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Summary

Bloomsbury presents The Hour of Fate by Susan Berfield, read by Jennifer Woodward.

A riveting narrative of Wall Street buccaneering, political intrigue and two of American history’s most colossal characters, struggling for mastery in an era of social upheaval and rampant inequality.

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.

©2020 Susan Berfield (P)2020 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Critic reviews

"Susan Berfield has written the rare book that makes you look at both the past and present in a new light. Deeply researched and beautifully written, The Hour of Fate tells the gripping tale of how a clash between the most powerful force in the history of Wall Street and a young, popular president set the stage for our current debates over the role and limits of wealth in a democracy." (David K. Randall, New York Times best-selling author of Black Death at the Golden Gate)

"The Hour of Fate is narrative nonfiction at its best. Susan Berfield brings to life the conflict between two of America's most powerful men, J.P. Morgan and Theodore Roosevelt, and reveals how their battle over democracy and corporate power reshaped America." (Adam Winkler, author of We the Corporations)

"Susan Berfield has captured a critical moment in American history with a ripping good yarn. Written with verve and a perceptive eye for detail, The Hour of Fate artfully brings to life two of our nation’s most celebrated personalities, caught in an astonishing drama even larger than themselves. It is impossible to read Berfield’s fast-paced and entertaining account of events a century ago without gaining deeper insight into the momentous events we wrestle with today." (Scott Miller, author of The President and the Assassin and Agent 110 )

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  • Jean
  • 08-06-20

Engaging

I found this book fascinating particularly considering our current situation. The first part of the book is a brief biography of both men (J.P. Morgan 1837-1913 and Theodore Roosevelt-1858-1919) with particular emphasis on where they intercepted each other physically and ideologically.

The book is well written and meticulously researched. The author remained neutral through-out and was more like a reporter stating the known facts. I have read many biographies of both men but this book focused on these two men and their different ideology. The main question was who would control the economy of the United States? Would it be giant corporations or the federal government? I found a comment by President Cleveland during a deadly heat wave in 1896 most interesting. (I have read several biographies of Cleveland and don’t remember reading this quote). Roosevelt was police commissioner of NYC. He was personally handing out free ice to the poor. Cleveland said “While the people should patriotically and cheerfully support their government, its functions do not include the support of the people” I think we have changed since that time. At that time the only thing between government/big business and the people was Theodore Roosevelt with his “Square Deal for everyman big or small, rich or poor.” I highly recommend this book.

The book is eleven hours and fifty-nine minutes. Jennifer Woodward does a good job narrating the book. Woodward is an actress, voice artist and audiobook narrator.

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  • D. Littman
  • 01-06-20

Very entertaining, good intro to the period

A breezy, well-narrated story of the sometimes intertwined lives of Teddy Roosevelt & JP Morgan (& many other "secondary," in the approach of this story, players). The strength of the book is that it provides a rapid cover of the bios of these two individuals (& again, of many secondary players, notably Mark Hanna), and provides a nice introduction to such business conflicts between the two protagonists as the national coal strike & the Northern Securities case. There are better, much longer, bios of TR & Morgan, for those who want to dig deeper (the TR bio literature is particularly vast). And there are better, more focused monographs on the Sherman Antitrust Act, the coal strike & Northern Securities. This book provides a good introduction that can lead the reader to deeper mining of this literature.

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  • John Cashman
  • 26-05-20

Wonderful book

Great book, and perfect as an audiobook. The author has done a very good job on research, and writes a compelling narrative. Highly recommended.

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  • Richard
  • 13-07-20

Very good book for history nerds of this era

DKG’s “Leadership” piqued my interest in the interesting story of the coal strike settlement. This book shed tons more perspective on the complex relationship between JPM and TR, which was extremely interesting and revealing of an era that was a turning point in the relationship between capital, labor and government