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Series One: The Papers of Jay Cooke (1821-1905) from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Part 1: General Correspondence, 1843 - April 1865

Part 2: General Correspondence, May 1865 - December 1867

Part 3: General Correspondence, January 1868 - April 1870

Part 4: General Correspondence, May 1870 - December 1871

Part 5: General Correspondence, January 1872 - June 1874 & n.d.



Eleutheros Cooke (1787-1864)

Born on Christmas Day of 1787. He read law and at first practiced at home. He was drafted into the war of 1812 but procured a substitute who was later killed. He married Martha Carswell, the daughter of David Carswell of Fort Edward, in Washington Country and their first child Sarah E. was born on January 15th 1816. Soon after her birth the family moved to what was then considered the far West. But returned due to business commitments and their second child Pitt was born in Bloomingville near Sandusky in 1819. Their third child was Jay Cooke who was born on August 10th 1821. He had three more children Henry D. who was born in 1825 and Eleutheros and Catherine E. born in 1828 and 1831 respectively, both of whom died in infancy. He was a member of the State House of Representatives for Ohio in 1822, 1823, 1825, 1831 and 1840. He died in December in 1864.

Jay Cooke (1821-1905)

After a brief period working as a clerk for his brother in law’s packet line company, Jay Cooke worked for the banking house of E. W. Clark & Co. from 1839. Leaving it in 1857 to set up on his own, he formed a partnership, Jay Cooke & Co four years later. When the government found itself unable to sell its bond-issues to support the Union war effort, Cooke's house stepped in and made a spectacular success of it. From then on, the Cookes became indispensable for the Treasury's money-raising. Out of this partnership of bankers and public officials came a close relationship, political as well as financial, with Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase and his successors Hugh McCulloch and George S. Boutwell. Up to 1873, no US bond issue could take place without consulting the Cookes, and always they had a share in setting the terms and arranging the sale.

Necessarily, the relationship relied on close political connections with whatever Administration happened to be in power, and deep involvement in legislation and in partisan politics. The Cookes helped fill Republican party coffers, put prominent officeholders on their payrolls, and used their business connections to bestow favours and loans on high-placed figures who could do them service. For political as well as economic reasons, Jay Cooke & Co opened branch offices in New York and Washington, and put McCulloch in charge of their London branch when it opened in 1870.

Jay Cooke had many interests in land and mining, but also provided large donations to divinity schools, church building projects and various charitable interests. Jay Cooke and Co. regularly dontated 10% of their profits to the church.

The Cooke's shift from banking to speculation and promotion, typical of the post-war "boom" atmosphere, led to their ill-fated involvement in the subsidy and construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad in the early 1870s. It was more than the house could bear, and on 18 September 1873, it closed its doors, creating a panic that brought down hundreds of other firms as well. Amid the financial wreckage, many reputations were lost - including those of politicians involved in some of the Cooke's more desperate schemes.

Jay Cooke did recover. Later he regained his estates. Fortunate investments in mines in Utah restored much of his income, but he never again wielded the political and financial influence he had in the Civil War.

Henry Cooke (1825-1881)

He studied law at Allegheny College and went to Chile with W. G. Moorhead, consul and naval agent to trade on the Pacific Coast. For a time he settled in San Francisco but a fire there left him burdened with debts. He returned to the east coast and joined the Sandusky Register as a journalist. He became the sole editor and proprietor of the Register’ by 1856. He became presidential elector on the Fremont ticket in 1856 and also became the leading proprietor of the Ohio State Journal. The Journal was unprofitable but helped form alliances with Republicans like Salmon P. Chase and John Sherman. Sherman’s position on the Commission of Ways and Means aided Henry Cooke to gain the profitable contract for Government binding. From 1862 he was President of the Washington and Georgetown Street Railroad Company, and partner and head of the Washington branch of Jay Cooke & Co. He also became President of the 1st Washington National Bank. Henry handled much of the lobbying and applied the social skills that the firm's success required. His money and political involvement helped keep Republicans in charge of the District of Columbia's city government. President Ulysses S. Grant made him governor of the district.

Pitt Cooke (1819-1879)

Studied law and found employment in real estate dealings. He was commissioned by Jay Cooke and W. G. Moorhead to go to Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska where tracts were being opened up to settlement by the government. He was made a partner in Jay Cooke & Co. and played a leading role with H. C. Fahnestock when the New York office was opened in 1866.

Bankers and Partners

Harris C. Fahnestock (1835-1914)

Investment banker. Nephew of J. W. Weir, Cashier of Harrisburg Bank. His banking career began in his hometown of Harrisburg, Pa. In 1862 he became a partner in Jay Cooke and Company, taking a leading role in the Washington, D.C. branch, and later in New York. After Cooke's bankruptcy in 1873, Fahnestock was involved with the New Jersey Junction Railroad and the Southern Railway Company. He joined George F. Baker at the First National Bank of New York. He was a senior officer there for forty years.

W. G. Moorhead (fl.1839-1873)

Partner and Brother in Law of Jay Cooke. He a launched the Washington Packet Line company between Philadelphia and Pittsburg, and employed Jay Cooke as a clerk. The company ultimately failed but via his Democratic connections he obtained a lucrative position as consul and naval agent at Valparaiso, Chile. He went on to become a successful railway financier as President of Philadelphia and Erie Railroad Co. In 1861 he entered into partnership with Jay Cooke, taking a third share interest in Jay Cook & Co. banking house. He continued to be a silent partner in most of Jay Cooke’s business dealings, including becoming a Director of the Northern Pacific Railroad. The town of Moorhead on the route of the Northern Pacific was named after him in September 22, 1871.

Secretaries of Treasury and State Treasurers

Henry Dunning Moore (1817-1887)

State Treasurer. Born in New York, he became a Republican. U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania 1849-53 and was the Pennsylvania state treasurer, 1861-63, 1864-65. He worked with Jay Cooke in selling the state loan of 1861 and became heavily involved in one of Jay Cooke’s struggling investments at the Preston Coal and Improvement Mining Company.

Salmon Portland Chase (1808-1873)

Senator, Secretary of the Treasury, and chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He started a career in law based in Cincinnati and gained a reputation for defending fugitive slaves and abolitionists. He continued to campaign against slavery and was elected to the Senate in 1849, where he remained until 1854. Joining the Republican party in the wake of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Chase became Governor of Ohio in 1855 and lost out to Lincoln as a Presidential candidate. After resuming his Senate seat in 1861, he resigned to become Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury, a post which he served until July 1864, launching government loans and the National banking system in association with Jay Cooke & Co., which helped to fund the Union war effort. Relations with Lincoln deteriorated and shortly after his resignation Lincoln appointed him to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In that role Chase presided over the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson. Chase went on to attempt to become the Democratic Presidential candidate in 1868 but attracted little support. He died of a stroke.

Hugh McCulloch (1808-1895)

Secretary of the Treasury, and head of Jay Cooke & McCulloch & Co. in London. Hugh McCulloch was born in Kennebunk, Maine, and studied law in Boston. In 1833 he moved to Fort Wayne, and became the branch manager of the Bank of the State of Indiana. After twenty years as a manager at Fort Wayne he was appointed president of the parent bank in Indianapolis. In 1863 Salmon Chase Secretary of the Treasury, appointed McCulloch as Comptroller of the Currency and presided over the National Banking system. When William Fessenden resigned as Secretary of the Treasury in March, 1865, Abraham Lincoln appointed McCulloch to take his place and continued in the position after Lincoln’s assassination. McCulloch left office when Ulysses S. Grant became president in March, 1869 and soon became a partner in the London banking house of Jay Cooke and McCulloch & Co. He attempted to keep the company afloat after the collapse of Jay Cooke’s American branches but ultimately lacked financial backing. He briefly returned to the post of Secretary of the Treasury under President Arthur in1884-1885. He died in Maryland in 1895.

William E. Chandler (1835-1917)

Senator, Naval and Treasury Official. Born in Concord and graduated from Harvard law school in 1855 and served as a New Hampshire State Representative 1862-1864 and was Speaker of the House. In 1865, President Lincoln appointed him Solicitor and Judge Advocate General for the U.S. Navy, and went on to become Assistant Secretary of the United States Treasury before returning to law in 1867. He continued to serve the Republican party and in 1880 he was a member of the Committee on Credentials at the 1880 Republican National Convention, a member of the Republican National Committee and nominated for Solicitor General by President Garfield in1881 but after much party wrangling he returned to New Hampshire to serve as a State Representative. He was appointed Secretary of the Navy in 1882 and went on to become a Senator between 1897-1901, President McKinley appointed Chandler to be Spanish War Claims Commissioner.


Lorenzo L. Crownse “Star”

Journalist. Washington correspondent of the New York Times from the Lincoln to the second Grant Administration. He had very close connections to the White House, and reported to Jay Cooke under the pseudonym “Star” during Johnson’s impeachment trial.

C. C. Norvell (fl.1869-1874)

Journalist. Financial editor of the New York Times in 1869. He later took charge of the New York Republic and New York Commercial Advertiser.

John Russell Young (1840-1899)

Journalist. Helped to promote government bonds during 1865, and became managing editor of the New York Tribune in 1866 aged 26. His employment of writers such as Mark Twain, George Smalley, and John Hassard led to the paper to a 1 million dollar turnover by 1868. He was forced to resign in 1869 following allegations in rival papers about his dealings to gain funding for his personal projects of Philadelphia Star and Post. He joined the New York Herald in 1872, was the Minister to China 1882-1889 and from 1897 was the Librarian of Congress.

Uriah Hunt Painter (fl.1860-1891)

Journalist and lobbyist. Reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer during the Civil War and Washington correspondent for the New York Sun from 1868. His report for the Inquirer on the defeat of the Union troops at the first battle of Bull Run prompted a crowd to threaten the inquirer building. In his later years he became a stock holder and official in the Edison lighting company.

General A. B. Nettleton

Soldier and Editor. After a distinguished army career Nettleton studied law and purchased a half interest in the Sandusky Register. The Register and Nettelton’s Chicago paper, became a strong ally of Jay Cooke and promoted the National Banking system. He was later employed by the Northern Pacific Railroad, leading an executive department promoting the railroad, from its headquarters above Jay Cooke & Co. in Philadephia.

Samuel W. Wilkeson (1817-1889)

Journalist and Secretary of the Northern Pacific Railroad. He was the editor and proprietor of the Albany Evening Journal, before returning to the New York Tribune which he first joined in 1851. He was a Civil war reporter for the New York Tribune and the New York Times. In 1865 he promoted war bonds on behalf of Jay Cooke, and took part on the coast to coast reconnaissance trip to plan the route of the Northern Pacific Railroad, which he helped publicise, lobbied for the Northern Pacific Bill and became Secretary of. He had excellent political connections and was heavily involved in the campaign to rebuild the cabinet under Johnson and Lincoln’s assassination.

Horace Greeley (1811-1872)

Editor and Presidential Candidate. Born in Amherst, New Hampshire, he trained as a printer but he later moved to New York City where he became a journalist. Greeley worked for the New Yorker and in 1841 established the New York Tribune which he edited for over thirty years. Greeley took a strong moral tone in his newspaper and campaigned against alcohol, tobacco, gambling, prostitution and capital punishment. However, his main concern was the abolition of slavery. Initially he supported the Whigs but after their demise he supported the Free Soil Party. He was one of the leaders of the campaign against the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law and in 1856 helped form the Republican Party. In 1860 Greeley supported the presidential campaign of Abraham Lincoln, but was critical of his slavery policy. He was also critical of Ulysses Grant, became associated with the Radical Republicans and helped form the Liberal Republican Party. In 1872 the Liberal Republican Party nominated Greeley as their candidate and he stood against Ulysses G. Grant for the presidency but died soon afterwards.

Whitelaw Reid (1837-1912)

Politician and editor. Educated at Miami University. He was the longtime editor of the New York Tribune and close friend of Horace Greeley. He was a leader of the Liberal Republican movement in 1872. He served as U.S. ambassador to France from 1889 to 1892, and again as U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James from 1905 to 1912. In 1892, he was the Republican vice presidential nominee was appointed to the Peace Commission following the Spanish-American War.


James Kennedy Moorhead (1806-1884)

Congressional Representative from Pennsylvania and brother of Jay Cooke’s partner and brother in law, William G. Moorhead. born in Halifax, Pennsylvania, and after serving an apprenticeship as a tanner he formed a career on the Canals. He started as a contractor and supervisor on the Juniata Canal in 1828 and went on to establish a passenger packet line on the Pennsylvania Canal in 1835. He was appointed adjutant general of Pennsylvania in 1838 and was the long serving president of the Monongahela Navigation Canal and the Atlantic & Ohio Telegraph Co. His political career saw him elected as a Republican Congressman 1859-1869. He was a regular correspondent of Jay Cooke regarding canals and railroad issues, and was a subscriber to the initial “pool” of investors in the National Pacific Railroad. He saw out his later years as president of the Pittsburgh chamber of commerce.

John Sherman (1823-1900)

Representative; Senator. Born in Lancaster, Ohio and practiced law in Ohio and a brief period as a canal engineer. He was elected as a Republican Congressman 1855-1861 and was chairman of Committee on Ways and Means. He was elected to the Senate 1861-1877, and 1881-1897. He served on numerous committees and supported many of Jay Cooke’s causes, which, in turn, Jay Cooke supported him for government posts. He was an initial stockholder in Jay Cooke’s insurance company and was appointed Secretary of the Treasury by President Hayes in 1877-1881.He was appointed Secretary of State in the Cabinet of President McKinley and served from 1897-1898 when he retired.

Inatius Donnelly (1831-1901)

Representative from Minnesota. Born in Philadelphia, where he studied and practiced law until moving to Minnesota in 1857, appointed Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota 1859-1863. He was elected as a Republican member of Congress 1863-1869, and to the Senate in 1874-1878. In between his periods in office he acted as a lobbyist for the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad Company and advised Jay Cooke on the Northern Pacific Bill. He continued his law practice and was nominated by the People’s Party in 1892 for Vice President of the United States.


William Milnor Roberts, (1810-1881)

Engineer. Born in Philadelphia, the son of the treasurer of the Union canal. He worked on canal surveys from an early age and by his early twenties he was in senior engineering positions on the Union railroad and Union canal feeder and Allegheny Portage railroad. In 1835 he built the first combined railroad and highway bridge in the United States and was made chief engineer on the Harrisburg and Lancaster railroad, and Cumberland Valley railroad. After 1836 he was chief engineer in charge of various projects including the Pennsylvania state canal, and the Erie canal of Pennsylvania; Allegheny Valley railroad; Atlantic and Mississippi railroad, Iron Mountain railroad; Pittsburg and Erie, and Terre Haute, Vandalia, and St. Louis railroads. In 1857 he went to Brazil to examine the route of the Dom Pedro II. railroad. In 1866 he was appointed United States civil engineer and given charge of the improvement of the Ohio river, and in 1868 the of associate chief engineer with the great bridge across the Missouri at St. Louis. He undertook, a coast to coast surveying trip of the route of the Northern Pacific Railroad and in 1870 he accepted the position of chief engineer of the Northern Pacific railroad., and in 1874 was appointed on the commission of civil and military engineers to examine and report upon plans for the improvement of the mouth of the Mississippi.

Rice Harper (b1803)

Lawyer and land agent. He originally practiced law, but due to ill health changed careers and worked on developing the Ohio Railroad. He helped to organize Erie county, Ohio, by being appointed Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas and Clerk of the Supreme Court for Erie county, Ohio. He was in regular contact with Jay Cooke regarding actual and potential land purchases.



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