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The Hour of Fate

Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and the Battle to Transform American Capitalism

Susan Berfield

Bloomsbury Publishing

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ISBN10: 1635578442
ISBN13: 9781635578447


416 Pages



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Winner of the Theodore Roosevelt Association Book Prize
Finalist for the Presidential Leadership Book Award

It seemed like no force in the world could slow J. P. Morgan's drive to power. In the summer of 1901, the financier was assembling his next mega-deal: Northern Securities, an enterprise that would affirm his dominance in America's most important industry—the railroads.

Then, a bullet from an anarchist's gun put an end to the business-friendly presidency of William McKinley. A new chief executive bounded into office: Theodore Roosevelt. He was convinced that as big business got bigger, the government had to check the influence of the wealthiest or the country would inch ever closer to collapse. By March 1902, battle lines were drawn: the government sued Northern Securities for antitrust violations. But as the case ramped up, the coal miners' union went on strike and the anthracite pits that fueled Morgan's trains and heated the homes of Roosevelt's citizens went silent. With millions of dollars on the line, winter bearing down, and revolution in the air, it was a crisis that neither man alone could solve.

Richly detailed and propulsively told, The Hour of Fate is the gripping story of a banker and a president thrown together in the crucible of national emergency even as they fought in court. The outcome of the strike and the case would change the course of our history. Today, as the country again asks whether saving democracy means taming capital, the lessons of Roosevelt and Morgan's time are more urgent than ever.


Praise for The Hour of Fate

“Berfield's wide-angle lens encompasses antitrust law, the details of railroad reorganization, investment banking, politics, coal mining and high living . . . she can do a lot with only a few words.”The Wall Street Journal

“Wonderfully detailed . . . [Berfield's] story is about the past but also very much about the present, as our own Gilded Age raises old questions about inequality, plutocracy . . . a poignant, painful reminder of what a real leader does.”The Washington Post

“Most authors might be content to write about either John Pierpont Morgan, possibly the world's most famous banker, or Theodore Roosevelt, one of America's best-loved presidents. But The Hour of Fate by Susan Berfield is richer for tackling them together . . . Her book vividly brings both men to life.”The Economist

“A lively epic . . . novelistic in tone and historical in substance.”National Review

“An extremely skillful blend of wide-canvas exposition and small-scale personal drama . . . impossible to read this clash between big government and big business without thinking about our own century, when American wealth inequality is greater than it was even in Morgan's day.”The Christian Science Monitor

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Susan Berfield

Susan Berfield is an award-winning investigative reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek and Bloomberg News, where she has covered some of America's largest corporations. She has been interviewed on PBS NewsHour, NPR's All Things Considered, Marketplace, On Point, and elsewhere. Her research for The Hour of Fate, her first book, took her to archives in New York, St. Paul, Washington, D.C., and Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was supported by a Logan Nonfiction Fellowship. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.