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Drexel students write about Drexel history, part 1: Anthony J. Drexel

Drexel Archives is proud to present the work of ten Drexel students writing about Drexel history. Each week in the winter quarter, we will feature a new essay. Thanks to Professor Sheryl Simons and all the students in English 101, Fall quarter 2010.

Anthony J. Drexel

by Megan Jones

I can still clearly remember the day my Drexel acceptance letter arrived but it was not until I began to research this essay that I finally found out who A.J. Drexel really was.

Anthony J. Drexel was born on September 13, 1826, in Philadelphia, PA. His father, Francis Martin Drexel, had fled recruitment into Napoleons’ army, and moved to Philadelphia in search of a better life. Francis Drexel was an aspiring painter but found little success and thus turned to currency trading. At 13 years old, A.J. went to work for his father’s firm, Drexel & Co., which helped finance the Mexican and Civil Wars and build the Reading and Pennsylvania Railroads.

Mr. Drexel was known for his intelligence, learning five languages. Moreover, he was known for his kindness. He took J.P. Morgan under his wing and helped launch the Industrial Revolution. The Drexel family was also known for donating millions of dollars to improve the condition of prisons, hospital sanitation, and gender equality.

Despite all of his major accomplishments, A.J. Drexel was most proud of the school he founded, the Drexel Institute. He wanted to create a school for the working class that taught art, science, and industry. Access for the masses was critically important and he made sure that the school was in close proximity to public transportation. A. J. Drexel was different from others in his time because he understood that the world was constantly changing and he made sure that his school would change with the times.

Students before the bust of AJ Drexel on Founders DayStudents before the bust of AJ Drexel on Founders Day, 1940

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