1930: 75 Years Ago

Overprotection

On June 17 President Herbert Hoover signed a law that was meant to avoid a nationwide depression but instead created one. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act boosted already high tariffs by 50 to 100 percent, to their highest levels in history, on virtually every American product that faced competition from abroad. Supporters confidently expected the act to fix the economic problems that had resulted from the previous autumn’s stock market crash. As the Senate’s Republican majority leader said during debate, “Within a year . . .

The Magician And The Cardsharp

After 20 years of looking for someone who could perform the “middle deal,” Dai Vernon had pretty much decided this supreme piece of sleight of hand was a fable. Then, one night in a Wichita jail, a prisoner told Vernon he’d seen a man do it…

One rainy afternoon in January 1932, Dai Vernon, the greatest sleight-of-hand artist in the world, sat in the Innes Department Store in Wichita, Kansas, bored out of his mind. The 37-year-old Vernon had come to Kansas with his wife, Jeanne, and their young son, Ted, for the new year, lured by invitations from his friend and fellow magician Faucett Ross and the promise of work cutting silhouette portraits of customers at the store. Ross had helped the Vernons get settled, and the two men did nothing for several days but practice and talk magic.

 
 
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A Bang Or A Whimper?

Will the current bull market die spectacularly, à la 1929, or—as in 1974—strangle in weird silence?

J.P. Morgan did not have much use for either the stock market or reporters. So when one reporter importunately asked him what the market was going to do one day, he replied, with about equal parts contempt and truth, “It will fluctuate.” Read more »

The Emperor’s Pierce-arrow

When American cars ruled the world

THE CURRENT VOGUE FOR PUSHING TO SELL AMERICAN AUTOMOBILES ABROAD can certainly be called overdue. No one has seriously tried such a thing in generations. To make inroads on the number of Volkswagens in Mexico or of Austin Minis in France or on the sea of Japanese automobiles in Japan might seem unprecedented. But actually it’s just an attempt to recapture former markets. Read more »

Make-believe Ballroom

A veteran recalls the everyday courage of a threadbare generation

My brother called me from Youngstown recently with a bright idea. Why not get up a three-piece band for a meeting of his musical club next month when I planned to be in town? Verne Ricketts was available to play the piano, and Hype Hosterman might be rounded up to play the drums. Read more »

The Man Who Wasn’t There

On a hot July night about fifteen years ago, a young New Yorker on his way out for the evening decided on a quick shave. When he flicked on his electric razor, however, the lights in his apartment went out. From his window he could see that the lights all over New York had gone out as well. Standing there in the darkness, the now useless razor still in his hand, the young man was certain, understandably enough, that somehow he had personally caused the great blackout of 1977. He hadn’t, of course; he was confusing coincidence with causation. Read more »

America’s True Power

At a time when many are concerned by the nation’s loss of the unassailable economic position it occupied just after World War II, one historian argues that our real strength—and our real peril—lie elsewhere

We know more about sickness than about health. This is as true of medicine as it is of history, and as true of the condition of a nation as it is of a person. Moreover, the diagnosis must proceed not only from symptoms but from retrospect. For the diagnosis of a patient, some kind of knowledge of his medical history is fundamental. Read more »

The Dinner Party

For generations it was the mainspring, the proof, and the reward of a civilized social life. Now, a fond student of the ritual looks back on the golden age of the dinner party and tells you just how you should have behaved.

The dinner party is the ultimate celebration of what it means to be civilized,” my father used to say. “There is nothing better in this world than to settle down around a lovely table and eat good food and say interesting things with one’s friends. ”

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A National Monument To The Great Depression

You probably haven’t seen it, but it’s out by the tracks of the Chicago & North Western

DeKalb, Illinois, our nearest city, is the site of Northern Illinois University. Some twenty-five thousand young people, mostly urban, from Chicago and environs, make Northern their home. The school publishes a quality daily newspaper called Northern Star. Staff photographers roam the community and fill vacant spots in the paper with artistic shots.Read more »

Can History Save Us From A Depression?

It depends on whose interpretation of both history and the current crisis you believe. For one of America’s most prominent supply-side economists, the answer is yes.

Jude Wanniski was among the early leaders in the revival of supply-side economic theory. A former associate editor of The Wall Street Journal, he founded and is president of the consulting firm Polyconomics, Inc., which is located in Morristown, New Jersey, and advises leading corporations and institutional investors on economics, politics, and communications. In 1978 Simon & Schuster published his pioneering book on economic theory and history, The Way the World Works.Read more »