Stephen Girard Biography & Net Worth


Stephen Girard Biography & Net Worth

Popular Name: Stephen Girard
Real Name: Stephen Girard
Birth Date: May 20, 1750
Birth Place:
Bordeaux, Kingdom of France
Age: Died on December 26, 1831 (aged 81)
Gender: Male
Nationality/Citizenship: French, American
Height: N/A
Weight: N/A
Sexuality: Straight
Marital Status: Married
Mary Lum
Children: 1
Profession: Businessman, Investor, Entrepreneur, Banker, Philanthropist
Years active: N/A
Net Worth: $105 Billion
Last Updated: 2021

Stephen Girard was a wealthy French banker and philanthropist who also owned slaves. He was a naturalized American whose legacy remains as the man who saved the United States government from financial downfall during the War of 1812. Girard became one of the wealthiest men in America, reportedly the fourth-richest American of all time. He had no children of his own, therefore, the bulk of his wealth went to philanthropy, especially to the education and welfare of orphaned children.

Early Life, Sailing & Business Career

Girard was born to a common sailor in Bordeaux, France on 21 May 1750.  He had very little education, lost sight of his right eye when he was eight years old, and landed in New York as a cabin boy in 1760. Thirteen years on, he became a licensed captain and visited California in 1774, and started trading to and from Port-au-Prince and New Orleans.

In May 1776, He navigated into the port of Philadelphia to dodge advancing Royal Navy warships and remained there to run a grocery and liquor store. By 1790, he had accumulated $6000 plus a small fleet of merchant boats.

In 1811, when the charter for the First Bank of America expired, Stephen Girard bought the bank’s building as well as most of its stock, and started what he called “Girard Bank.” He was a sole proprietor of his newly-formed bank and thus avoided the law in Pennsylvania State that prohibited an unincorporated group of persons from founding a bank. Girard hired the cashier of First Bank, George Simpson, to be the cashier at his bank, and with seven other staff, Girard Bank opened for business on May 18, 1812. The bank was a major source of government funding during the War of 1812. When the war was ending, and the financial credit of the United States government was at its lowest, Stephen Girard placed almost all of his resources at the disposal of the American government and underwrote up to 95 percent of the war loans issued, which allowed the United States to carry on to war.

Stephen Girard Net Worth
Philanthropist & Banker, Stephen Girard

After the war, Girard became a large shareholder in the Second Bank of America. His Girard Bank entered a merger with Mellon Bank in the year 1983 and was sold to what became known as Citizens Bank twenty years later.

Personal Life: Family, Marriage

In 1776, Girard met a Philadelphia woman who was nine years his junior. She was named Mary Lum, and they married soon after they met. Mary was the daughter of John Lum, a ship constructor who died a few months before the marriage.

In 1778 Girard became a Pennsylvania resident. Mary began succumbing to sudden, inconsistent emotional outbursts by 1985. Violent rages and mental unsteadiness ensued, leading to a diagnosis of irrepressible mental instability. Though Girard was devastated at first, he eventually took a mistress, Sally Bickham, by 1787.

In August 1790 he committed his wife, Mary Lum, to the Pennsylvania Hospital as an irredeemable lunatic. He provided her with every luxury and comfort she needed, and she gave birth to a baby girl whose sire is not completely certain. The child, named Mary, died a few months later and Girard spent the rest of his life with mistresses and had no other children.


On December 22, 1830, Girard was seriously wounded while crossing a road in Philadelphia. He was hit by a horse and wagon, his cheek and ear got lacerated, and his good (left) eye was completely ruined as well. Despite his age (81) at that time, he got up without assistance and returned to his home nearby and had a doctor dress his wound. He immediately threw himself back into his business even without fully recovering until his death on December 26, 1831. At the time of Girard’s death, he was considered the wealthiest man in America, and with adjustment for inflation, he is listed as the fifth-wealthiest American in history as of 1996, behind other notable names such as John D. Rockefeller, John Jacob Astor, Andrew Carnegie, and Cornelius Vanderbilt

Girard was an atheist all the days of his life until his death. He even included his opinions on religion in his last testament.

Stephen Girard Net Worth: Income Sources, Investments, Assets

The French-born, naturalized American banker, Stephen Girard, had a net worth of $105 billion (modern dollars) at the time of his death. He had no other children after the death of his only daughter, and he devoted nearly all his wealth to philanthropy, particularly the welfare of orphans.

His family contested for his will in France but the United States Supreme Court upheld it in a landmark case of 1844.

A man of good heart, Stephen Girard bequeathed nearly all of his fortune to municipal and charitable institutions of New Orleans and Philadelphia, leaving behind millions of dollars for the construction of boarding schools and homes for poor orphans, children of coal miners, and other underprivileged children. He also made a bequest of thousands of dollars to the public schools in Philadelphia, with the profits from its venture to be used for the procurement of books for the school libraries.

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