One day in April, 1883, a looker-on in Wall street made the following observation: “About half- past three o'clock a tall, elderly man, wrapped in a spacious cloak of dark-blue that had evidently seen service, and wearing a broad-brimmed, light-colored, soft-felt hat, turned the corner of Broadway and came down the street. He did not attract particular attention, for in that locality people of all fashions and no fashion may be seen any day. Had he been generally recognized, it is safe to say that many heads would have been turned to observe him, and that no one would have passed him without a second glance. One person was seen to salute him, and that in a very cordial manner. Just as he reached the corner of New street, and in sight of the old ' Gold room,' he was met by Mr. S. Wilkinson, the veteran Secretary of the Northern Pacific Railroad. After a brief interview and apparently critical survey of the street they parted, and the stranger passed on down Wall street, and, turning into Broad, entered a banker's office; only one other person within this distance recognized him, and this was the President of the Metropolitan Elevated Railroad. After this no one was seen to speak with him, nor did he cast even a passing glance at his own old historic quarters on the corner of Nassau street. It is believed that it was his first visit to Wall street since the terrible failure of 1873-4. This apparition in the blue mantle and white hat was Jay Cooke! The man who manipulated more millions of Government bonds than any other individual in the United States, doing his country greater financial service in the space of a few months than all others combined.”
Jay Cooke came rather curiously by his baptismal name. His
father bore the highly classical and liberty-inspiring name of Eleutheros, but naturally suffered much annoyance from the inability of the common mind to take in its meaning or properly achieve its pronunciation; an unacceptable nickname had hence pursued him through his boyhood and even into mature age. When he had boys of his own he therefore determined to give them names easy of pronunciation and incapable of abbreviation; hence his eldest was named Pitt, after “ the great commoner,” and his second, with whom we are more concerned, “ Jay,” after our own eminent jurist and statesman. Mr. Eleutheros Cooke was himself a lawyer of considerable reputation, being in his day considered the leading lawyer in that part of Ohio which includes the city of Sandusky. Indeed, the family have a very respectable record, extending back to that pious pilgrim, Francis Cooke, who was one of the immortal band which came over in the “ Mayflower,” and landed with the historic group on Plymouth Rock, on that eventful December in 1620.
This reputable ancestor, Francis, was probably in good financial condition, since we find, by the old records of the colony, that his was the third house which was erected at the settlement. In process of time his descendants scattered, some going to the south shore of Connecticut, and others braving the terrors of the wilderness and “ going west,” penetrating into what is now the northern part of the State of New York. Of these the direct ancestors of Jay occupied a portion of Washington county, Jay's father being born in Middle Greenville; but it was in Saratoga that he first commenced the practice of law. It was in 1816-17 that a number of families in Saratoga concluded to form a party of colonists and remove to the young but promising State of Ohio, and Eleutheros Cooke settled in the vicinity of Sandusky, where he speedily attained an eminent position in society and politics, representing his district in the legislature for many successive years. His affiliations were with the old Whig party, by whom he was also elected to Congress in 1831. In politics, as in his boyish days, he found his name an intolerable nuisance, and in one instance a serious injury. Even at that early period there were a great many Germans settled in the river counties in which Mr. Cooke's district lay, and 'many of these voted for him with ballots on which the name of Eleutheros was incorrectly spelled, and the judges of election on one occasion threw out a thousand of these tickets.
Jay Cooke was born at Sandusky (then called Portland), Huron county, Ohio, on the 10th of August, 1821, and is consequently now in his sixty-third year. It was his father's intention to give all his sons a thorough education, but the mixture of politics with business had not proved so profitable with the elder Cooke as ^ome later politicians have found it, and during his absence at Washington his business suffered ; it was also a period of general depression, and during the recess he became aware that his financial embarrassments were likely to become very serious. An anecdote is told of this period which exhibits in a striking light the early force of character possessed by Jay. His father, being one day in a somewhat despondent mood, observed his three boys returning from school, and, half jocosely, half seriously, met them with a solemn embrace, saying, “ Well, my boys, I find I have nothing left for you ; you will have to go and look out for yourselves.” The lads hardly knew what to make of this unusual and totally unexpected address ; but, while Pitt and Henry said nothing, Jay very earnestly replied, “ Father, I am old enough to work ; I will go and earn money for myself.” Apparently nothing more was thought of this incident by either of the four participants except Jay, who was then about thirteen years of age; but, though he made no more talk about it, he meant business. The very next day, instead of going to school, he started off to a merchant in the city whom the family knew, a Mr. Hubbard, and applied for a position as a clerk. Mr. Hubbard knew and liked Jay ; he was also in want of a clerk, having just dismissed one for unfaithfulness; but “Jay was so young! ” However, he was prepossessed in his favor. He asked the boy some questions; found he was quick and ready at figures, wrote a fair hand, ambitious and anxious to be useful. So he ended by engaging him, provided he obtained his father's consent, but putting him at once to work.
When the brothers Pitt and Henry came home and reported to the mother that “Jay had not been to school,” great was her surprise, and when he returned later in the day, after the closing of the store, she began to speak of his truancy; but he speedily set her mind at rest by the explanation that he was not going to be a burden on his parents any longer, and had already begun to earn money. The father, half vexed and yet proud of the boy who had so promptly taken him at his word, agreed with the mother that it was not best to force him back to school, foreseeing that, after this litfle spurt of independence, his mind would no longer be on his books; so they cheerfully ratified his agreement with Mr. Hubbard, and thus little Jay was fairly launched into the world of commerce—and money-making. His employer took great interest in him on account of his ready and obliging manners, and his evident desire to do all his duty faithfully, and his unusual capacity for figures induced Mr. Hubbard to teach him book-keeping and also put him in the way of completing some other studies. He felt that he could trust him, and soon had occasion to put this faith in him to the test. Mr. Hubbard's partner was absent on a journey, and the former being detained at his home by sickness, the whole business of the store was conducted by Jay, who, calling for the keys in the morning and returning them with the money received through the day at night to Mr. Hubbard, often remained with the latter an hour or two in the evening. This continued for some time, and the young clerk's faithfulness and ability soon became known and talked of among the storekeepers of the city. One of these, when Jay had been nearly a year with Mr. Hubbard, was about removing to St. Louis, and made the lad a very enticing offer to go with him there as clerk and bookkeeper. The enterprise looked promising, and seemed to offer a better prospect for the future than could be hoped for in Sandusky, and young Cooke accepted the offer; for some reason, however, his employer, Mr. Seymour, did not succeed in his business, and in less than a year his young clerk was back at home again. He now took the opportunity to resume some of his interrupted studies; mathematics had a peculiar attraction for him, and in this direction he became very proficient. He also filled up his leisure with reading, and thus endeavored to compensate himself for his limited school-^ ing. Shortly, however, he was invited by a brother-in-law, Mr. William G. Moorhead, to take the position of bookkeeper in his business in Philadelphia. Mr. Moorhead was engaged in railroad and canal affairs, and this seemed a good opening for the ambitious youth, but this engagement was also destined to sudden interruption, and briefly terminated at the conclusion of some twelve months, Mr. Moorhead being appointed consul to Valparaiso, which once more threw his young relative out of a position. Mr. Cooke, Sr., was now in a more prosperous condition, and was anxious for his son to re-enter school and make up his deficiencies of education, which the lad as well as his father felt was desirable; so he once more took up his books; but it seems that he left so favorable a reputation behind him in Philadelphia, that he could not be allowed to remain a school-boy. Mr. Clark, of the banking-firm of E. W. Clark & Co., wrote to Jay's father soliciting the favor of receiving his son into their establishment, promising to train him to the business of banking, and offering very considerable inducements. The offer was a very flattering one, and though it promised to draw the lad permanently away from Sandusky, the father did not long hesitate, and the engagement was made. Young as he was, Jay Cooke had already established a character as an able and trustworthy person, and this firm of bankers were not mistaken when they thought they perceived in young Jay Cooke a peculiar capacity for finance; certainjy there must have been scores of young men in Philadelphia who would gladly have accepted the position ; but Jay had made an impression upon Mr. Clark not to be effaced, and thus we see him regularly inducted into the very business which was to fit him for the great trusts of the future, when the financial credit of the nation seemed to hang upon his individual skill as a financier.
Young Cooke was not yet seventeen when he went to Philadelphia the second time; and now he had come to stay. The firm of E. W. Clark & Co. stood high with the mercantile and banking community for perfect integrity and its honorable mode of dealing; it was also at that time the largest in the United States (exclusive of those having foreign affiliations). They had branches in New York, Boston, Iowa, St. Louis and New Orleans. Jay Cooke did not disappoint the hopes built upon him, so receptive, intelligent and assiduous was he in all the affairs of the concern, so intent on learning all the intricacies of the business that, even before he was of age, he was the trusted friend of the firm as well as its faithful employe. He was even authorized to use the name of the firm before the legal age of responsibility, so much trust being placed in his judgment and probity. As soon as he attained his majority he was made a member of the firm, in which connection he remained for sixteen years; much of his time, though a junior partner, he was practically at the head of the business. During this period Clark & Co. had subscribed largely to several government loans, and thus Jay Cooke had the opportunity of early becoming familiarized with that kind of securities. By 1858 Mr. Cooke had already accumulated a handsome fortune, and not wishing to be tied down so closely to business, he withdrew from the firm; but his spirit was too active to enjoy the repose he had promised himself, and he was soon drawn into numerous speculations, mostly with railroads and other large corporations, and three years later formed a partnership with his brother-in-law, Mr. Moorhead, with whom he had as a lad found his first occupation in Philadelphia. The business title of the firm was “Jay Cooke & Co.” One inducement to Mr. Cooke to re-enter formally into new business arrangements was the opportunity it gave him to induct his sons into business, and with a perfect self-consciousness, which events justified, he concluded that they could nowhere else acquire better business principles and habits than under his own eye.
Mr. Cooke's partner, Mr. Moorhead, had long been concerned in railroad affairs, and his experience in that direction was a valuble contribution to the influence of the firm. In 1861 the Government issued its first call for a war loan, and though not at that time employed as agents for the United States, the firm of Jay Cooke & Co. voluntarily solicited and obtained a large number of subscribers to come forward and help tide over this first diff1culty. The firm also negotiated for the State of Pennsylvania the greater part of a loan of several millions. It being a period of general depression, these successes served to draw especial attention to the new competitors. Mr. Salmon P. Chase was Secretary of the Treasury at this time, and as he could not succeed in making satisfactory terms with the banks, he determined to try the experiment of a popular loan, the effectiveness of Jay Cooke & Co. in securing subscribers to that of the spring of 1861 greatly encouraging him in the belief that it would prove a success. To interest all parts of the country, he appointed agents in each of the loyal States, 400 in all, a large proportion of these naturally being persons connected with banking establishments. Of course the firm of Jay Cooke & Co. was not overlooked, and it became the government agent for Philadelphia. Mr. Cooke went into the business con amore, with zeal but also with system, advertising very largely, and employing subordinate agents, and the result was that, of the whole sum raised ($30,000,000) by the 400 government agents, Jay Cooke & Co. turned in the sum of $10,000,000. But this sum was a mere bagatelle to the needs of the treasury; it dissolved before the requisitions of the war department like dew-drops before the sun, while new necessities sprang up in every other department of the government. Congress was called upon to authorize a loan of $500,000,000—since known as the “ 5-20 bonds.” The former experiments of the 400 agents had in the main been a failure; not a tenth part of those employed had made any special effort to ensure success, while the great majority of them had paid far more attention to their private business than to the pressing needs of the government. Hence the Secretary of the Treasury resolved to put the new loan into as few hands as possible, and even to one person, if any one individual could be found brave enough to accept such an enormous trust.
Mr. Jay Cooke was the person already selected in the mind of the Secretary as the one whom he hoped would accept it; the offer was made, and the response came promptly in the affirmative. Salmon P. Chase felt a great burden rolled off his heart; the bonds were so judiciously presented before the public, that the loan speedily became popular ; the sales increased day by day, and finally, victory perched upon the banner of the Philadelphia banker. But $500,000,000 cannot be disposed of under the most favorable conditions without a considerable effort, and the conditions in this case were far from favorable. To many persons the issues of the war still seemed doubtful, and the risk of investing a real hazard. Many of the disaffected began to draw comparisons between these bonds and the fate of the “ Kossuth bonds,” and other financial bubbles. But Jay Cooke organized for the work of disposing of them as carefully and scientifically as if the life of his country hung upon each and every single bond. He appreciated the power of the press, and realized that the first difficulty to be overcome was the apathy and distrust of capitalists, and of the thrifty portion of the community. To overcome this, he knew there was no power in the land equal to the task, unless the press could be aroused to create a public sentiment. But the press, like the rest of the people, had not yet become habituated to regard such enormous expenditures with equanimity. The press, then, must be subsidized ; but this too must be done very delicately, or its pride would be alarmed. Mr. Cooke began his assault upon the public mind in a sensible, business way; he sent advertisements to every paper in the Northern States; he induced, so far as he could,every editor who received an advertisement to favorably notice the sale of the bonds. He procured the insertion of articles in magazines and reviews, explaining and eulogizing the scheme. He employed personal agents, in localities where it would tell, “to talk up the bonds.” He also sent travelling agents through the country parts, to receive subscriptions from farmers, and others of still smaller means, so that every man, woman, or boy who had fifty dollars saved, could “ help save the nation,” and procure a good and safe investment, without travelling to the city or the county bank to place their money. Mr. Cooke himself worked day and night— writing letters to influential people all over the country, Paying out plans for his agents, and we may say, paying bills, for all this movement of men and means cost money: $500,000 had been expended in'arousing the country before the returns began to come in. Mr. Cooke's partners, and other friends, as may well be imagined, began to grow anxious, but Jay Cooke's faith in the means used was of that solid nature which could wait serenely, confident of the end. At last the public sympathy began to ooze out in little rills and streams, like the beginning of a freshet, or the gradual bursting of a mill-dam. The spectators watch, and the streams grow larger: small and slow at first, they now begin to expand and to hurry, till finally, gathering strength by their own force and push, they break all bounds, and rush with irresistible energy, overcoming, overwhelming every obstacle that stands in the way; and so it was with the sale of these “ 5-20's ; ” first a few patriotic individuals, then a few more; from tens the applicants grew to scores, from scores to fifties—hundreds—thousands, until the clerical force of the office was insufficient to answer the demands, and extra help had to be obtained. The furore grew with what it fed on, and ere many weeks had passed since the first general movement towards them, Mr. Cooke was obliged to announce that every bond was spoken for, and that after such a day and hour no more could be obtained. But now the would-be buyers were not to be so put off; applications still poured in. What was to be done? were these voluntary contributors to the stability of the government to be sent away empty-handed ? By no means, thought Jay Cooke. He faced the responsibility single-handed, and on his own credit issued $1 4,000,00x3 more of the bonds, relying upon Congress to legalize them, which was afterwards done. This last was a bold, even audacious stroke of generalship; but showed the character of the man, and the perfect assurance that he had, that what Jay Cooke had done, Jay Cooke could justify. Better financiering than the placing of that loan the world has never seen honestly done.
Now let us see what inducements were held out by the government for this Philadelphia banker to make such gigantic efforts and assume such risks. To help in the estimate we may state that th.e commission usually paid in Europe to agents who negotiate government loans ranges from four to eight per cent., with no risk to themselves. The risks which Mr. Cooke assumed were unparalleled in the history of finance. We do not forget the patriot .Robert Morris who came to the aid of the government in the Revolutionary era, and seriously impaired his private fortune in that patriotic service; nor the far-sighted generosity of Stephen Girard who took the whole of a government loan on his own shoulders in 1812-13; but these were trifles in amount compared to the issue of the “ 5-20 bonds.” In this latter case the government made a hard, close bargain, by which it could lose nothing even if the experiment failed. The Treasury Department did not expend a cent in preliminary work ; all the expenses of the beatingup process were paid by Cooke & Co., so that if it had failed, the firm would have lost half a million dollars, and probably have been ruined. And if it succeeded, what was the compensation ? Fiveeighths of one percent.! and out of this he must reimburse himself for all his enormous expenditures. Under such circumstances it is impossible to believe but that Mr. Cooke was actuated by pure and patriotic motives in the desire to sustain the Union rather than pecuniary considerations. Neither was the Secretary of the Treasury inclined to put a generous construction upon these hard terms of his bargain. When the rush for the bonds had reached its climax, and the physical impossibility of supplying them through the offices of Jay Cooke in Philadelphia and New York became apparent, many persons in their impatience rushed themselves or sent to Washington to obtain them, so that in the final settlement Jay Cooke only received his commission on $363,000,000 instead of $500,000,000; although he was morally and in equity entitled to the whole, and might have obtained it had he seen fit to press his suit, as it was acknowledged on all hands that he had “ set the ball in motion” which produced such satisfactory results. But realizing that Mr. Chase, whose patriotism was undoubted, was influenced by ideas of what he conceived to be necessary economy, Mr. Cooke allowed him to make the settlement on his own terms. This, however, was not the end of Mr. Cooke's connection with the government bonds. True, Mr. Chase in his next essay thought that the people being now in the humor for that sort of investment concluded in his next issue to dispense with the services of his late successful agent; but his experiment with the “10-40” loan only went to show how easily a good and wise man may mistake when he applies too rigid theories of economy to cases of public emergency. The “ ten-forties ” dragged their slow length along, so that the secretary was fain to try another experiment, which resulted in the issue of the “ 7-3o's,” the history of which is too well known to enlarge upon here. Meanwhile the national banks were established, overthrowing the old State banks and inaugurating the reign of “greenbacks,” and in consequence of the immense volume of this paper currency being thrown upon the country, its depreciation commenced, as was evinced by the unprecedented rise in gold; and still more money was needed, the government expenses being about $3,000,000 a day, while as yet the Confederation looked strong and the length of the war extremely uncertain.
To the surprise of the country, in June, 1864, Mr. Chase suddenly resigned the Secretaryship of the Treasury. The sensitiveness of the public mind to political changes of any significance may be imagined, when we record as the effect of this announcement that gold suddenly leaped in the course of a fortnight from eighty-eight per cent. premium to one hundred and eighty-five. Nothing less than government bankruptcy seemed impending. But those who never allowed themselves to despair of the republic were fortunately in the ascendency, and knew that, whatever had been the value of Mr. Chase's services, the Union had other good and capable men left, and that the national cause never would depend on the life or efforts of any one man. The Secretaryship of the Treasury was accepted by Mr. Fessenden, an able financier himself, but who was not above calling in extraneous aid. Another loan being imperative, he called at once upon Jay Cooke to assist in placing it. Mr. Cooke again set in operation the same tactics he had found so effective on a former occasion, appeals through the press and personal agencies, without stint or counting the cost. If he did not originate he gave full effect to the phrase that “A national debt is a national blessing.” This time he did not content himself with the home market; through correspondents and agents he spread information and arguments in favor of United States securities broadcast over Europe, particularly in Germany, Holland and Switzerland ; and the result was that in little over six months about $200,000,000 of United States bonds had been sold in London, Paris, Berlin, Frankfort and Amsterdam, nor has the demand ever altogether ceased for United States bonds in those great commercial centres. Within twelve months' time $830,000,000 of United States bonds had been placed at home and abroad mainly by the skillful engineering of Jay Cooke.
With the return of peace the firm of Jay Cooke & Co. turned its attention to other objects, principally the negotiation of loans for great public and corporate enterprises, maintaining through every change its reputation for honorable dealing and its preeminence in the vastness of its enterprises, government securities being still a staple of the house. Having, through the negotiation of the latter, obtained a European reputation, it was a natural result that Mr. Cooke should desire to extend his business in that direction; hence the establishment, in 1871, of the branch house in London, known as “Jay Cooke, McCulloch & Co.,” the lastnamed gentleman having recently been the successor of Chase and Fessenden in the secretaryship of the United States treasury. The new firm of American bankers, through the vastness of their resources and precedent reputation, were at once accorded the highest rank in financial circles; they were the acknowledged peers of the Rothschilds, Barings or any other financiers in London, and soon gave extraordinary proof of their capacity to deal with the largest interests known to nations. Shortly after their debut in London, Mr. McCulloch being the resident partner there, the new Secretary of the United States Treasury, George Boutwell, attempted to fund a large part of the public debt by issuing new bonds, at a lower rate of interest, and with the proceeds to buy up the old six per cent, bonds ; he therefore put out $200,000,000 “ five per cents.” Making every effort of which he was capable, the new bonds lagged, and at the end of six months only $60,000,000 had been disposed of, with no apparent prospect of getting the remainder off his hands, since what had been sold were taken by the banks, and no popular enthusiasm had been aroused. Discouraged by the result, the Secretary at last applied to the firm of Jay Cooke, McCulloch & Co., and in less than a fortnight the whole of the remaining loan, $140,000,000, was sold. The people of Europe are not accustomed to large rates of interest from government funds, and five per cent. looked to them very attractive; and this last exploit of Jay Cooke opened the eyes of Americans to the fact that a market was always open abroad for bonds bearing a low rate of interest.
The affiliations of Jay Cooke, McCulloch & Co. with European
bankers was now turned to the benefit of the United States. The former firm entered into a special arrangement with that of L. M. Rothschilds & Sons, of London, to negotiate, for the United States, a loan of $600,000,000. This offer was an unprecedented event, and would have been accepted gratefully by the Government, but just at this epoch the diplomatic affairs of the two countries were somewhat strained by the claims of the United States upon England arising out of the Alabama ravages, and the proposition of the great bankers was held over for further consideration, since it could not at that time be foreseen that the claims of the United States would be peacefully settled by arbitration ; but the knowledge that Jay Cooke & Co. were affiliated in this business with the famous house of Rothschild served to still further enlarge their credit in European circles, and it was the assurance they had of this fact which encouraged them in their next grand undertaking, for the firm had now begun to look upon the foreign market as their own legitimate domain. As Jupiter sometimes nods, so the wisest of men and of financiers are liable occasionally to make a mistake, and when they do commit an error it is usually on a gigantic scale. The rock on which Jay Cooke split his financial bark, after weathering so many storms and recording so many victories, was the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad. For this a charter was obtained in the summer of 1864. The plan of the road was to create a continuous highway, on a more northern meridian than the Union and Central Pacific; from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to the head of Lake Superior by water, and from the latter point to Puget Sound by rail. It •was a magnificent project, and worthy of the brains of a man who had been dealing with hundreds of millions of money, operating in two hemispheres, and who just then seemed incapable of manipulating anything less than continental schemes. To sell the bonds for this road he pursued the same popular plan of advertising them extensively as he had found so successful with the government loans; but in this last case an extra display was made in the most widely circulating religious papers, and, as Mr. Cooke was widely known as a generous friend of many Christian objects, and especially poor clergymen, these ornate glowing pictures of the health, happiness and prosperity which awaited all those who should settle on the line of the railroad, as well as the good fortune of those who should be happy enough to procure some of the bonds, were widely believed, and it is not surprising that these were taken up to a considerable extent by persons unfamiliar with the construction of railroads and unable to estimate the probability of coming dividends under the circumstances. To the uninitiated the figures looked very promising; the company had received a land-grant of twenty sections to the mile within the States traversed, and forty sections to the mile through the Territories. Work was begun upon the road in 1869, and opened to traffic in 1873, trains running from DulutH to Bismarck, a distance of four hundred and fifty miles; but these trains ran through a wilderness ; there was not population enough to support the road, and the crash came. In January, 1874, the company made default in interest on its bonds. The truth was, the project was premature; a dozen years later and all would have been well. The failure of Jay Cooke produced an immense excitement, and the distress among the poorer bondholders was very great and wide-spread; indeed, it amounted to a panic, which heralded the “bad times” which continued for so many successive years. This unfortunate road was sold in August, 1875, ar>d a new company organized, so far as might be, in the interest of the old creditors and stockholders. It has since been greatly extended, and in May, 1882, thirteen hundred and fifty-one miles were in operation, its bonds being quoted above par; it was completed in August of 1883. Since 1874 Mr. Cooke has not appeared as a public operator in stocks; what he has done, to redeem in part his indebtedness, has been done quietly and mainly through other hands.
While money was passing freely through Jay Cooke's hands, he was extremely liberal in the use of it. He lived in princely style in his winter residence in Philadelphia, and also had an elegant suburban mansion in the vicinity of that city, but a portion of the summer, for several years, he spent, in the company of many invited guests, at his charming place on Gibraltar Island, in Lake Erie. This island is situated near Sandusky, his early home. Here every season Mr. Cooke made it a point to invite a number of persons, mostly poor ministers who were otherwise unable to take a vacation, to come and spend a few weeks at Gibraltar Island, and when he thought it would not give offence, he was very apt to inclose a check with his invitations, to cover travelling and other expenses. During the war Mr. Cooke gave largely to the Sanitary Commission and to the Christian Commission; to the military hospitals, and, always with peculiar pleasure, to sick or wounded soldiers individually, as also to the families in need whose husbands and sons were in the army.
From Mr. Cooke's suburban residence, at Chelton Hills, can be seen several churches of different denominations which he has built for impecunious congregations. He also gave $25,000 to Kenyon College, Ohio, and to a Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary between $25,000 and $30,000; in fact, no good cause was presented to him in vain. Although Jay Cooke had received but a very imperfect education, he was not destitute of either literary tastes or literary capacity. When less than twenty years of age he wrote the first money article ever published in a Philadelphia paper (for such papers are comparatively a modern phase of journalism) ; and for the space of a year thereafter edited the financial column of one of the very few papers, the Daily Chronicle, which then enlightened its readers on such subjects. He always took pleasure in the company of ministers and others who were collegebred, and felt, what is more, a practical interest in promoting the schemes of others for the extension of literary institutions. Mr. Cooke still lives, and would be heartily welcomed back to the scenes of his former financial glory, could he bring himself once more to face the toils and anxieties which beset even the most adroit and successful fishers of men in Wall street and the Stock Exchange. True, he has not been wholly idle, but his operations have been mostly confined to the Philadelphia stock market, with the exception of a very successful sale of a silver mine to some English capitalists. Though greatly reduced in wealth, Mr. Cooke is not absolutely poor, his present possessions being valued at about $2,000,000.
At the recent celebration of the completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad, at the banquet held at Minneapolis, September 4th, 1883, Mr. Cooke was not forgotten, though unable to be present at the ceremony of driving the “ golden spike.” The following toast was proposed at the banquet: “Jay Cooke—It is fitting that the founder of the railroad which spans the continent should stand side by side with its prosecutor and finisher in driving home the golden spike of the completed and consolidated enterprise.” General Washburn responded to the toast in an eloquent speech, in the course of which he said: “ It was my privilege to stand by Jay Cooke from the day when he first shouldered the Northern Pacific enterprise until that dark day in 1873, when, amid disaster and defeat, he laid down his uncompleted endeavor; I should be glad, if time permitted, to give you some due expression of my estimate of the grand courage, magnificent faith, and that now justified foresight, which characterized him. I am glad to have time to say even one word in honor of the man who planted the seed and watered it, the fruit of which is to-day being gathered by others.” Mr. Washburn's reference to the “courage” of Jay Cooke is emphasized by those who remember that he stood alone in his own firm in his Northern Pacific undertaking, only one junior member and his brothers sympathizing with him.
Mr. Cooke lives near Philadelphia with one of his married daughters, his wife having died some years ago, and his beautiful home, Ogontz, so named in honor of the Indian Chief Ogontz, a friend of his boyhood, has become a seminary for young women. It was one of the handsomest residences in America, and one of the largest ever built for a private family.