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Johns Hopkins

Updated on December 1, 2016

Johns Hopkins (1795-1873), American merchant, banker, and philanthropist, who founded a hospital and a university, in Baltimore, Md., that bear his name. He was born in Anne Arundel county, Maryland, on May 19, 1795, the second of 11 children of Samuel and Hannah Janney Hopkins, who were Quakers. His parents' tobacco plantation, near both Annapolis and Baltimore, brought prosperity until the Quakers' growing antislavery convictions persuaded Samuel to free his Negroes in 1807. The ensuing period of struggle habituated "Johnsie" to labor, thrift, and responsibility.

At 17 he joined an uncle's wholesale grocery business in Baltimore and rapidly demonstrated unusual ability. Ten years later, after relatives advanced $30,000, he established his own provision house in Baltimore with three younger brothers as salesmen. Hopkins Brothers became well known in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, as the firm's Conestoga wagons delivered groceries for cash or tobacco. Johns Hopkins retired in 1847 a wealthy man.

He invested heavily in Baltimore adding to his wealth by lending money, endorsing notes, assisting marginal firms, buying real estate, building warehouses.. He purchased large amounts of Baltimore & Ohio stock, and was made chairman of the line's finance committee. During the panics of 1857 and 1873 he pledged his fortune to protect the B&O. In 1861, as a Unionist, he made funds available to the mayor for the defense and security of Baltimore.

In 1867, influenced by long observation, wide reading, and distinguished friends, Johns Hopkins organized two corporations, one to found a hospital, the other a university. His will, drafted in 1870, left $1 million to relatives, servants, and charities, and $7 million divided equally between the hospital and the university, each to bear his name. He never married. Hopkins died in Baltimore on December 24, 1873.

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