Professor, author and prominent economic advisor Silber chronicles an era when the U.S.'s reliance on the gold standard was leading it head-on into its first major financial crisis. The outbreak of WWI in 1914 yielded the biggest gold outflow in a generation, jeopardizing America's reputation with creditor nations and sending the world market value of the dollar into a tailspin. Enter Treasury Secretary William McAdoo, lawyer turned financier, who closed the New York Stock Exchange for four months, beginning on July 31, 1914. Silber follows McAdoo's trials and tribulations as he creates the Federal Reserve and averts disaster with a clinical, well-sourced narrative, bringing to light a crisis-management plan that remains relevant today. Though his methodical approach ensures that the book is an easy-to-follow read, Silber tacitly acknowledges the material's dryness by inserting questions throughout the text ("Did gold imports help to alleviate the crisis?") in a weak attempt to add suspense. While pages full of facts and figures get tedious, Silber's story communicates well the urgency and peril of this pivotal American moment.
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"An insightful new book by William L. Silber . . . argues that the closing of the New York Stock Exchange at the outbreak of World War I played a critical role. . . . The conventional view was that the exchange was closed to keep share prices from plunging. But the book, When Washington Shut Down Wall Street
, asserts that the historians--and contemporary observers--had it wrong. . . . By delaying the reopening of Wall Street and making sure that American grain was ready to be exported to Europe to bring in gold, the United States was able to stay on the gold standard and become an alternative to London as a financial capital."--Floyd Norris, New York Times
"In his fascinating work of financial history, When Washington Shut Down Wall Street
, William L. Silber recounts the heroics of Treasury Secretary William McAdoo, who closed the New York Stock Exchange for more than four months--four months!--in 1914 to avert a larger economic crisis. . . . It was, as Silber explains, a brilliant exercise of arbitrary power that helped propel the United States toward global financial supremacy."--Carlos Lozada, Washington Post
"It is an engaging story; part economic history, part how-to manual on dealing with financial crises. . . . William Silber's main contention . . . is well taken. It takes a lot to uproot an incumbent world financial leader. Potential rivals need to be smart enough to take advantage if and when a moment of opportunity arises--a moment that almost by definition will be one of global financial crisis."--Krishna Guha, Financial Times
"[This] lively new book by New York University economist William Silber, When Washington Shut Down Wall Street
, makes a convincing plea for the inclusion of William McAdoo in the Dollar Pantheon."--Daniel Gross, Slate.com
"Reading Silber's tale of unintended consequences is as close as one gets to a historical 'thriller.' At the same time, one can't help but reflect on the challenges ahead. A 'rebalancing' of the world economy in today's environment will be much more complex than was the case in 1914. As then, the outcomes are unlikely to follow popular predictions. In this respect, as well as in providing a fascinating historical account of a major financial and political drama, Silber does any reader great service."--Edward Waitzer, Financial Regulator
"More than just a ripping yarn--and it is that--[When Washington Shut Down Wall Street
] is a cautionary tale of how humankind can get suckered into so believing economic myths that they take on a dangerous reality."--James Srodes, The Washington Times
"When I first picked up this book, I wondered whether it described events so long ago that they were irrelevant today and whether it would be written in such an academic fashion as to be turgid and unreadable for the ordinary mortal interested in business and a good read. Well, I was wrong on both counts."--Richard Keatinge, Irish Times
"This short volume tells the intriguing tale of how the financial crisis wrought by Europe's plunge into World War I opened the door to America's emergence as the world's dominant financial and economic power. Few writers have paid much attention to the closing of the Exchange, except as a curiosity exemplifying the shock experienced by Americans when the war came. Silber has done historians a favor by placing that event in a context that reveals its broader significance."--Maury Klein, Business History Review
"When Washington Shut Down Wall Street
is a thrilling yet compact financial history of events surrounding the crisis at the outbreak of the first world war. . . . Overall, it's well-written and articulate, and one of the historical financial reads of the year that also offers a blueprint for the future, outlining Silber's words the legacy of 1913 and what that year can teach us about crisis management, even in today's gloomy economic outlook."--Paul O'Doherty, The Investor
"Economist William L. Silber has written a fascinating account . . . that may appeal to students of banking and finance interested in leadership and crisis control."--Alfred E. Eckes, International History Review
"[A] wonderful book of financial history."--Christopher Farrell, Marketplace