George Fisher Baker (1840-1931)

George F. Baker, President of the First National Bank of New York

Associated Houses



He was born at Troy, New York. He was educated at the S.S. Seward Institute before being hired as a junior clerk in the New York State Banking Department. At the start of the Civil War he served with the 18th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteers reaching the rank of First Lieutenant. In 1863, he co-founded the First National Bank of the City of New York (the forerunner of today's Citibank) and became its President in 1877, serving until 1909 when he became Chairman of the Board. He was a Director of 40-corporations, the largest stockholder in the Central Railroad of New Jersey and the largest individual owner of U.S. Steel stock. The New York Times called him the "Dean of the Nation's Bankers". He was closely allied with J.P. Morgan and according to Time Magazine in 1924 Baker was "the richest, most powerful and most taciturn commercial banker in U.S. history." In 1918, he came in fourth (tied with William Rockefeller) on the first ever Forbes Rich List with an estimated $150-million fortune, behind Andrew Carnegie, and ahead of Edward S. Harkness and J. Ogden Armour.

He gave $5 million which provided much of the initial funding for Harvard Business School where the library is named for him. He gave $2 million to Cornell University for the construction of the Baker Laboratory of Chemistry and endowed the Baker Lecture Series, the oldest continuous lectureship in chemistry in the United States. He gave $2 million for Baker Memorial Library at Dartmouth College and paid for the construction of Columbia University's Baker Field among many other smaller donations to the likes of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He lived at 258 Madison Avenue in New York City and summered between Imlagh in Tuxedo Park and his property on Jekyll Island. In 1869, he married Florence, daughter of Benjamin Franklin Baker, and they had 3-children (listed above). By the time he died in 1931, he left a fortune of $100 million.
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 15/10/2019 and last updated on 28/02/2023.