J. P. Morgan attacks the photographer

May 11, 1910. “Irony of history was that a capitalist tycoon himself is turned into a commodity”. Financier John Pierpont Morgan was being held back from attacking the photographer George Grantham Bain with his cane. Morgan was known to dislike publicity and hated being photographed; as a result of his self-consciousness of his chronic skin disease, rosacea, all of his professional portraits were retouched, including the austere portrait that Edward Steichen has taken of him.

Morgan had a deformed purple nose, because of rosacea, which resulted in a disease called rhinophyma. As the deformity worsens, pits, nodules, fissures, lobulations, and pedunculation contorted the nose. This condition inspired the crude taunt “Johnny Morgan’s nasal organ has a purple hue.” Surgeons could have shaved it away, but as a child Morgan suffered from seizures, and he refused to seek surgery because he feared the seizures would return. His social and professional self-confidence were too well established to be undermined by this affliction. It was as if Morgan dared people to meet him squarely or not.

Morgan died on March 31, 1913, and during his funeral, several newspaper photographers were arrested. Morgan would be pleased.

3 thoughts on “J. P. Morgan attacks the photographer

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