John Work Garrett began working
as a clerk in his father's firm, Robert Garrett and Company, at the age
of nineteen. The company's fleet of Conestoga wagons carried food and supplies
west over the Cumberland Trail. In later years the business expanded into
railroads, shipping, and banking. In 1858 Garrett became president of the
B&O Railroad. The Garrett Company and the B&O Railroad interests
had strong ties to the London-based George Peabody & Company and, through
their business interests, John Work Garrett and George Peabody became close
friends. Garrett became deeply involved with the Peabody Institute.
During the Civil War, the railroad
was under constant attack from Confederate raiders but it continued to
carry troops and provisions vital to the Union cause. After the war Garrett
acquired three gunboats that had been used in the blockade service and
refitted them into packet ships, establishing the first regular line service
from Baltimore to Liverpool.
Garrett, a trustee of the Peabody
Institute, asked its founder, George Peabody, to persuade Johns Hopkins
to make the bequest that would make possible The Johns Hopkins University
and Medical Institutions. Garrett became one of the most active trustees
of the university.