Katherine Benton-Cohen
(Georgetown University)

“Quiet Money: The Family Fortune that Transformed New York, the American Southwest, and the Modern Middle East”

June 18, 2024, 4:15pm, Fakultätssaal (01-185, Philosophicum)

In this talk Professor Benton-Cohen examines the global impact of the Phelps-Dodge family and copper mining empire over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. The history of the extended Phelps-Dodge family and their giant copper-mining corporation reveals a social, environmental, and labor history of global capitalism and philanthropy. PD (as it was known by its employees in its many company towns) was one of the US’s most important copper mining companies, until the largest mining merger in history, with the gold-mining company Freeport McMoRan in 2006. The extended Dodge family’s wealth and influence connect places and people seemingly worlds apart—the US-Mexico “copper borderlands”; the elite institutions of the Ivy League and New York; and US influence in the Middle East. Yet little is known of these connections, thanks to the alienation of labor and wealth, and the understated manner of the Dodges. In this talk, Benton-Cohen will discuss in particular the company’s influence on Arizona and how it used its “quiet money” to spread its influence.

Katherine Benton-Cohen is professor and director of doctoral studies in the department of history at Georgetown University. She is the author of Inventing the Immigration Problem: The Dillingham Commission and Its Legacy (Harvard, 2018) and Borderline Americans: Racial Division and Labor War in the Arizona Borderlands (Harvard, 2009). She also served as historical advisor to the nonfiction feature film Bisbee ’17 , winner of the American Historical Association’s O’Connor 2019 prize for best documentary film. Benton-Cohen has held fellowships from Princeton Library, the New York Public Library, American Philosophical Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and elsewhere, and has been a visiting scholar at Chuo University in Tokyo. She has appeared in a variety of media outlets including “Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien,” the BBC, NPR, and PBS American Experience. She is an OAH Distinguished Lecturer, on the Board of Modern American History, and on the Scholarly Advisory Council for the Wisconsin Historical Society. Benton-Cohen is currently writing a global history of the Phelps-Dodge copper-mining family, whose capitalist and philanthropic links between New York, the US-Mexico Borderlands, and the Middle East profoundly changed each region.

You can download the poster for the event here.

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