Birthplace: Whitehall, MD
Location of death: Baltimore, MD
Cause of death: Pneumonia
Remains: Buried, Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, MD
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Philanthropist, Business
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Johns Hopkins University and Hospital
Johns Hopkins' unusual first name was a family attribute -- Johns was the maiden name of his great-grandmother, and the given name of Hopkins' grandfather, for whom he was named.
He quit school at the age of 12 to work in his parents 500-acre tobacco fields, when their Quaker church adopted doctrine condemning slavery as immoral and evil, and Hopkins' father decided to free his slaves. This ended the family's lifestyle of leisure, as the eleven Hopkins children began working alongside their parents on the plantation. In his late teens and early 20s he apprenticed as a grocer for his uncle, and during this time he fell in love with his cousin, Elizabeth. He proposed marriage and she accepted, but her father cited the taboo of marriage between first cousins and refused to allow it. Johns and Elizabeth Hopkins vowed to never marry anyone else, and remained friends and occasionally exchanged letters, but each lived alone and remained unmarried for their entire lives.
Hopkins quit his uncle's shop after seven years, not in protest over lost love but because he was unable to convince his uncle to accept moonshine whiskey from customers in exchange for goods. He then started a wholesale supply company, which was renamed Hopkins Brothers after three of his brothers joined as partners. Delivering goods by conestoga wagon, Hopkins Brothers became a leading supplier of dry goods throughout Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia, and always accepted barter from customers, including moonshine which Hopkins re-sold as Hopkins' Best brand whiskey.
In running these businesses, Hopkins worked every day of the week for years and never spent money on unnecessary luxuries. He became a millionaire after investing his profits in Maryland real estate and a fledgling railroad operation that became the Baltimore and Ohio (B & O) Railroad. After retiring in 1857 he turned to philanthropy, establishing an orphanage for the children of freed slaves and other blacks, and incorporating two charities that survive to this day as Johns Hopkins University (opened in 1876) and the Johns Hopkins Hospital (1889). He was also invaluable to the Union's side in the American Civil War, using his position as Chairman of the B & O Railroad's Finance Committee to allow the Union (but not the Confederacy) full access and strategic use of the railroad. In response, the B & O's Southern track and rolling stock was sabotaged by Southern sympathizers.
In his will, Hopkins left a substantial fortune to his servants and family, and bequeathed the remainder of his wealth to the university, the hospital, and several other charities. He left his home to his cousin and intended bride, Elizabeth Hopkins, who lived there until her death.
Father: Samuel Hopkins (tobacco farmer, b. 3-Feb-1759, d. 9-Feb-1814)
Mother: Hannah Janney Hopkins (b. 19-May-1774, m. 29-Aug-1792, d. 25-Nov-1848, eleven children)
Brother: Joseph Janney Hopkins (b. 1793, d. 1845)
Sister: Eliza Hopkins ("Elizabeth", b. 1797)
Sister: Sarah Hopkins Janney (b. 1799)
Sister: Hannah Hopkins (b. 1801, d. 1846)
Brother: Samuel Hopkins (b. 1803)
Brother: Mahlon Hopkins (b. 1804, d. 1840)
Brother: Philip Hopkins (b. 1806, d. 1844)
Sister: Margaret Hopkins (b. 1808, d. 1891)
Brother: Gerald Hopkins (b. 1809, d. 1835)
Sister: Mary Hopkins (b. 1811)
Girlfriend: Elizabeth Hopkins (cousin)
Administrator: Benefactor, Johns Hopkins University
Member of the Board of B & O Railroad (1847-93)
Risk Factors: Insomnia
Appears on postage stamps:
USA, Scott #2194 ($1, Hopkins in blue etching, issued 7-Jun-1989)
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