image 16 Mar 2018


Google Tribute

Salem residents opening Google's homepage might have been happily surprised to see an illustration of a gray-haired man holding a book with multiple buildings standing out of it. That man? None other than George Peabody.

George Peabody was born on February 18, 1795 and died in London on November 4, 1869. He never forgot the poverty he was born into as a child dropout, and donated most of his hard earned fortune to charities, libraries & colleges. The self made financier is widely regarded as the father of modern philanthropy.

A timelapse look at the entire painting process

On this day in 1867, George Peabody was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal after donating $2 million towards advancing education. That's an upwards of $30 million today. His generosity is made all the more impressive by the fact that he stopped attending school at age 11.

One of seven born into a poor South Danvers (now Peabody) Massachusetts family, George Peabody entered the banking industry after a career in the dry goods business. He only had four years of schooling before opening a local general store. Despite his limited education, he went on to make his fortune in international finance and donated the money to over twenty schools during his lifetime. He soon became the most noted American banker in London, which was the world's financial capital at the time. In addition to establishing international credit for the United States, the business empire he created included a firm that would eventually be known as J.P. Morgan & Co.

The final George Peabody mural painted by volunteers

But it's for his philanthropy that he's best remembered. George Peabody started the practice of supporting educational initiatives, which was later followed by steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and Oracle co-founder & CEO Larry Ellison. To honor his charitable achievements, Google dedicated its doodle to Peabody on the 151st anniversary of being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his generosity.

Unveiling the Doodle at George Peabody Elementary School in San Francisco

George Peabody gave his first grants in the 1850s to the towns of Danvers and Peabody. His many subsequent gifts include the Peabody Donation Fund (1862) in London, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard (1866), the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale (1866), the Peabody Academy of Science, now the Peabody Essex Museum, in Salem (1867), the Peabody Institute in Baltimore (1857), and the Peabody Education Fund, now the Southern Education Fund, in 1867.

Early concepts of the Peabody mural doodle

In all, George Peabody granted more than $10 million to improving education and society, focusing particularly on the condition of those less fortunate. Through gifts and legacies, it's believed he distributed approximately $8 million of his $16 million fortune during his lifetime to worthy causes in the US and the UK.

Google Doodle Honors Philanthropist George Peabody
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
Celebrating George Peabody