Banking & Finance

Speculators caused a stock market crash in 1792, forcing the federal government to bail out New York bankers— and the nation

Wall Street’s first bubble swelled burst in the spring of 1792, exerting a profound effect on American politics and society. Nine years after the Treaty of Paris and the acknowledgement of the former colonies— independence, both Europe and America lay in turmoil. Read more >>

And how it grew, and grew, and grew…

The federal government was still in the process of establishing itself in 1792 and did not have a good year financially. Total income was only $3,670,000, or 88 cents per capita. Outlays were $5,080,000. The budget deficit therefore amounted to fully 38 percent of revenues. Read more >>

How we became a nation of instant, constant borrowers

In 1987 Robert Townsend charged $100,000 on his fifteen personal credit cards to finance the production of a major motion picture, Hollywood Shuffle. It was a big risk, a desperate gamble that the movie would be successful and pay off the bills. Read more >>

As long as there have been bankers and brokers, there have been people asking what would happen if they had to earn an honest living

On October 26, 1911, the old Life magazine published a cartoon entitled “When We All Get Wise.” The implication of the cartoon, of course, was that if the ordinary people of the country would “just say no,” this time to bankers, brokers, and capi Read more >>

At its roots lie fundamental tensions that have bedeviled American banking since the nation began

Bank failure is as American as apple pie. Read more >>

S & L scandals, junk bonds, defaults—the pattern is familiar to anyone who knows about U.S. banking between 1830 and 1855.

My files bulge of late with stories that tell unedifying tales of cupidity and stupidity in world and national credit markets. Read more >>

Two hundred years ago the United States was a weakling republic prostrate beneath a ruinous national debt. Then Alexander Hamilton worked the miracle of fiscal imagination that made America a healthy young economic giant. How did he do it?

One price of political greatness is to be forced to campaign even long after death. The Founding Fathers, particularly, have been constantly dragged from their graves for partisan purposes. Read more >>

It cannot be measured in dollars alone. It involved a kind of personal power no man of affairs will ever have again.

On the night of Thursday, October 24, 1907, nearly every important banker in New York was meeting in J. P. Morgan’s exquisite private library, located next to his house at the northeast corner of Madison Avenue and Thirty-sixth Street. Read more >>

Banking as we’ve known it for centuries is dead, and we don’t really know the consequences of what is taking its place. A historical overview.

For the last several years congressional committees and presidential task forces have been nattering back and forth about what should be done to change the legal order that establishes and specifically empowers and regulates the nation’s banks. Read more >>

Solid-gold coins were legal tender for most of the nation's history. In their brilliant surfaces we can see our past fortunes.

NOWADAYS MONEY SEEMS to have become a pure idea, a universally agreed-upon fiction conveyed by pieces of paper, plastic cards, computers, and coins made of nearly worthless metal. Read more >>

A Scottish émigré became the most powerful man in the French government, and sold hundreds of thousands of shares in land holdings in the Mississippi Valley

The curious table shown opposite, with its montage of hand-painted scenes, commemorates a grand financial debacle in eighteenth-century France that was commonly known as the Mississippi Bubble. Read more >>
Charlie and I first met under the most informal conditions imaginable—we were both stark naked. Read more >>

How J. P. Morgan, like a “one-man Federal Reserve,” calmed the bankers and helped ease the Panic of 1907