 20 was sent to America by a London iron firm, in whose branch house in Glasgow he worked for four years. He was a manufacturers representative for tubing used in locomotives. Then he came again to New York and entered business with Morris K. Jesup. From this partnership he retired in 1867 and from active business in 1883, although he was still called upon after that date to aid in the reorganization of various financial concerns, notably in 1888, when he acted with J. S. Harris as receiver of the New Jersey Central Railroad.[3]

Kennedy's 1883 "retirement" broadened his role as a financier with diverse interests in leading New York financial intermediaries. Kennedy held the post of president pro tem of the Bank of the Manhattan Company, 1883-1884, when he became vice president until he resigned for reasons of health in 1888.

Kennedy also served as a trustee of the Central Trust Company from 1882 until he died. Kennedy held similar positions with the National Bank of Commerce (1887-1909), the New York Life Insurance Company (1903-1906), the Title Guarantee and Trust Company (1895-1909), and the United States Trust Company of New York (1896-1909). As a result of his varied banking activities, Kennedy became a central figure in the history of American banking and in the New York business community.

Kennedy was also the President of the Board of Trustees of Robert College, Constantinople, Turkey, and the chairman of the Presbyterian Hospital and United Charities boards, Second Vice President and a member of the Executive Committee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Second Vice President of the New York Public Library, and was at one time the Vice President of the New York Chamber of Commerce. Kennedy was a member of the Century Association, Metropolitan Club, Downtown Club, Grolier Club, Union League Club, City Club, New York Yacht and Atlantic Yacht Clubs, the Jekyl Island Club, and the New-York Historical Society.[4]

As well as his many positions in finance Kennedy was a keen art collector. In his later life Kennedy donated many pieces to the Metropolitan Museum of Art including the second painting of Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's famous Washington Crossing the Delaware, a full-sized replica of the first, in 1897.


Kennedy died of whooping cough in 1909 at his home, 6 West Fifty-Seventh street, in New York.[5]

Honorary pallbearers at his funeral included, Stephen Baker, President of the Bank of Manhattan Company; Nicholas Murray Butler, President of Columbia University; Robert W. De Forest, President of the Charity Organization Society; Cleveland H. Dodge; Howard Elliot, President of the Northern Pacific Railway; Seth Low, J. Pierpoint Morgan, George A. Morrison, Former President of the St Andrews Society; Henry L. Smith, John A. Stewart and Frederick Sturges, Vice President of the Presbyterian Hospital.

Amongst others present in the church were Andrew Carnegie and Mrs Carnegie, Henry De Forest and Eugene Delano.


The city of Kennedy, Minnesota is named for him.

Kennedy was prominently connected during his life with New York charities, and his will gave away $30,000,000—bequests of $2,500,000 each to Columbia University, the New York Public Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Presbyterian Board of Home Missions, Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, Presbyterian Church Erection Fund, and Presbyterian Hospital of New York City; four gifts of $1,500,000 each; three of $750,000 each; nine (to colleges) of $100,000 each; and 10 (to colleges) of $50,000 each; besides numerous smaller gifts.[3][6]

During his life Kennedy also funded the construction of Hamilton Hall, the home of Columbia University. The building is named after Alexander Hamilton; an American statesman and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, who attended King's College, Columbia's original name.


  1. ^ "Mr. John S. Kennedy. Interesting Sketch Of The Life Of An Honored Citizen Of New-York". New York Times. February 20, 1893. Retrieved 2010-07-11.
  2. ^ "John Stewart Kennedy". National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. 1913. Retrieved 2010-07-12. Kennedy, John Stewart, financier and philanthropist, was born at Blantyre, near Glasgow, Scotland, Jan. 4, 1830, son of John and Isabel (Stewart) Kennedy. He was educated in the public schools of Glasgow. His father's circumstances made it impossible to expect a college career, and at the age of thirteen the son began his business life as a clerk in a shipping office. Four years later he transferred his services to an iron and coal concern in Glasgow, and in 1850 a London firm in the iron and metal business made him an offer to travel for it in the United States and Canada, and he eagerly accepted the opportunity of broadening his experience and enlarging his prospects for advancement. He came to the United States in June,. 1850, and made his headquarters in New York city for two years. He went back to become the manager of the same firm's branch office in Glasgow, and he held that position from August, 1852, until December, 1856, but the institutions and the opportunities of the ...
  3. ^ a b "John Stewart Kennedy". New International Encyclopedia. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  4. ^ "Archives Directory for the History of Collecting". Retrieved 2016-11-23.
  5. ^ "John Stewart Kennedy Leaves More Than $25,000,000 to Charity". The Montreal Gazette. November 6, 1909. Retrieved 2010-07-11. John Stewart Kennedy, one of America's little known rich men, who died of whooping cough in his New York residence on Sunday last, ...
  6. ^ "Mr. Kennedy Bequests". New York Times. November 7, 1909. Retrieved 2010-07-11. The list of bequests for public purposes made in the will of Mr. John Stewart Kennedy is an admirable picture of the nature of the man, his ideals, his interests, his mode of looking at life.

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