Over six terrifying, desperate days in October 1929, the fabulous fortune that Americans had built in stocks plunged with a fervor never seen before. At first, the drop seemed like a mistake, a mere glitch in the system. But as the decline gathered steam, so did the destruction. Over twenty-five billion dollars in individual wealth was lost, vanished, gone. People watched their dreams fade before their very eyes. Investing in the stock market would never be the same.
Here, Wall Street Journal bureau chief Karen Blumenthal chronicles the six-day period that brought the country to its knees, from fascinating tales of key stock-market players, like Michael J. Meehan, an immigrant who started his career hustling cigars outside theaters and helped convince thousands to gamble their hard-earned money as never before, to riveting accounts of the power struggles between Wall Street and Washington, to poignant stories from those who lost their savings—and more—to the allure of stocks and the power of greed.
For young readers living in an era of stock-market fascination, this engrossing account explains stock-market fundamentals while bringing to life the darkest days of the mammoth crash of 1929.
This fast-paced, gripping (and all-too-timely) account of the market crash of October 1929 puts a human face on the crisis. Blumenthal, the Dallas bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal, sets the scene in the affluent post Great War society: she reproduces the famous January 1929 cartoon from Forbes magazine (a frenetic crowd grasping at a ticker tape) and her statement "Executives who had spent their lives building solid reputations cut secret deals in pursuit of their own stock-market riches" may send a shiver down the spines of older readers aware of recent corporate scandals. The author deciphers market terms such as bull and bear, stock and bond in lucidly worded sidebars and describes the convergence of speculation, optimism and greed that primed the market for failure. Throughout, Blumenthal relates the impact of historical developments on everyday citizens. Supported by archival photographs, cartoons and documents, the text is rife with atmospheric detail about the customs of the stock exchange (from buttonhole flowers to the opening and closing gongs). Other asides, such as the first appearance of women on the exchange floor, or the rise (and fall) of immigrant Michael J. Meehan, who championed the stock of Radio Corporation, continue to keep the focus on the human element. Blumenthal ably chronicles the six-day descent and exposes the personalities, backroom machinations and scandals while debunking several popular myths about the crash (e.g., that it caused mass suicide and the Great Depression). A compelling portrait of a defining moment in American history. Ages 12-up.