Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Henry Morgenthau, Jr. (1945–1945): Secretary of the Treasury

Henry Morgenthau Jr. was born May 11, 1891, in New York City. He studied agriculture and architecture at Cornell University but left after three semesters. His career began in agricultural pursuits; during World War I, Morgenthau worked with Herbert Hoover in the U.S. Farm administration in an effort to send tractors to France. He also published what became the leading national weekly on farming and agriculture, the American Agriculturalist (1922-1933).

Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt named him chairman of the New York State Agricultural Advisory Commission in 1928; Morgenthau was subsequently promoted to chairman of the state conservation commission. As President, Roosevelt tapped Morgenthau to be chairman of the Farm Credit Administration and later as undersecretary of the treasury.

Morgenthau took over the top spot later in 1933 from ailing treasury secretary William Woodin and remained in that post until 1945. Among his accomplishments was the convening of the Bretton Woods Conference, which established the post-World War II international banking system. Morgenthau kept his cabinet position three months into the Truman administration but resigned over a disagreement with the new President.

After leaving the cabinet, he served as chairman of the United Jewish Appeal (1947-1950) and chairman of the board of governors of the American Financial and Development Corporation for Israel. Henry Morgenthau died on February 6, 1967, in Poughkeepsie, New York.