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When Washington Shut Down Wall Street: The Great Financial Crisis of 1914 and the Origins of America's Monetary Supremacy Paperback – July 21, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (July 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691138761
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691138763
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #523,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"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

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In Kazuo Ishiguro's novel The Remains of the Day, a blue-blood guest unmercifully grills James Stevens, the head butler at an English estate. The pompous guest is trying to demonstrate that uneducated people should not have the vote. "My good man," he asks, "do you suppose the debt situation regarding America is a significant factor in the present low levels of trade? Or...is the abandonment of the gold standard...at the root of the matter?" Stevens, aware that the question is meant only to baffle him, replies that he has no idea. Poor Stevens! Anyone without a degree in international finance would have an equally difficult time answering such an abstruse question. That's why this intriguing business history book by William L. Silber is so worthwhile: He brings global finance to life by spotlighting America's 1914 money crisis and by explaining how then-U.S. Treasury Secretary William McAdoo used this portentous episode to establish the nation's financial supremacy. We suggest you read this illuminating work of economic history to understand the seminal events that established U.S. monetary policy.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By RF on August 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a great read. The topic is fascinating (to me, at least). Some of the material is a bit intricate, but the author does a great job of explaining it. He liberally uses footnotes to explain details which to an economist might be pedestrian but to a lay person such as myself are not obvious. (One ongoing topic is the exchange rate between pounds sterling and dollars, and how that relates to the price of gold and the cost of shipping gold between the UK and the US. He does a great job of walking the reader through the process and the arithmetic.) I highly recommend this book, and particularly recommend it to anyone who wonders what the Federal Reserve Board really does.
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By Jon Stanford on October 16, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very interesting account of an amazing event in US financial history Shows that governments need to do extra-ordinary things in crises To get a complete picture of the global financial crisis of 1914 read Saving the City which gives an account of events in Britain
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By E. David Browder on March 22, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is a very interesting and well written book. The only reason that I'm not giving it 5 stars is because it is quite often very repetitive in the passages where it is not necessary to summarize information provided earlier in the book.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Thomas L. Wilson on March 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a typical academic book about an interesting era. A better comparison of the sums involved would have been useful. That is, quoting, say, $20 million, should have been put into perspective by giving the typical worker's salary in this time, etc. Still it is OK, but expensive
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More About the Author

William L. Silber is the Marcus Nadler Professor of Finance and Economics and Director, Glucksman Institute for Research in Securities Markets, at the Stern School of Business, New York University. He has been a Senior Economist with the President's Council of Economic Advisors and has been a member of the Economic Advisory Panel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He is also a member of the New York Mercantile Exchange where he has traded options and futures contracts. He has testified in Congress and has been an expert witness in a number of court cases. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University and is a graduate of Yeshiva College. His most recent book is a biography of former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, entitled VOLCKER: The Triumph of Persistence. He is the author of the critically acclaimed financial history, When Washington Shut Down Wall Street: The Great Financial Crisis of 1914 and the Origins of America's Monetary Supremacy. He is co-author of the standard textbook, Principles of Money, Banking and Financial Markets and, with Lawrence S. Ritter, of the classic Money.


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When Washington Shut Down Wall Street: The Great Financial Crisis of 1914 and the Origins of America's Monetary Supremacy
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