Stephen Girard

Stephen Girard

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Stephen Girard

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Stephen Girard (May 20, 1750 – December 26, 1831) was a French-born, naturalized American, philanthropist and banker. He personally saved the U.S. government from financial collapse during the War of 1812, and became one of the wealthiest men in America, estimated to have been the fourth richest American of all time, based on the ratio of his fortune to contemporary GDP. Childless, he devoted much of his fortune to philanthropy, particularly the education and welfare of orphans. His legacy is still felt in his adopted home of Philadelphia.

Early life

Girard was born in a suburb of Bordeaux, France. He lost the sight of his right eye at the age of eight and had little education. His father was a sea captain, and the son cruised to the West Indies and back, during 1764-1773, was licensed captain in 1773, visited New York in 1774, and thence with the assistance of a New York merchant began to trade to and from New Orleans and Port au Prince. In May 1776 he was driven into the port of Philadelphia by a British fleet and settled there as a merchant.


In 1776, Girard met Mary Lum, a Philadelphia native and nine years his junior. They married soon afterwards and Girard purchased a home at 211 Mill Street in Mount Holly Township, New Jersey. She was the...
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