The year 1929 saw both the peak of roaring-'20s prosperity and the stock market collapse that led to the Great Depression, when a third of the U.S. work force was unemployed. With vivid narrative and anecdotal profiles of such diverse characters as Herbert Hoover, Al Capone, Joseph P. Kennedy, the Marx Brothers, F. Scott Fitzgerald and J. P. Morgan, Klingaman ( 1919 ; 1941 ) shows that the same "mob psychology" that "had borne the bull market to irrational heights" eventually dragged stock prices far below inherent value. RCA, for example, plunged from 110 to 26. Ostentatious wealth, Prohibition gang wars, deadly labor suppression, political corruption, bank and brokerage wipeouts and margin-loan suicides: all are seen here as part of an economic and government failure that preceded the rise of Adolf Hitler and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
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Having anatomized the tumultuous years of 1919 ( LJ 8/87) and 1941 ( LJ 10/1/88), Klingaman now turns his attention, and his ability to make history fascinating, to 1929, the year of the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression. The author repeats his technique of surveying all aspects of the history of the year--social, political, financial--on a worldwide basis, but with the focus in this case on the United States. He works his way through the year, telling the tales of major figures, from Hoover to Baruch, and minor, such as small investor Edgar D. Brown. Gordon Thomas and Max M. Witts's The Day the Bubble Burst ( LJ 11/1/79) covered similar ground, but Klingaman's book was written in light of the 1987 crash, and the circumstances it relates speak directly to the question, "Could it happen again?" Highly recommended.
- Pat Ensor, Indiana State Univ. Lib., Terre Haute
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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