Edward Tuck (1842-1938)

Banker, Philanthropist, and "Dean of the American Colony in Paris"

Associated Houses

Domaine de Vert-Mont


He was born at Exeter, New Hampshire, to a U.S. Congressman who was one of the organizers of the anti-slavery party in New Hampshire and a co-founder of the Republican Party. Edward had just one sibling, Mrs F.O. French, the wife of the President of the Manhattan Trust Company. He was educated at Philips Exeter Academy and Dartmouth College. In 1865, as a mark of gratitude for his father's political support, Abraham Lincoln appointed him U.S. Vice-Consul at Paris under Ambassador John Bigelow. He resigned his commission before the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 and on returning to the States became a partner in the banking firm of John Munroe & Co., of New York and Paris. He set up on his own account in 1881 and amassed a multi-million dollar fortune with significant stocks in copper and as a director and large stockholder in the Great Northern Railway and the Chase National Bank.

In Paris he met Julia Stell, the orphaned daughter of William Shorter Stell, an American banker who settled in England. They married in London in 1872 and lived between New York and their townhouse at 82 Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris before moving permanently to France from 1890 when they began their philanthropy for which they are famous. After purchasing the magnificent Domaine de Vert-Mont at Reuil they were surprised to learn there was no hospital in the community and promptly built one with an endowment of $100,000. The estate neighbored the historic Chateau de Malmaison which became a national museum to Napoleon - of which Tuck was its largest benefactor.

During World War I, he and his wife "adopted" and personally assisted 15,000 French soldiers. Their gifts to the poor of Paris included playgrounds, parks, nursing homes, and training schools. In 1927, he purchased the Château de Bois-Préau that had once been part of the Malmaison estate and gifted it to the museum when it became the largest public park in the suburbs of Paris. He put up the money to buy Napoleon's "Marshal's Table" for France that before his intervention Sir Joseph Duveen was in the process of selling to William Randolph Hearst; and, he paid for the restoration of the Tropaeum Alpium at La Turbie that dated from 6 B.C. and was near his apartment in Monte Carlo.

In 1930, he gifted his $5-million art collection to the City of Paris which was housed in the Petit Palais in the 8th arrondissement, off the Avenue Edward Tuck that was then named in gratitude. His generosity made him almost a household name in France and when Camille Flammarion discovered a new asteroid he named it "Tuckia". The French awarded him with the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor and when the Académie Française awarded both Mr and Mrs Tuck with the "Prix de Vertu" they were the first foreigners to have ever received that honor. The City of Paris awarded him with Citizenship, making him after Woodrow Wilson only the second American to receive that honor. In the States, he gave $1-million to his alma mater, Dartmouth College (which was used to help establish the Tuck School of Business) with a further $3.5 million for the Tuck Endowment Fund. It was estimated that his total gifts to Dartmouth exceeded $6-million.

Edward Tuck was remembered as the "Dean of the American Colony in Paris" and he and his wife were equally loved and revered in their adopted country. He was an excellent raconteur and wit and enjoyed a hearty relationship with James J. Hill for whom Tuck made a hobby of finding investors for the Great Northern Railroad. He lived by the philosophy of his hero Benjamin Franklin, who said, "I would rather be remembered as a man who lived usefully than as a man who died rich." The Tucks died without children but were very close to Tuck's nephew and nieces: Amos Tuck French (his business representative in the States), the former Mrs Vanderbilt, and Lady Cheylesmore
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 11/10/2018 and last updated on 20/10/2021.