Monday, April 23, 2012

J.P. Morgan & Co: The Octopus Always Wins

Did J.P. Morgan make money from the sinking of the Titanic? You bet!

When Titanic sank in 1912, the world's newspapers were busily discussing the power and corruption surrounding J.P. Morgan & Co. The Morgan empire not only owned Titanic and controlled the Shipping Trust (the International Mercantile Marine Co.), it  also controlled a Steel Trust (the U.S. Steel Corporation), a Railroad Trust (the Northern Securities Company), a Life Insurance Trust, a Telephone & Telegraph Trust (American Telephone and Telegraph Co.), and (in the works!) a Money Trust that would soon become the Federal Reserve.

In short, the House of Morgan, aka J.P. Morgan & Co., seemed to be the monopoly that controlled all Wall Street monopolies, and it was even portrayed in the press of that day as a large and omnivorous Octopus, a cold and slimy sea-monster that could reach out one of its many tentacles and latch onto any business in the world, pulling that business into its dark and hungry maw.

See for example "The Coming Nation: A Journal of Things Doing and To Be Done" (1912)
See also John Moody's 1904 book "The Truth About The Trusts"

This tendency to see J.P. Morgan, the owner of RMS Titanic, as a sea-monster convinced many people that he had just had Titanic for lunch.  If the great ship had sunk, well, that must mean Morgan himself had found some way to make a profit from the disaster, or feed off the flesh and bones of the people who died.

Such an assumption, though childish in its simplicity, may be very close to the truth.