George Peabody: Intriguing mix of philanthropist, miser
On a recent trip to Yale and Harvard, I discovered a common thread between the two venerable institutions besides membership in the Ivy League: Each campus has a Peabody museum -- the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard. Students and faculty often see the name, but only a few know who Peabody was or what he did. They should. George Peabody is a fascinating study in international banking, philanthropy and parsimony. Peabody was born on Feb. 18, 1795, in Danvers, Mass. When he was 11, his father died, leaving the family in dire financial straits. Dropping out of school, Peabody went to work in his brother's store. Several clerkships followed before he moved to Georgetown, D.C., to assume management of his ailing uncle's store. A few months later the War of 1812 started; Peabody joined a volunteer artillery company and served at Fort Warburton.