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Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The financial crisis of 2008 made Americans keenly aware of the impact Wall Street has on the economic well-being of the nation and its citizenry. Ott shows how the government, corporations, and financial institutions transformed stock investment from an elite to a mass practice at the beginning of the twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06121-7
    Subjects: Economics, History, Finance, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. INTRODUCTION: The Quest for an Investors’ Democracy
    (pp. 1-8)

    On the afternoon of December 30, 1899, the members of the New York Stock Exchange assembled on the trading floor to revel in their notoriety. Amidst yuletide greenery, incandescent lights, and showers of confetti, the Seventh Regiment band struck a lively tune. “Two colored pugilists” disguised as a bull and a bear traded blows in a makeshift ring. When the bull scored a knockout, NYSE members boisterously debated whether the bear had thrown the fight. Frenzy erupted as confetti, bonbons, and red rubber balls rained down from the gallery. Brokers lobbed the balls at the heads of bald brethren. Hapless...

  4. CHAPTER ONE The Problem with Financial Securities
    (pp. 9-35)

    The united states stood at a crossroads at the turn of the twentieth century. The traditional ideal of proprietary democracy—a political-economic system in which virtuous, independent citizen-producers exercised free command over their property and the labor of the dependents in their household—seemed increasingly unattainable as a predominantly rural society gave way to an industrial one. The massive industrial corporation stood poised to restructure the economy and to shake the foundations of democracy. National political debate focused on the “trust problem,” the tremendous power over economic and political life wielded by colossal corporations.¹

    At the close of the nineteenth...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The “Free and Open Market” Responds
    (pp. 36-54)

    Like most members of the New York Stock Exchange, R. T. H. Halsey was inured to the hostility of the public. Popular antipathy toward financial securities, brokers, and exchanges he dismissed as mere ignorance. But unlike his less politically astute colleagues, Halsey—a Republican National Convention delegate—attended closely to how politicians made use of anti–Wall Street sentiment. In the first decade of the new century, Halsey grew ever more alarmed as, in his view, both Democrats and Republicans—not just the Populist fringe—increasingly pandered to public ignorance with such measures as the U.S. Senate Industrial Commission, bills...

  6. CHAPTER THREE “Be a Stockholder in Victory!”
    (pp. 55-74)

    No one had ever seen anything like Victory Way. During the last week of April 1919, Park Avenue closed to streetcars, automobiles, and carriages between Forty-fifth and Fiftieth streets. Columns embellished with colorful swags lined the thoroughfare. Behind these, enormous murals depicted scenes of both military and industrial glory. After all, workers’ labors had contributed as much to victory as soldiers’ feats. Overhead, “air displays” simulated aerial engagements. On the ground, a “Panorama of Victory” revealed “the whole picture of the war.” Servicemen stationed on floats staged key battles, demonstrated the use of gas masks, and reenacted how they had...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR Mobilizing the Financial Nation
    (pp. 75-100)

    As nannie burroughs took the stage to address a “mammoth mass meeting” of African Americans during the third Liberty Loan drive, she stepped into a fray over whether the “War for Democracy” abroad would reconfigure racial relations at home. Recent migrants from the rural South filled the seats of Philadelphia’s Olympic Theater. Between 1915 and 1921, the Great Migration funneled close to three-quarters of a million such African Americans into the nation’s cities, where they sought jobs made newly available by wartime labor shortages. This mass exodus from the indignities and violence of Jim Crow, and the enlistment of nearly...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  9. CHAPTER FIVE The Postwar Struggle for the Financial Nation
    (pp. 101-128)

    During the winter of 1918–1919, millions of Americans braved the great influenza pandemic—which killed six times more than did the war—to celebrate the Armistice. Mammoth military parades staged in major U.S. cities hailed successive waves of returning soldiers. Smaller towns arranged more modest but no less dramatic commemorations. In San Joaquin County, California, children clutched precious hand-grenade savings banks as they celebrated alongside their parents and neighbors on the streets of rural towns. The 15 million banks distributed by the Treasury’s War Loan Organization—“weapons of war” transformed into “weapons of peace” unleashed “against waste”—embodied “American...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Swords into Shares
    (pp. 129-149)

    Thomas nixon carver remembered “the years immediately following World War I” as the “most active” and happiest of his life. Between 1919 and 1921, Carver “brought out three textbooks” in high school and college-level economics, published a series of short articles in Youth’s Companion, and contributed editorials and articles to the Boston Herald, the New York Herald-Tribune, the Hearst newspaper syndicate, and Reader’s Digest. He ranked among the most popular professors at Harvard, making such an “impression on the student mind” that some “began to call themselves Carverians, and to be called Carverians.” In all this work, Carver emphasized the...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN The Corporate Quest for Shareholder Democracy
    (pp. 150-167)

    When warren g. Harding was sworn in as the twenty-ninth president of the United States in March 1921, David F. Houston left the Treasury Department, where he had overseen the U.S. Government Savings program. But when Houston stepped down as Treasury secretary, he did not relinquish the public spotlight. A new post as chairman of Bell Telephone Securities Company—AT&T’s stock-distribution subsidiary—beckoned him. Houston did not, however, mean to abandon his commitment to public service when he entered the private sector.

    Houston understood his new mission to be quite similar to the one he had pursued as secretary of...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Finance Joins in the Quest for Shareholder Democracy
    (pp. 168-190)

    As candidate for president in 1920, Warren G. Harding promised a return to “normalcy” after the disruptions of war and the instability of the post-Armistice moment. But Harding’s assurance did not portend that in the 1920s American government would revert to its prewar size and scope. When Harding’s successor, Calvin Coolidge, pledged that the “chief business of the American people is business,” this did not signal a retreat of the state from the economic realm.

    World War I marked a turning point in government spending and capacity in the United States. For the remainder of the century, the federal government...

  13. CHAPTER NINE “The People’s Market”
    (pp. 191-213)

    When r. t. h. halsey retired from the New York Stock Exchange in 1923 to devote himself to the completion of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the renovation of the White House, he felt confident that the NYSE Committee on Library had navigated the Stock Exchange through its worst crises successfully. Halsey believed that his new role as curator and trustee of the Metropolitan Museum complemented his work as an Exchange governor. Against the “influx of foreign ideas utterly at variance with those held by the men who gave us the Republic” that inundated the...

  14. EPILOGUE: The Enduring Quest
    (pp. 214-226)

    In october 1929, the ideology of shareholder democracy and the project to enlarge the American shareholder class met a severe crisis in the worst stock market crash in U. S. history. Nonetheless, the incidence of equity-ownership in the United States has consistently exceeded that of other nations, never dropping below 10 percent of households. Ownership of the typical publicly traded corporation in the United States has remained more diffuse than in corporations located in other countries. Belief in the primacy of shareholders has retained its influence in ongoing debates over the proper relationship between the financial markets, the state, and...

  15. Abbreviations
    (pp. 227-228)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 229-298)
  17. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 299-302)
  18. Index
    (pp. 303-313)