John Moore is reminded by the closure of the Trump Foundation of Aaron Burr’s founding of the Manhattan Company ( Letters, December 20). I wonder which part of the story caused him to make the connection?
Burr founded the company in 1799 after a yellow fever epidemic, purportedly to bring clean water to lower Manhattan. He had inserted in its charter a provision permitting it to spend its surplus capital on banking. The company took advantage of this clause to spend very little on the delivery of water and almost all of its capital on banking.
The company did deliver some water, often from fetid wells, but ceased this in 1842, when water from the Croton Reservoir 22 miles outside of New York first entered the city mains. The bank, however, thrived over the ensuing decades, merging in 1955 with the Chase Bank to become Chase Manhattan and survives today as part of JPMorgan Chase.
For all Burr’s faults, his bank has a remarkable longevity; not so much the Trump Foundation.
Senior Advisor, Global Public Affairs,
New York, NY, US
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