financier, public official, philanthropist
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Having been born into a wealthy banking family, Mellon used the experience he gained in running his father's banking business to help him anticipate growth industries and begin successful enterprises in them. He provided financial backing for several concerns, including the Gulf Oil Corporation (1895), the Pittsburgh Coal Company (1899), the Aluminum Company of America, and the company that built the Panama Canal locks, and with Henry Clay Frick, he founded U.S. Steel Corp. and the Union Trust Company (1898). One of the richest men in America by 1920, he then turned to politics. He brought his fiscal conservativism with him to Washington, emphasizing the importance of reducing the federal debt while he served as secretary of the treasury under presidents Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover (1921–32). A Reagonomics proponent before his time, he favored tax cuts for the wealthy and for businesses as a way to stimulate the economy, reducing the maximum income tax bracket from 50% to 20%. He oversaw agreements to have European governments repay their wartime debts to the United States, and the national debt was reduced by 30% under Mellon's programs. His philanthropic endeavors include a $15 million gift to build the National Gallery of Art (opened 1941), and a collection of paintings valued at more than $25 million to go in it.Died: 8/26/1937