A history of a private Wall Street partnership ... This is not exactly mini-series material, and the Browns’ stolid rectitude presents any would-be chronicler with a challenge ... Karabell’s leitmotif is the pre-eminence of money in America’s growth, and in its culture, but his frequent flights of rhetoric will not be to everyone's taste ... His narrative of a firm that remained private and true to its credo is engaging and new ... Similarly, when the author writes that the firm’s 'centrality; is easy to overlook, we can hear him straining. Alas, no amplification is needed to elicit our interest in the understated Browns. Shoemaker, stick to thy last.
An engaging history of the bank and its place in American financial history ... Karabell, who has worked in banking himself, tells a brisk and muscular story, though at times one wishes for more financial details on the firm and its biggest deals (the partners’ famous discretion may have made this impossible, however) ... There is another possibility, too. The prudence, discretion, and moderation that defined Brown Brothers for much of its history reflected the values of the business community it served and, to an extent, of America as a whole. As those values have lost their vitality, it was inevitable that the banking industry would change. It may be, in other words, that we get the bankers we deserve.
Historian Karabell examines the long history of a financial services firm that exercised outsize power in the political sphere ... A readable, unfailingly interesting study on the making of the American century.