Roosevelt House is pleased to present a discussion of the acclaimed new book Morgenthau: Power, Privilege, and the Rise of an American Dynasty by Andrew Meier. Spanning four generations, Morgenthau offers a panoramic account of one exceptional family across more than 150 years of U.S. and world history. The sweeping portrait reveals their power and influence in the most consequential presidencies of the 20th century—including, of course, that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The author will be in conversation with Jonathan F. Fanton Director of Roosevelt House Harold Holzer.

With unprecedented, exclusive access to family archives, Meier vividly chronicles how various generations of Morgenthaus amassed a fortune in Manhattan real estate, advised presidents, advanced the New Deal, exposed the Armenian genocide, rescued victims of the Holocaust, waged war in the Mediterranean and Pacific, achieved renown in the legal world, and, from a foundation of private wealth, built a dynasty of public service. In the words of former mayor Ed Koch, they were “the closest we’ve got to royalty in New York City.”

After coming to America from Germany in 1866, the Morgenthaus made history in international diplomacy, in domestic politics, and in America’s criminal justice system. Finally, there was Robert M. Morgenthau, a decorated World War II hero who would become the longest-tenured district attorney in the history of New York City—earning him the moniker of “DA for life.”

Roosevelt House is especially proud to host this discussion of the definitive Morgenthau family biography. This historic building, once the Roosevelt family home, served as FDR’s transition headquarters in 1932-33. And here the President-elect met frequently with his friend, advisor, and future Cabinet member Henry Morgenthau Jr. to explore the financial reforms that would be introduced in the New Deal. To permanently honor the longstanding connection between the Morgenthau family and Roosevelt House, Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab, in 2018, formally dedicated the building’s west staircase to the memory of Henry’s son Robert M. Morgenthau, who served as Manhattan District Attorney for 35 years. “The Morgenthau name,” she said at the time, “—which is joined forever in American history to that of the Roosevelts—should be a permanent part of this house.”

Andrew Meier is the author of Black Earth: A Journey Through Russia After the Fall and The Lost Spy: An American in Stalin’s Secret Service. A former Moscow correspondent for Time, he has contributed to The New York Times Magazine, among numerous other publications, for more than two decades. His work has been recognized with fellowships from the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library and the Leon Levy Center for Biography, as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Harold Holzer has served since 2015 as the Jonathan F. Fanton Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. A prolific author with more than 50 books to his credit, he won the 2015 Gilder Lehrman Prize and a 2008 National Humanities Medal. His most recent book is The Presidents vs. the Press: The Endless Battle Between the White House and the Media, from the Founding Fathers to Fake News. In a review for the Wall Street Journal, Holzer called Morgenthau “consistently hypnotic.”

Andrew Meier — Morgenthau: Power, Privilege, and the Rise of an American Dynasty | Posted on January 19th, 2023 | Book Discussions, Public Programs