About George Peabody

George Peabody, founder

George Peabody (1795–1859), lithograph, Joseph E, Baker(?), late 19th century. PM 969-5-10/48895.

Founder of Modern Philanthropy

George Peabody (1795–1869) was born in South Danvers (now Peabody), Massachusetts, to a large family of modest means. Despite receiving only four years of schooling as a boy, he went on to make his fortune in international finance and endowed twenty-two educational institutions during his lifetime.

Often called the founder of modern philanthropy, 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 (1867, now the Southern Education Fund).

In all, George Peabody granted more than $10 million to improving education and society, focusing particularly on the condition of those less fortunate.