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How Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan Collaborated to Remake American Business

By Lucina Kathmann

Photos: Gerard Helferich

In the second PEN lecture of the season, award-winning author Gerard Helferich will discuss his just-published book, An Unlikely Trust: Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and the Improbable Partnership That Remade American Business. He will also trace the tangled relationship between business and government, from 19th century laissez-faire to 20th century reform and the age of Trump.

2018 PEN Winter Lecture Series presents
An Unlikely Trust: Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and the Improbable Partnership That Remade American Business
Gerard Helferich
Tue, Jan 23, 6pm
Bellas Artes Auditorium
Hernandez Macías 75
150 pesos

In the early 1900s, Theodore Roosevelt and J.P. Morgan were the most powerful men in America, perhaps the world. As president, Roosevelt vastly expanded the authority of the federal government and shifted the balance of power from Congress to the executive branch. As the nation’s preeminent financier, Morgan presided over a shift in American business from family-owned companies to huge public corporations such as US Steel and AT&T.

The two could easily have become sworn enemies. In fact, they have often been depicted as battling titans, the original trustbuster versus the great trust builder. However, their long association was more complicated, even mutually beneficial. Revisiting events such as the Great Coal Strike of 1902 and the financial panic of 1907, An Unlikely Trust tells the story of the uneasy, but far-reaching collaboration between Roosevelt and Morgan.

Helferich will show how the relationship between government and business evolved from laissez-faire to the active regulation that the Trump administration is dismantling. He will also show how much remains the same, including big business’s influence over the political process, people’s pervasive feeling that government is working for special interests, and the growing divide between rich and poor. Not least of all, he will tell the story of how two citizens with vastly different philosophies came together for the good of the country.

Gerard Helferich is the author of four other critically acclaimed works of nonfiction, including Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin, which was a New York Times e-book bestseller. A member of the National Book Critics Circle, he reviews in the Wall Street Journal. He is also on the faculty of the Columbia Publishing Course at the Columbia School of Journalism and presents workshops at the San Miguel Writers Conference. Before turning to writing in 2002, he was an editor and publisher for 25 years at companies such as Doubleday and Simon & Schuster. For more information, please visit his website,

San Miguel PEN is a chapter of PEN International, the organization of writers that fights for freedom of expression around the world. The 150-peso admission helps fund local activities and includes a free glass of wine with dinner after the presentation at Vivali, across the street at Hernandez Macias 66. Tickets are available at Ticket Central in the Biblioteca or at the door. For more information, visit


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