In the decades following the Civil War, America entered an era of unprecedented corporate expansion, with ultimate financial power in the hands of a few wealthy industrialists who exploited the system for everything it was worth. The Rockefellers, Fords, Morgans, and Vanderbilts were the “lords of creation” who, along with like-minded magnates, controlled the economic destiny of the country, unrestrained by regulations or moral imperatives. Through a combination of foresight, ingenuity, ruthlessness, and greed, America’s giants of industry remolded the US economy in their own image. They established their power and authority, ensuring that they—and they alone—would control the means of production, transportation, energy, and commerce—creating the conditions for the stock market collapse of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed.
As modern society continues to be affected by wealth inequality and cycles of boom and bust, it’s as important as ever to understand the origins of financial disaster, and the policies, practices, and people who bring them on. The Lords of Creation, first published when the catastrophe of the 1930s was still painfully fresh, is a fascinating story of bankers, railroad tycoons, steel magnates, speculators, scoundrels, and robber barons. It is a tale of innovation and shocking exploitation—and a sobering reminder that history can indeed repeat itself.
Beginning November 11, 1918, when President Woodrow Wilson declared the end of World War I in a letter to the American public, and continuing through his defeat, Prohibition, the Big Red Scare, the rise of women’s hemlines, and the stock market crash of 1929, Only Yesterday, published just two years after the crash, chronicles a decade like no other. Allen, who witnessed firsthand the events he describes, immerses you in the era of flappers, speakeasies, and early radio, making you feel like part of history as it unfolds.
This bestselling, enduring account brings to life towering historical figures including J. Pierpont Morgan, Henry Ford, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Al Capone, Babe Ruth, and Jack Dempsey. Allen provides insightful, in-depth analyses of President Warren G. Harding’s oil scandal, the growth of the auto industry, the decline of the family farm, and the long bull market of the late twenties. Peppering his narrative with actual stock quotes and breaking financial news, Allen tracks the major economic trends of the decade and explores the underlying causes of the crash. From the trial of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti to the inventions, crazes, and revolutions of the day, this timeless work will continue to be savored for generations to come.
Wall Street Journal Bestseller
Opening on September 3, 1929, in the days before the stock market crash, this information-packed volume takes us through one of America’s darkest times all the way to the light at the end of the tunnel.
Following Black Tuesday, America plunged into the Great Depression. Panic and fear gripped the nation. Banks were closing everywhere. In some cities, 84 percent of the population was unemployed and starving. When Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933, public confidence in the nation slowly began to grow, and by 1936, the industrial average, which had plummeted in 1929 from 125 to fifty-eight, had risen again to almost one hundred. But America still had a long road ahead. Popular historian Frederick Lewis Allen brings to life these ten critical years. With wit and empathy, he draws a devastating economic picture of small businesses swallowed up by large corporations—a ruthless bottom line not so different from what we see today. Allen also chronicles the decade’s lighter side: the fashions, morals, sports, and candid cameras that were revolutionizing Americans’ lives.
From the Lindbergh kidnapping to the New Deal, from the devastating dust storms that raged through our farmlands to the rise of Benny Goodman, the public adoration of Shirley Temple, and our mass escape to the movies, this book is a hopeful and powerful reminder of why history matters.
During the first fifty years of the twentieth century, the United States saw two world wars, a devastating economic depression, and more social, political, and economic changes than in any other five-decade period before. Frederick Lewis Allen, former editor of Harper’s magazine, recounts these years—spanning World War I, the Progressive Era, the Great Depression, World War II, and the early Cold War—in vivid detail, from the fashions and customs of the times to major events that changed the course of history.
Politically, the United States grew into its own as a global superpower during these years, even as domestic developments altered the everyday lives of its citizens. The introduction of the automobile, mass production, and organized labor changed the way Americans lived and worked, while innovations like penicillin and government regulation of food safety contributed to an increase in average life expectancy from forty-nine years in 1900 to sixty-eight years in 1950. With the development of a strong, centralized government, a thriving middle class, and widespread economic prosperity, the nation emerged from the Second World War transformed in virtually every way.
Richly informative and delightfully readable, The Big Change is an indispensable volume charting the many changes that ushered in our contemporary age.
Celebrated as a titan of industry by some and decried as a monopolizing robber baron by others, John Pierpont Morgan was without a doubt a dominant player in American finance at the turn of the twentieth century. He founded U.S. Steel, a conglomeration of leading steel and iron producers, which was the nation’s largest coast-to-coast railroad system, and the first company to be worth more than $1 billion.
Morgan was also instrumental in developing the Federal Reserve after working with political leaders to prevent a potentially devastating fiscal crisis in 1907. Indeed, he was a driving force in the modernization of American business, and the effects of his acumen and foresight continue to resonate today—on Wall Street and beyond.
Additionally, known for his displays of wealth and power, Morgan was a prominent figure of the New York society scene—a member of the original one percent—as well as a notable art connoisseur with a sizable collection now housed in Manhattan’s lavish Morgan Library & Museum, once his own private library.
In this meticulously researched and comprehensive biography, Frederick Lewis Allen, former editor of Harper’s magazine and author of Only Yesterday, delves into the life and character of a fascinating, multidimensional man. Allen also probes the evolution of the business landscape during Morgan’s lifetime, when giant corporations with unparalleled economies of scale began to absorb and replace smaller competitors.
This richly detailed portrait of a man whose name is inseparable from American finance is essential reading for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of banking and business history.
Prohibition. Al Capone. The President Harding scandals. The revolution of manners and morals. Black Tuesday. These are only an inkling of the events and figures characterizing the wild, tumultuous era that was the Roaring Twenties. Originally published in 1931, Only Yesterday traces the rise of post-World War I prosperity up to the Wall Street crash of 1929 against a colorful backdrop of flappers, speakeasies, the first radio, and the scandalous rise of skirt hemlines. Hailed as an instant classic, this is Frederick Lewis Allen's vivid and definitive account of one of the twentieth century's most fascinating decades, chronicling a time of both joy and terror-when dizzying highs were quickly succeeded by heartbreaking lows.