Brain Trust

Brain Trust

Brain Trust, the group of close advisers to Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he was governor of New York state and during his first years as President. The name was applied to them because the members of the group were drawn from academic life. This informal advisory group on the New Deal included Columbia Univ. professors Raymond Moley, Adolf A. Berle, Jr., and Rexford G. Tugwell and expanded to include many more academicians. It soon disintegrated, but the term has remained in common usage for similar groups.

See study by R. G. Tugwell (1968).

The term "brains trust" (originally plural, the s was later dropped) was first coined in 1901 and used in a sarcastic sense in reference to the first American general staff of the U.S. President. In 1932, New York Times writer James M. Kiernan revived the term when he applied it to the close group of experts that surrounded United States presidential candidate Franklin Roosevelt. The term has since been applied in general sense to any close group of advisors.

Roosevelt brain trust

Having an academic team was first suggested to Roosevelt in March 1932 by Roosevelt's legal counsel Samuel Rosenman. This concept was, perhaps, based on The Inquiry, a group of academic advisors President Woodrow Wilson formed in 1917 to prepare for the peace negotiations following World War I. The core of the first Roosevelt brain trust consisted of a group of Columbia law professors (Moley, Tugwell, and Burle). These men played a key role in shaping the policies of the First New Deal (1933). Although they never met together as a group, they each had Roosevelt's ear. Many newspaper editorials and editorial cartoons ridiculed them as impractical idealists.

The core of the second Roosevelt brain trust sprang from men associated with the Harvard law school (Cohen, Corcoran, and Frankfurter). These men played a key role in shaping the policies of the Second New Deal (1935-1936).


See also



  • Moley, Raymond. (1939). After seven years
  • Tugwell, Rexford. (1968). The Brains Trust
  • Editorial cartoons


  • Rosen, Elliot. (1977). Hoover, Roosevelt, and the Brains Trust.
  • McElvaine, Robert. (1984). The Great Depression: America 1929-1941


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