INSIDE MONEY: Brown Brothers Harriman and the American Way of Power

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June 16, 2021 • 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm


Author, historian, podcaster and commentator Zachary Karabell is joined by columnist and Hearst Connecticut Media Group Associate Editor Dan Haar to discuss Karabell’s new book, Inside Money.

Conspiracy theories have always swirled around Brown Brothers Harriman, and not without reason. Throughout the nineteenth century, when America was convulsed by a devastating financial panic essentially every twenty years, Brown Brothers quietly went from strength to strength, propping up the U.S. financial system at crucial moments and catalyzing successive booms, from the cotton trade and the steamship to the railroad, while largely managing to avoid the unwelcome attention that plagued some of its competitors. By the turn of the twentieth century, Brown Brothers was unquestionably at the heart of what was meant by an American Establishment. As America’s reach extended beyond its shores, Brown Brothers worked hand in glove with the State Department, notably in Nicaragua in the early twentieth century, where the firm essentially took over the country’s economy. To the Brown family, the virtue of their dealings was a given; their form of muscular Protestantism, forged on the playing fields of Groton and Yale, was the acme of civilization, and it was their duty to import that civilization to the world. When, during the Great Depression, Brown Brothers ensured their strength by merging with Averell Harriman’s investment bank to form Brown Brothers Harriman, the die was cast for the role the firm would play on the global stage during World War II and thereafter.

In Inside Money, acclaimed historian, commentator, and former financial executive Zachary Karabell offers the first full and frank look inside this institution against the backdrop of American history. Blessed with complete access to the company’s archives, as well as a thrilling understanding of the larger forces at play, Karabell has created an X-ray of American power–financial, political, cultural–as it has evolved from the early 1800s to the present. Today, unlike many of its competitors, Brown Brothers Harriman remains a private partnership and a beacon of sustainable capitalism, having forgone the heady speculative upsides of the past thirty years but also having avoided any role in the devastating downsides. The firm is no longer in the command capsule of the American economy, but, arguably, that is to its credit. If its partners cleaved to any one adage over the generations, it is that a relentless pursuit of more can destroy more than it creates.
FREE virtual program, although donations are gratefully accepted. REGISTER HERE
Signed copies of Inside Money are available for purchase through the Mark Twain Store; proceeds benefit The Mark Twain House & Museum. Books will be shipped after the event. We regret that we are NOT able to ship books outside the United States as it is cost-prohibitive to do so.

Zachary Karabell is an author and columnist, the founder of the Progress Network at New America, and president of River Twice Research and River Twice Capital. Previously, he was Head of Global Strategies at Envestnet, a publicly traded financial services firm. Prior to that, he was President of Fred Alger & Company. In addition, he ran the River Twice Fund from 2011-2013, an alternative fund that focused on sustainability.
Dan Haar is columnist and associate editor at Hearst Connecticut Media Group, which includes the daily newspapers in the state’s three largest cities, five other daily newspapers, 20 weeklies and numerous websites.  As a columnist he focuses on the intersection of economics, business, politics and policy.  Dan was previously at The Hartford Courant in numerous roles including metro columnist, business editor, economics beat reporter and state Capitol reporter. He started his career at The Courant as a photographer. Dan has won numerous national and regional awards as a photographer, writer and editor.  He graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in government and still attempts to play competitive ultimate frisbee.



Programs at The Mark Twain House & Museum are made possible in part by support from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, Office of the Arts, and the Greater Hartford Arts Council’s United Arts Campaign and its Travelers Arts Impact Grant program, with major support from The Travelers Foundation. 


June 16, 2021
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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