Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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PEABODY, George, philanthropist, born in Danvers, Massachusetts, 18 February, 1795 ; died in London, 4 November, 1869. He was descended from a good English family, his ancestor, Francis Paybody, having settled in New England in 1635. After he had been taught to read and write at the Danvers school, he became a clerk at the age of eleven years, afterward serving in the same capacity at Thetford, Vermont, and in Newburyport, Massachusetts, when he went to Georgetown, D. C., and assumed the management of a store belonging to his uncle, John Peabody. In 1814 he became a partner of Elisha Riggs in a dry-goods house, which a year later was removed to Baltimore, Maryland, and in 1822 established branches in New York and Philadelphia. By the retirement, in 1829, of Mr. Riggs, he became the head of the firm, and in 1837 he settled in London, establishing the banking-house of George Peabody and Company. For negotiating the sale of $8,000,000 worth of bonds, in 1835, in London, when others had failed, by which he sustained the credit of Maryland, and giving to the state his commission of $200.000, a vote of thanks was returned to him by the legislature. This was his first large gift. He supplied the sum required to arrange and display the contributions from the United States to the great London exhibition of 1851. The same year he gave the first of a series of 4th-of-July dinners in London, which was attended by the Duke of Wellington and many other distinguished personages, and to which the Queen sent her own and Prince Albert's portraits to decorate the hall. These annum entertainments were a source of great satisfaction to Mr. Peabody, who believed that they contributed in no small degree to a better feeling between his native and his adopted country. The year following he presented $10, -000 to the second Grinnell expedition, under Dr. Elisha K. Kane, sent in search of Sir John Franklin, and $30,000 to found the Peabody institute and library at Danvers (now Peabody), to which he subsequently added $170,000, with $50,000 more for a similar institution in North Danvers. On the occasion of his revisiting the United States in 1857, he founded the Peabody institute in Baltimore, with $300,000, subsequently increased to $1,000,000. He also gave $25,000 to Phillips Andover academy, and $25,000 to Kenyon college. Mr. Peabody matured his plans in 1862 for building lodging-houses for the poor of London, contributing in all $2,500,000, with which, to the present time (1888), buildings have been erected in different districts of the metropolis, capable of accommodating 20,000 persons. Mr. Peabody's great wealth was due in part to his patriotism and sagacity, which induced him to invest largely in United States government bonds during the civil war. While on another visit to this country in 1866 he founded an institute of archoeology, in connection with Harvard college, with $150,000, presented a like amount toward a department of physical science in Yale college, and made a gift of $2,100,000, increased in 1869 to $3,500,000, for the promotion of education in the south, besides contributing about $200,000 to various charities. For this unexampled liberality he received the thanks of the United States government, which also voted him a gold medal. When he returned to England in 1867, the Queen offered him a baronetcy, or the grand cross of the Order of the Bath, both of which he declined. In answer to a question as to what gift he would accept, he said: "A letter from the Queen of England which I may carry across the Atlantic and deposit as a memorial of one of her most faithful sons." The Queen complied with this request, writing Mr. Peabody a graceful letter of acknowledgment of his " more than princely munificence," and adding a painting of herself. The letter and portrait are both to be seen in the Peabody institute at Danvers. A year later he endowed an art-school in Rome, Italy, and in 1869 he made his last visit to his native land, presenting the Peabody museum at Salem with $150,000, and giving to other objects $165,000. During his absence the Prince of Wales unveiled, 23 July, a fine bronze statue of him, by William W. Story, erected by the citizens of London on the east side of the Royal exchange. A replica of this seated statue will be erected in Baltimore during the present year (1888). Two months later Mr. Peabody returned to London, and died a few weeks afterward. His obsequies were celebrated in Westminster abbey on 12 November For the first time in history the gates of Westminster abbey were opened for the burial of a private citizen of another country, and, although the historic building was not Mr. Peabody's final resting-place, it was only owing to his own desire to sleep by the side of his mother's grave in his native land. Where the funeral service of the English church was read over him, Mr. Peabody might have reposed forever with the universal consent and approbation of the British nation. The swiftest and finest frigate in the English navy was selected to bear his body across the broad Atlantic, and it was received from the ship-of-war " Monarch " by an American squadron commanded by Admiral Farragut, and buried at Danvers (now Peabody). Mr. Peabody never married, and his remaining fortune of $5,000,000 was bequeathed to his relatives. He was the most liberal philanthropist of ancient or modern times. In the words of Mr. Gladstone, he taught the world how a man may be the master of his fortune, and not its slave. It was Mr. Peabody's own testimony, and that of those most intimately acquainted with him, that his great benefactions were really a triumph over a disposition naturally parsimonious, and it was from a sense of benefits conferred on him by Divine providence that he overcame the natural tendencies of his strong will in giving, till it became a delight to him to give. In the greatness of his benevolence George Peabody stands alone in history. See life, by Phebe A. Hanaford (Boston, 1882); and numerous addresses by Robert C. Winthrop (Boston, 1870); Severn Teackle Wallis (Annapolis, 1870), and others; and numerous eulogies and sermons delivered at the time of his death.
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