Jacob Barker, an American financier, born at Swan Island, Kennebec county, Maine, Dec. 7, 1779, died in Philadelphia, Dec. 26, 1871. He was of a Quaker family of Nantucket, and connected on the mother's side with Franklin. At the age of 16 he went to New York, where he got employment with Isaac Hicks, a commission merchant, began to trade on his own account in a small way, and before his majority was in possession of four ships and a brig, and had his notes regularly discounted at the United States bank. In 1801 he lost nearly all his fortune by a series of mishaps in business. Not long afterward, however, he entered into a contract with the government for the supply of oil, and again accumulated considerable wealth. He received the consignment of the first steam engine used on the Hudson river. The war of 1812 coming on, he took the democratic side in politics, engaged to raise a loan of $5,000,000 for the government, was one of the building committee of Tammany hall, and took part in the first meeting held in it. He became senator of the state of New York, and when sitting in the court of errors he delivered an opinion in opposition to that of Chancellor Kent, in an insurance case, in which he was sustained by the court.
He soon afterward established the "Union" newspaper to advocate the election of Gov. Clinton. In 1815 he founded the Exchange bank in Wall street, and began to speculate in stocks. The bank broke in 1819, but he made use of other institutions chartered in different states, and for many years, by the extent of his operations, was thought to have the control of great capital. In the extensive transactions in which he now engaged, he came into frequent and violent collision with other capitalists, and called forth much opposition. On the failure of the life and fire insurance company, he was indicted, with others, for conspiracy to defraud, and defended himself in person with great ability. At the first trial the jury disagreed; on the second he was convicted, but a new trial was granted. After the third the indictment was quashed. In 1834 he removed to New Orleans, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar, after being unsuccessful on his first examination. Here he took a prominent part in politics and business, and had again accumulated a fortune when the civil war began.
By this he was so impoverished that in 1867 he was in bankruptcy, and he ended his career in comparative poverty.