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March Meeting

March 12 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Cover of The American Banker in Paris

Author William D. Engelbrecht

The American Banker in Paris:
The Remarkable True Story of Little Known Nelson Dean Jay

Bill Engelbrecht thinks Elmwood native Nelson Dean Jay may be the best-kept secret in central Illinois.

Engelbrecht is the co-author of The American Banker in Paris, a book on Jay’s life along with Elmwood native Karl K. Taylor.

“In my opinion, you simply can’t name anyone from central Illinois who had this much influence on America and the world, and (yet) no one knows about him,” he said.  “This isn’t a book about a bank or finance but about an interesting human being who came out of central Illinois.”

Nelson Dean Jay grew up in Elmwood, graduating from Knox College in 1905.  He then began working in finance until World War I,   Jay then entered the U.S. Army and served Gen. Charles G. Dawes as general purchasing agent for the American Expeditionary Force where he later received a Distinguished Service Medal.

Following the war, Jay headed the Paris affiliate of the J.P. Morgan & Co. bank from 1920 to 1941 and then again after WWII.  

During the Roaring Twenties in Paris, he was a friend of Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, and Gertrude Stein.  Jay was described in the New York Times as “one of the most civilized and authentic Americans in Paris.”

Jay was a member of the welcoming party for Charles Lindbergh when he made the first transatlantic flight from New York to Paris in 1927.

He also helped finance the work of his friend, (two-time) Nobel Prize winner Madame Marie Curie, the woman who laid the foundation for modern oncology.

The German Gestapo busted into his office to close down his bank. His was the only American bank to remain open in occupied Paris during the war.

Bio:  William D. “Bill” Engelbrecht discovered his love of writing as a sophomore in college when he won the William Randolph Hearst Award for writing at the University of Illinois.  Upon completing his Masters Degree he spent the next twenty-six years in the creative, imaginative world of the Leo Burnett Company, eventually serving as an Executive Vice President.  Along the way, he started a newspaper, magazine and radio station.  He served on the faculty of Bradley University and became one of its Vice Presidents.  His advocacy for education eventually led him to be named the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Bill resides in Peoria, Illinois with his wife, Helen.

Short business meeting will be held after the presentation.


March 12
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm


Ehrlicher Research Center
719 N 11th Street
Pekin, IL 61554 United States
(309) 477-3044


309 477-3044

Additional Donation to TCGHS (opt):

TCGHS is a non-partisan, 501(c3) non-profit educational research institution whose mission is to "stimulate interest; to collect, preserve, and safeguard records; and to provide related educational services for the purpose of increasing and enriching public knowledge of our heritage."

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