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Wall Street: America's Dream Palace (Icons of America) Hardcover – April 22, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Fraser, historian and author, reviews the complicated love-hate relationship between Americans and the financial markets by using Wall Street as the symbol of money and its power. By identifying four personality types that reappear throughout history, he explores more than 200 years of struggle between wealth and work, democracy and elitism, and greed and salvation. These types include the “pretentious aristocrat,” from the 1792 speculator who was jailed for causing the first crash, to Michael Milken, who was jailed  in the 1980s for speculation in junk bonds. Fraser’s “wily confidence-man” category with numerous names tells us that such individuals are ever present in a market society. The “imperial heroes” include Cornelius Vanderbilt and “Jubilee Jim” Fisk—the latter identified as “the Donald Trump of the nineteenth century.” The “immoralist,” the sinner category, includes the Gilded Age’s Jay Gould and the “cascade of financial scandals beginning with Enron.” This is an excellent book that traces the history of Wall Street through those who shaped it, for better or for worse. --Mary Whaley


“In this age of agitated amnesiacs, Americans have forgotten that nothing is new—that in other times money and power were forged into a conspiracy against the public. Steve Fraser connects vividly to that past, reminding us that this present financial crisis is not the first time our hearts have been broken by Wall Street peddlers of the American Dream.”—Bill Moyers 

(Bill Moyers)

"This book is written with Fraser’s customary panache and scrupulous attention to detail. If you’re after a fascinating take on one of our ultimate icons, this is it.”—Mike Wallace, John Jay College (CUNY), co-author of Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898
(Mike Wallace)

"Provides a rich historical context from which to reflect on the purpose and morality of our financial markets."—Robert Shiller, author of Irrational Exuberance
(Robert Shiller)

"I don't know of a better book about Wall Street's hold on the American imagination. Were it to be listed as a stock on the New York exchange, I'd bet on the quadrupling of its price in the first day's trading."—Lewis Lapham
(Lewis Lapham)

"In his delightfully written, sweeping history Wall Street, [Fraser] shows how . . . citizens react to the ups and downs of the business cycles and the towering figures who dominated each era."—David D'Alessandro, Toronto Globe & Mail
(David D'Alessandro Toronto Globe & Mail 2008-08-13)

"Fraser is almost lyrical as he weaves together his tale of how the image of Wall Street fits into American culture and mythology."—Library Journal
(Library Journal 2008-04-15)

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Product Details

  • Series: Icons of America
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1st edition (April 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300117558
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300117554
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,854,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Paul Tognetti TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There are few institutions in America that evoke such strong emotions among the general public. For over two centuries most Americans have viewed the goings on on Wall Street with a very jaundiced eye....and with very good reason. From the Gilded Age to the dot.com boom of the 1990's the way business was conducted on Wall Street would have an enormous impact of the lives of farmers, factory workers and shopkeepers across this nation. Author Steve Fraser has managed to capture the essence of this love-hate relationship with the Street in his marvelous new book "Wall Street: America's Dream Palace".

For those who know little about the origins of Wall Street Steve Fraser presents a brief history in his Introduction to get us all up to speed. Interestingly enough, this book has only four chapters, each scrutinizing the roles of what Fraser considers to be four iconic Wall Street types including the aristocrat, the confidence man, the hero and the immoralist. In each chapter, Fraser presents vivid portraits of those legendary individuals who for better or for worse have made their mark in the world of high finance. Fraser spotlights such diverse charactors as J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Charles Ponzi and Michael Milken to name but a few. Fraser also discusses at some length how the dot.com boom lured many Americans into the stock market for the very first time and how so many of us were burned by the unscrupulous actions of con men like Michael Milken, corporations like Enron and WorldCom, as well as by a variety of unsavory speculators and day traders.

Overall I found "Wall Street: America's Dream Palace" to be an extremely informative and highly enjoyable read. I enjoy writers with outstanding vocabularies and Steve Fraser can turn a phrase with the best of them. Lots of great information packed into this terrific little book. Highly recommended!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Steve Fraser has a wonderful, crisp style that moves your eye
along the page and onto the next. This is one of those rare
non-fiction books you wish were longer.
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Format: Hardcover
Wonderful, thorough history of the banking industry and Wall Street since the inception of this country. A must read!
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Format: Hardcover
The author has written another excellent expose showing what ultimately happens when a forgetful public allows Wall Street speculators,aided and supported in their securitization schemes by the big investment banks (These types of institutions currently no longer exist after their financial collapse in 2008.However, one can be assured that, with the passage of time, speculators will attempt to regroup and start their schemes again) and commercial banks,to dominate the capital and credit markets of the United States.

The following quote pretty much sums up the book :" With the active connivance of many of the Street's most powerful investment banks,not just Enron but a slew of major corporations-Tyco,WorldCom,Adelphia,QWest Communications,Arthur Anderson-turned out to be little more than stupendous confidence games designed by top management to defraud the investing public..."(pp.90-91).Of course,large numbers of financial analysts,with their MBA degree training in the Efficient Market Hypothesis telling them that speculative bubbles could not exist,were needed to provide the fig leaf of " economic analysis " to support the constantly rising bubble prices.

I have subtracted away 1/2 of a star because the author is unaware that Adam Smith,back in 1776,had already provided a complete analysis warning his readers of the consequences of allowing unregulated commercial banks from teaming up with speculators to put their " projects " into reality.Smith's conclusion,that all of the savings of the banks' depositors would end up being wasted and destroyed is as true to day in 2009 as it was back in 1776.
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