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Encyclopedia > Moses Taylor

Moses Taylor (January 11, 1806 - May 23, 1882) was a 19th century New York merchant and banker and one of the wealthiest men of that century. At his death, his estate was reported to be worth $70 million, or about $1.7 billion in 2006 dollars. He controlled the National City Bank of New York (later to become Citibank), the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western railroad, the Moses Taylor & Co. import business, and he held numerous other investments in railroads and industry. January 11 is the 11th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1806 was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ... May 23 is the 143rd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (144th in leap years). ... 1882 (MDCCCLXXXII) was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a common year starting on Tuesday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar. ... Citibank was founded in 1812 as the City Bank of New York. ... The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Company (DL&W or Lackawanna) (AAR reporting mark DLW) was a railroad connecting Pennsylvanias Lackawanna Valley, rich in anthracite coal, to New York City, Buffalo and Oswego, New York. ...



His parents were Jacob B. Taylor and Martha (Brant) Taylor. His father was a close associate of John Jacob Astor and acted as his agent by purchasing New York real estate while concealing Astor's interest. Astor's relationship with the Taylor family provided Moses with an early advantage. John Jacob Astor, detail of an oil painting by Gilbert Stuart, 1794 John Jacob (originally Johann Jakob) Astor (July 17, 1763 - March 29, 1848) was the first of the Astor family dynasty and the first millionaire in the United States, making his fortune in the fur trade and real estate...

Early Career

Moses began his career at age 15 as a clerk in the firm of G. G. & S. Howland Company of New York, a shipping and import firm that traded with South America. By 1832, at age 26, Moses had sufficient wealth to marry, leave the Howland company, and start his own business as a sugar broker. As a sugar broker, Moses dealt with Cuban sugar growers, found buyers for their product, exchanged currency, and advised and assisted them with their investments. He soon discovered that loans and investments provided returns as good or better than the sugar business, and by the 1840's his income was largely from interest and investments. By 1847, Moses Taylor was listed as one of New York City's 25 millionaries.

Banking and Investments

When the Panic of 1837 allowed Astor to take over what was then City Bank of New York, he named Moses Taylor as director. Moses himself had doubled his fortune during the panic, and brought his growing financial connections to the bank. He acquired equity in the bank and in 1855 became its president, operating it largely in support of his and his associates' businesses and investments.

In the 1850's Moses invested in iron and coal, and began purchasing interest in the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western railroad. When the Panic of 1857 brought the railroad to the brink of bankruptcy, Moses obtained control by purchasing its outstanding shares for $5 a share. Within seven years the shares became worth $240, and the D. L. & W was one of the premier railroads of the country. By 1865 Moses held 20,000 shares worth almost $50 million.

Thomas Nast cartoon of the "White-washing Committee"John Jacob Astor, Marshall O. Roberts, Moses Taylor
Thomas Nast cartoon of the "White-washing Committee"
John Jacob Astor, Marshall O. Roberts, Moses Taylor

Moses also held an interest in the New York, Newfoundland, and London Telegraph Company company that Cyrus Field had founded in 1854. Although its attempts to lay a cable across the Atlantic were initially unsuccessful, it eventually succeeded and in 1866 became the first transatlantic telegraph company. Cyrus West Field (November 30, 1819–July 11/12, 1892) was an American businessman and financier who led a company that successfully laid the first telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean in 1858. ...

Tammany Hall

After the Civil War, during which he assisted the Union with financing the war debt, he continued to invest in iron, railroads, and real estate. His real estate holdings in New York brought him into close association with Boss Tweed of New York's Tammany Hall, and in 1871, Moses sat on a committee made up of New York's most influential and successful businessmen and signed his name to a report that commended Tweed's controller for his honesty and integrity, a report that was a notorious whitewash. 1869 Tobacco label featuring Boss Tweed. ... Tammany Hall was the name given to the Democratic Party political machine that played a major role in New York City politics from the 1790s to the 1960s. ...


In 1882, Moses Taylor donated $250,000 to build a hospital in Scranton, Pennsylvania to benefit his iron and coal workers, and workers of the D. L. & W railroad. The Moses Taylor hospital continues in operation today. The City of Scranton is the county seat of Lackawanna CountyGR6 in Northeastern Pennsylvania, USA. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 76,415 (2003 estimate: 74,320). ...

Moses died in 1882, leaving his fortune to his son, Henry Augustus Coit Taylor, and to his daughter and son-in-law, Albertina and Percy Rivington Pyne. Percy Pyne, an assistant to Moses, had married Moses' daughter in 1855 and became president of City Bank upon his father-in-law's death. The Pynes established a dynasty of bankers that survives to this day. Percy's son Moses Taylor Pyne was a benefactor of Princeton University, and left an estate worth $100 million at his death in 1921. Moses Taylor Pyne (1855 – 1921), was a financier and philanthropist. ...

Moses' son Henry A. C. Taylor left an estate worth $50 million upon his death in in 1921, just a few months before his nephew.


  • "The Business Career of Moses Taylor" by Daniel Hodus, New York: New York University Press.
  • Capital City : New York City and the Men Behind America's Rise to Economic Dominance, 1860-1900, Thomas Kessner
  • "An Old Merchant's Death", Alan Singer, Graduate Director: Social Studies Education, Hofstra University
  • Dynastic America and Those Who Own It, 1921 by Henry H Klein, p. 30
  • Banking Alliances, by Hazel J. Johnson, World Scientific, 2000, p 47
  • Thomas Nast: His Period and His Pictures, Albert Bigelow Paine, Macmillan, 1904, p. 144

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