Right-Hand Man: The Life of George W. Perkins

Right-Hand Man: The Life of George W. Perkins

Right-Hand Man: The Life of George W. Perkins

Right-Hand Man: The Life of George W. Perkins

Excerpt

THEODORE ROOSEVELT was talking over the long-distance telephone to his most trusted lieutenant. "George," he said, "I should like to be where I could hold your hand."

J. Pierpont Morgan, taking his ease at Aix-les-Bains, had just received a cablegram from one of his partners. "Your cable . . . fills me with amazement," he replied, and he was not an easy man to surprise. "Did not really believe anything would come of the negotiations. Congratulate you most heartily."

President John A. McCall of the New York Life Insurance Company was trying to persuade his Finance Committee to triple the salary of one of the vice-presidents. "He has done so many remarkable things," McCall said, "and saved the policyholders so much money, that it is difficult to particularize."

Roosevelt's auditor, Morgan's correspondent, and the recipient of McCall's praise were all one person, George Walbridge Perkins, a man little known today but one of the most successful, controversial, and interesting Americans of the early twentieth century. The story of his rise from obscure beginnings to wealth and power would have strained the credulity of Horatio Alger's most devoted readers. Son of the warden of a boy's reformatory, he never went to high school but was invited to lecture at Columbia University. His father thought him slow in the head, but he revolutionized the insurance business, mastered the most complicated problems of corporate finance, developed the Palisades Interstate Park, guided the first faltering footsteps of the United States Steel Corporation, created the International Harvester Corporation, made millions of dollars--and helped to organize and run Theodore Roosevelt's "Bull Moose" Progressive party.

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