Despite the contention that the term “Brain Trust” was used as a title to a newspaper article in 1903, the name attained no popularity until 1933.
In the previous summer, after his nomination for the presidency by the Democratic party, Franklin Delano Roosevelt surrounded himself with a group of advisers to aid in mapping out his election campaign.
James M. Kieran of The New York Tones, assigned to “cover” Mr. Roosevelt at the time, groped for a descriptive name for this group. He tried, it is said, “brains department” but found it too unwieldy, and then hit upon “brains trust.”
Other reporters ignored his coinage for a time, but after Roosevelt’s election and inauguration, when the college professors who had assisted in the campaign were found to have become also a kitchen cabinet of advisers in the administration, Roosevelt himself began to speak of the group as his “brain trust,” using the singular form that has since outmoded the original designation.
The term is no longer limited in application to a presidential group of advisers, but is applied, sometimes ironically, to any group that establishes the policies of an organization, whether intelligently or not.