Now an elderly man, John Merrick is short, somewhat rotund, and unprepossessing in appearance; his smooth-shaven wrinkled face sometimes bears a shrewd expression. He sometimes "dresses down" in worn old clothes, and can be mistaken for a hobo or transient.
John Merrick was the eldest of the five Merrick siblings. He began his career as a common tinsmith, and traveled West to make his fortune; he soon lost contact with his brother and sisters. Over years and decades he became a major success, accumulating a fortune of eighty million dollars in the tin-plating industry.
Late in life he returned to the East to look into his family, to see if any of his relatives survived. He disguised his wealth with a common appearance. Merrick discovered a new generation of his family, in the persons of his three nieces; he became devoted to their welfare, as they did to him. (Aunt Jane's Nieces)