Business, Fortune, and Philanthropy

Self-Portrait with Family

Self-Portrait with Family by Francis Martin Drexel, 1824.


In 1837, the Drexel family returned to Philadelphia after a year spent in Louisville, Kentucky. During that year Francis M. Drexel built up a successful currency brokerage business in an advantageous location for travelers and merchants hoping to trade in unstable bank notes. After years spent experimenting in business while maintaining his career as an artist, Drexel made a permanent career change. In 1838, Drexel opened a brokerage house in Philadelphia called Drexel and Company.

Find out more about Francis M. Drexel's early years.

Amidst the turmoil created by the end of the Second Bank of the United States, unpredictable currency system, and opportunities created by the gold rush, Drexel thrived. Francis and Katherine Drexel had six children: Mary Johanna, Francis Anthony, Anthony Joseph, Joseph Wilhelm, Heloise, and Caroline. The three sons were brought into the family business in their early teens, and by the time Francis A. and Anthony J. were made partners in 1847, the rebranded firm Drexel & Co. was operating as a private bank in Philadelphia’s 3rd Street financial district. Because the United States lacked a national bank, private banks accumulated wealth by investing in new industries and the sale of war bonds. Drexel & Co. was heavily involved in financing the Mexican American War, the American Civil War, and the burgeoning railroad industry.

Photostat copy of a list of Drexel, Morgan & Co. partners and founding J.P. Morgan & Company partners

List of Drexel, Morgan & Co. partners from 1871-1895.

After Francis Martin Drexel’s death in 1863, Francis A. Drexel was named senior partner yet preferred to manage internal operations of the business, while Anthony J. sought out clients and partnerships as director. Joseph W. served as a partner and representative of Drexel & Co. in Chicago, Germany, Paris, and in New York. Anthony J. Drexel mentored and partnered with J.P. Morgan and began one of the most powerful banking interests in the world in Drexel, Morgan & Co. By the end of the nineteenth century, Anthony Drexel and his brothers had significantly increased the wealth of an already lucrative banking firm.

Business, Fortune, and Philanthropy