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George Foster Peabody

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George Foster Peabody

George Foster Peabody
George Foster Peabody (1907)
Born (1852-07-27)July 27, 1852
United States
Died March 4, 1938(1938-03-04) (aged 85)
United States
Occupation Banker
Known for Namesake of the Peabody Awards

George Foster Peabody (July 27, 1852 – March 4, 1938) was an American banker and philanthropist.


  • Early life 1
  • Business career 2
  • Social activism 3
  • Political activities 4
  • Philanthropic activities 5
  • Warm Springs, Georgia 6
  • Honorary degrees 7
  • George Foster Peabody Awards 8
  • Personal life 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12

Early life

He was born to George Henry Peabody and Elvira Peabody (née Canfield) as the first of four children.[1] Both parents were native New Englanders of colonial ancestry. George Henry Peabody, who came from a line of merchants, bankers and professional men, had moved from Connecticut to Columbus, Georgia, where he ran a prosperous general store. After attending private school in Columbus, young Peabody spent a few months at Deer Hill Institute in Danbury, Connecticut. The Civil War, however, impoverished his family, and in 1866 they moved to Brooklyn, New York, and young Peabody went to work as an errand boy.[2]

Business career

In the evenings Peabody read extensively at the library of the Brooklyn George Peabody—financier of Edison Electric, merged all into the General Electric Company in 1892, George Foster Peabody became a member of the GE board of directors.

Social activism

Peabody retired from business in 1906 to pursue a life of public service.[3] Long interested in social causes, he supported such progressive ideas as the single tax as advocated by Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute.

Political activities

From early in his life Peabody was interested in Democratic Party politics. In the early 1880s, he helped his close friend Grover Cleveland, supported the Gold Democrats against William Jennings Bryan in 1896, then switched to more moderate monetary reform as a member of the executive committee of the Indianapolis Monetary Convention in 1897. In 1904 and 1905 he served as treasurer of the Democratic National Committee. Although he declined to run for political office, and declined President Wilson's offer of a place on the Federal Trade Commission, Peabody was an unofficial counselor to many government officials. From 1914 to 1921 he served on the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. In June 1932 Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then Governor of New York, visited Peabody for advice and support in deciding to run for President of the United States.

Philanthropic activities

Peabody served from 1884 to 1930 as a trustee of Hampton University, one of Virginia's historically black universities, where he established in the university library the Peabody Collection of rare materials on African-American history, one of the largest collections in the United States.[4]

In 1901 Peabody donated land for Peabody Park at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.[5]

Warm Springs, Georgia

After years of visiting the estate of his partner Spencer Trask in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Peabody agreed to succeed him in 1910 as chairman of the state commission set up to purchase and conserve the famous spa there, and in 1923 he acquired the property at Franklin Delano Roosevelt (who had recently contracted a paralytic illness) to visit the 90 degree Fahrenheit springs there, which Roosevelt eventually purchased and turned into the Little White House and the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation, expanding it from a limited rehab center into a full-service center.

Honorary degrees

While his formal education was limited and he had no college degree, Peabody received honorary degrees from

  • George Foster Peabody (1852–1938) and Peabody Park at UNCG - A biographical excerpt written by Louise Ware in the Dictionary of American Biography (23: 520–521, 1958)

External links

  • Who Was Who in America, Volume I: 1897–1942 (Chicago, 1942).
  • David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito, "Gold Democrats and the Decline of Classical Liberalism, 1896-1900," Independent Review 4 (Spring 2000), 555-75.
  • Dorothy Orr. (1950). A History of Education in Georgia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Further reading

  1. ^ Ware, Louise (2009). George Foster Peabody: Banker, Philanthropist, Publicist. University of Georgia Press. p. 1.  
  2. ^ Washington, Booker T. (1974). Kaufman, Stuart; Smock, Raymond W.; Harlan, Louis R., eds. The Booker T. Washington Papers: 1889-95. University of Illinois Press. p. 86.  
  3. ^ Anderson, Eric; Moss, Alfred A. (1999). Dangerous Donations: Northern Philanthropy and Southern Black Education, 1902-1930. University of Missouri Press. p. 111.  
  4. ^ Zaki, Hoda M. (2006). Civil Rights and Politics at Hampton Institute: The Legacy of Alonzo G. Moron (1st ed.). University of Illinois Press. p. 16.  
  5. ^ "Peabody Park History". Retrieved 2014-07-27. 


Peabody died in 1938 at his home in Warm Springs, Georgia.

A longtime bachelor, in 1920, eleven years after Trask's death in a railroad accident, Peabody married his widow Katrina, and they lived at Yaddo until her death in 1922. Thereafter Yaddo became a great retreat for artists. Peabody continued to live on the estate, and in 1926 he adopted a daughter, Mrs. Marjorie P. Waite, a young woman whom he had come to know in connection with his civic and humanitarian activities and who aided him in them.

A tall man, in later years he developed a mane of white hair, and wore a heavy mustache and pointed beard, becoming known for his dignified and courtly manner. He maintained a mansion in Brooklyn, where he entertained lavishly. He also purchased a summer home known as Abenia at Katrina Trask, and from both estates he developed a wide circle of influence, including many persons from the literary world, church, business, and government, who came to enjoy his gracious hospitality.

Personal life

Perhaps Peabody's best-known legacy is the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication for excellence in radio, and, since 1948, television broadcasting, followed by World Wide Web content in the late 1990s.

George Foster Peabody Awards
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