America’s First Banking Tycoon
By Atom Bergstrom
Re: Are all global bankers douchebags?
Checking out the internet buzz about “bottles and models” and Wall Street misconduct, it certainly seems so.
Once upon a time, D-bag and banker weren’t synonyms.
Bankers worked to help the government; not the other way around.
And one particular banker was a HERO.
His name was Stephen Girard, the fifth richest U.S. citizen of all time.
Let’s go back to the yellow fever epidemic of 1793.
Philadelphia was the U.S. capital, and George Washington and the entire government split for safer digs, leaving the sick and dying to fend for themselves.
Not so Stephen Girard — he rolled up his sleeves and worked for two months as a common nurse.
Richard Brodhead Westbrook (Girard’s Will and Girard College Theology, 1888) wrote …
“That Girard was himself a true patriot and philanthropist he has proved by numerous acts. He loaned large sums of money to the United States Government in 1814, when general distrust prevailed, and also to Pennsylvania in 1829, on the sole credit of Governor Schultz, to save the State from threatened bankruptcy. In this connection should be kept in mind his magnificent bequests to Philadelphia and the State of Pennsylvania, besides his other liberal gifts to numerous charitable institutions.
“But Girard specially showed his true practical religion in 1793, when the yellow fever scourged Philadelphia — when out of a population of less than twenty-five thousand who remained in the city, over four thousand deaths occurred between August 1st and November 9th. Girard was then a ministering angel among the fever-smitten poor in humble private houses and in Bushhill Hospital, in which he served for sixty days as a common nurse, often performing the most menial and disgusting service. He was at one time seen carrying in his arms a sick man heavier than himself from a humble cottage, with the burning cheek of the yellow-fever victim resting against his, to convey him to the hospital in his vehicle. In 1797 and 1798 the city was again scourged by yellow fever, and in both years Girard again took the lead in relieving the poor sufferers by personal service and large gifts of money, not thinking of his own life.”