Once in Golconda: A True Drama of Wall Street 1920-1938

John Brooks

Language: English

Pages: 307

ISBN: 0471357529

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Once in Golconda "In this book, John Brooks-who was one of the most elegant of all business writers-perfectly catches the flavor of one of history's best-known financial dramas: the 1929 crash and its aftershocks. It's packed with parallels and parables for the modern reader." -From the Foreword by Richard Lambert Editor-in-Chief, The Financial Times Once in Golconda is a dramatic chronicle of the breathtaking rise, devastating fall, and painstaking rebirth of Wall Street in the years between the wars. Focusing on the lives and fortunes of some of the era's most memorable traders, bankers, boosters, and frauds, John Brooks brings to vivid life all the ruthlessness, greed, and reckless euphoria of the '20s bull market, the desperation of the days leading up to the crash of '29, and the bitterness of the years that followed. Praise for Once in Golconda "A fast-moving, sophisticated account.embracing the stock-market boom of the twenties, the crash of 1929, the Depression, and the coming of the New Deal. Its leitmotif is the truly tragic personal history of Richard Whitney, the aristocrat Morgan broker and head of the Stock Exchange, who ended up in Sing Sing." -Edmund Wilson, writing in the New Yorker "As Mr. Brooks tells this tale of dishonor, desperation, and the fall of the mighty, it takes on overtones of Greek tragedy, a king brought down by pride. Whitney's sordid history has been told before..But in Mr. Brooks's hands, the drama becomes freshly shocking." -Wall Street Journal "It's all there in Once in Golconda-the avarice of an era that favored the rich; and the later anguish of myriads of speculators doomed by a bloated market, easy credit, and their own cupidity and stupidity." -Saturday Review

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Ketledge: “Greetings. Get out of Wall Street as soon as the gong strikes at 3 o’clock Wednesday the fifteenth. Good luck. Ed. ” On the thirteenth he sent similar postcards to several other people who worked in the Wall Street area, including Léonce Arnaud, chief of the French High Commission, at 65 Broadway, where Fischer had been working until about a month earlier, and Sheppard Homans, a prominent insurance man, former partner of the soon-to-be-startled Mr. Prosser of the Bankers Trust and old friend of Fischer’s.

It was beaten again. So bankers were free to resume shaking the plum tree without even feeling guilty about it. Government “interference” was humiliated and discredited; now anything went. In such circumstances one might have expected bankers, at least the most important, prestige-laden, and supposedly conservative among them, to lie low, to accept quietly the profits that flowed to them so effortlessly, to take the occasion of the happy market (a God-given market, one of them seriously called it later) to pursue sporting, cultural, or scholarly interests.

And they are being invented. ” No one of any political persuasion seemed to be doing himself any particular credit in reacting to the explosion, and that included the police, local and federal, whose accomplishments in the first few days after it consisted principally of the production of numerous suspects, most of them with foreign names and airtight alibis. The police questioned Carlo Tresca–the well-known Socialist leader, later to be tragically assassinated–but got nowhere. They also questioned one Alexander J.

AXTEN, Secretary So much, then, for Miss Roberts’ complaint and the New York Supreme Court. But how curious, in the light of later events, that she had spoken of a yacht race! VIII That winter the doomed Hoover Administration moved swiftly toward its Götterdämmerung. After his election defeat Hoover repeatedly appealed to the President-elect for cooperation in the national interest in time of crisis, but Roosevelt rebuffed these overtures on the ground that what Hoover was asking for was abandonment of most of the New Deal’s planned programs.

Ryan père, whose impoverished Scotch-Irish parents in upcountry Virginia had given him the prophetic name of Thomas Fortune, started life as a dry-goods clerk in Baltimore, moved to New York to become a brokerage clerk, and in the mid-1880s fell in with William C. Whitney, the transit entrepreneur and founder of a famous dynasty whose protégé and then partner Ryan became, and who described Ryan later as “the most adroit, suave, and noiseless man that American finance has ever known. ” Starting with horsecars, Thomas Fortune Ryan and Whitney began taking over and consolidating New York City’s public transportation, and by the time of Whitney’s death in 1904 they had, with the help of such tactics as stock-watering and franchise-buying that a grand jury in 1908 found “dishonest and probably criminal” but still not actionable, not only absorbed the Interborough Rapid Transit Company and gained control of the entire city system but had amassed what the historian Matthew Josephson later called “two of the quickest and largest fortunes of the whole era of frenzied finance.

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