Girard, Stephen

Girard, Stephen

(jĭrärd`), 1750–1831, American merchant, banker, and philanthropist, b. Bordeaux, France. Girard went to sea and at the age of 23 was a captain. In 1776 he settled in Philadelphia as a shipowner and merchant. He became wealthy and interested himself in the Bank of the United States. When its charter was not renewed, he set up his own bank in Philadelphia. He helped to finance the United States in the War of 1812, and in 1816 he put up a large amount of money for the Second Bank of the United States. Girard contributed much to the improvement of Philadelphia. He bequeathed several million dollars to found Girard CollegeGirard College,
in Philadelphia, an elementary and secondary boarding school for children with financial need from single-parent or parentless families. It opened 1848 with a bequest, now grown to a huge endowment, from Stephen Girard; it was originally a school for fatherless boys.
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Bibliography

See biographies by J. B. McMaster (1918) and C. A. Herrick (1923); H. E. Wildes, Lonely Midas (1943); M. Minnegarde, Certain Rich Men (1970).

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Girard, Stephen

(1750–1831) merchant, financier, philanthropist; born in Bordeaux, France. He went to sea at age 14 and settled in Philadelphia in 1776. He ran a successful international shipping business, then moved into banking, insurance, and real estate. During the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, he managed a fever hospital and personally nursed the ill. He started the "Bank of Stephen Girard," which greatly assisted the federal government during the War of 1812 and afterward with loans and stock purchases. He left nearly $7 million to charities, especially for the education of poor, white male orphans; Girard College was opened for this purpose in 1848 (and began to admit African-American youths in 1968).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.