In the 20th century, JP Morgan was synonymous with capitalism and business. He idolized every American who wanted to achieve the “American Dream”. He was so influential in the field of finance and business, that the mascot of Monopoly, Rich Uncle Pennybags is believed to be portrayed on him.
Rather than talk about his secrets of accumulating wealth that he even rescued the US government from bankruptcy in 1893, we are here looking at something more peculiar but trivial, his purple nose.
Yes, JP Morgan had a purple nose, but no one dared to notice it. He kind of succeeded in keeping it a secret till he died by being absolutely terrifying in the public. He was huge and stood tall at 6ft 2 inches when the average height for men was just 5ft 7 inches.
With such wide shoulders and fierce eyes, people were afraid to approach him directly, thus public didn’t know about his nose condition.
Cameramen and the public were so terrified of him that they stopped attempting to click his photo. They had realized that Morgan hates getting clicked. Moreover, they had learned it when Morgan violently lashed out at the person who was clicking his photograph without his permission. You can find many photos from the archives with Morgan poking his stick towards the camera.
You must be thinking, what would be so bad about his nose, that he kept aloof from the public. He didn’t just have a giant nose, it was purple red because of a condition he suffered since his childhood, known as rosacea. This disease causes the blood vessels in the face to dilate and rupture, making it purple. This was further severed from the fact that he suffered from rhinophyma. This side effect of rosacea didn’t just result in an enormous growth of nose, but also created markings making is scary.
His purple nose, coupled with his giant like body and short temper made him a very terrifying and difficult person to deal with. In business as well, he didn’t like sitting in long meetings and would take decisions in a snap, which earned him the title “Yes or No Morgan”.
But none of this became a hurdle in him becoming the “Zeus” or “Jupiter” of Wall Street. He was so powerful, that even the President of US was called his lapdog considering his achievements in business.
Not just the photos, he hated getting his portrait made. This was not just because of the fact that he was conscious about his nose, but also because he hated sitting for long. As a result of this, he didn’t just scrutinize the painters to get a picture of him for creating portrait but also touched up his nose before any such shoot.
A notable example of this can few dated back to 1903 when painter Fedor Encke hired a young photographer, Edward Steichen to help him complete the portrait of the business tycoon.
Steichen spent hours perfecting the angles, postures and lighting for the photo shoot, using a janitor. This was done so that Morgan wouldn’t have to sit for long, and the entire shoot could be winded up in 5 minutes. The shoot took just 3 minutes that Morgan applauded Steichen for his efficiency.
Steichen has his own version of the story which is rather remarkable. He stated that Morgan came for the shoot, sat on the stool in a dignified please without uttering a word. Steichen took the photo before uttering words that became a highlight of his career. He asked Morgan “Would you mind moving your head?“. Morgan replied with a stare, it wasn’t the shot that he expected but still clicked. Morgan stood up, paid $500 to Steichen, little knowing what was captured in the camera.
Knowing that Morgan is conscious when it comes to his appearance, Steichen did the best he could to touch up the photos. Then he took both of them to Morgan, who loved the first photo and ordered a dozen copies of it. Fredor was ordered to make portrait based on this photo. While he hated the other photo so much that he tore it on the first instance. The second photo was closer to the stereotypical idea of JP Morgan considering his massive body, devilish face, fierce eyes and short temper. It made him look like a burglar, holding a dagger (he was actually holding the chair) with a stern expression
He threw Steichen out of his office before offering him $5000 ($130,000 today) for the original print. Steichen refused to sell adding to the spice, to annoy such a powerful man.
But eventually after repeated requests from Morgan, he sold it to after annoying him for three years.
Till Morgan died, no one except his inner circle of friends, family and business partners knew how Morgan actually looked. It is kind of surprising that he managed to keep it all a secret even after being so popular. It took years for the public to find out how he actually looked, after resurfacing the tightly knit archives.
Well, that was JP Morgan for you, he could do anything and everything, even hide his nose till he died!