Lives of Poor Boys Who Became Famous
Lives of Poor Boys Who Became Famous
If America had been asked who were to be her most munificent givers in the nineteenth century, she would scarcely have pointed to two grocer's boys, one in a little country store at Danvers, Mass., the other in Baltimore; both poor, both uneducated; the one leaving seven millions to Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, the other nearly nine millions to elevate humanity. George Peabody was born in Danvers, Feb. 18, 1795. His parents were respectable, hard-working people, whose scanty income afforded little education for their children. George grew up an obedient, faithful son, called a "mother-boy" by his companions, from his devotion to her,-a title of which any boy may well be proud.
At eleven years of age he must go out into the world to earn his living. Doubtless his mother wished to keep her child in school; but there was no money. A place was found with a Mr. Proctor in a grocery-store, and here, for four years, he worked day by day, giving his earnings to his mother, and winning esteem for his promptness and honesty. But the boy at fifteen began to grow ambitious. He longed for a larger store and a broader field. Going with his maternal grandfather to Thetford, Vt., he remained a year, when he came back to work for his brother in a dry-goods store in Newburyport. Perhaps now in this larger town his ambition would be satisfied, when, lo! the store burned, and George was thrown out of employment.
His father had died, and he was without a dollar in the world. Ambition seemed of little use now. However, an uncle in Georgetown, D.C., hearing that the boy needed work, sent for him, and thither he went for two years. Here he made many friends, and won trade, by his genial manner and respectful bearing. His tact was unusual. He never wounded the feelings of a buyer of goods, never tried him with unnecessary talk, never seemed impatient, and was punctual to the minute. Perhaps no one trait is more desirable than the latter. A person who breaks his appointments, or keeps others waiting for him, loses friends, and business success as well.
A young man's habits are always observed. If he is worthy, and has energy, the world has a place for him, and sooner or later he will find it. A wholesale dry-goods dealer, Mr. Riggs, had been watching young Peabody. He desired a partner of energy, perseverance, and honesty. Calling on the young clerk, he asked him to put his labor against his, Mr. Riggs's, capital. "But I am only nineteen years of age," was the reply.
This was considered no objection, and the partnership was formed. A year later, the business was moved to Baltimore. The boyish partner travelled on horseback through the western wilds of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, selling goods, and lodging over night with farmers or planters. In seven years the business had so increased, that branch houses were established in Philadelphia and New York. Finally Mr. Riggs retired from the firm; and George Peabody found himself, at the age of thirty-five, at the head of a large and wealthy establishment, which his own energy, industry, and honesty had helped largely to build. He had bent his life to one purpose, that of making his business a success. No one person can do many things well.
Having visited London several times in matters of trade, he determined to make that great city his place of residence. He had studied finance by experience as well as close observation, and believed that he could make money in the great metropolis. Having established himself as a banker at Wanford Court, he took simple lodgings, and lived without display. When Americans visited London, they called upon the genial, true-hearted banker, whose integrity they could always depend upon, and transacted their business with him.
In 1851, the World's Fair was opened at the Cryst