How a Self-Made 18th-Century Tycoon Built the First Charity for Kids
If Bill Gates had an 18th century equivalent, he might look something like Thomas Coram.
Like the Microsoft co-founder, Coram was a self-made businessman who turned his life to philanthropy, with a reputation for radical thinking. A portrait of him by his friend, the celebrated painter William Hogarth, shows the buttons of his coat undone, his feet barely touching the ground, as if he’s about to bolt from the artist’s studio. He hasn’t bothered to wear a wig either, rare in Georgian portraiture. He looks like a man in a hurry.
Coram was born in Britain but spent his formative years in the American colonies, where he made his fortune as a shipbuilder and naval captain. His life was the American Dream realized, 100 years before the Declaration of Independence was even written.