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When Washington Shut Down Wall Street:
The Great Financial Crisis of 1914 and the Origins of America's Monetary Supremacy
William L. Silber

Paperback | 2008 | $32.95 | £27.95 | ISBN: 9780691138763
240 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 2 halftones. 16 line illus.
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When Washington Shut Down Wall Street unfolds like a mystery story. It traces Treasury Secretary William Gibbs McAdoo's triumph over a monetary crisis at the outbreak of World War I that threatened the United States with financial disaster. The biggest gold outflow in a generation imperiled America's ability to repay its debts abroad. Fear that the United States would abandon the gold standard sent the dollar plummeting on world markets. Without a central bank in the summer of 1914, the United States resembled a headless financial giant.

William McAdoo stepped in with courageous action, we read in Silber's gripping account. He shut the New York Stock Exchange for more than four months to prevent Europeans from selling their American securities and demanding gold in return. He smothered the country with emergency currency to prevent a replay of the bank runs that swept America in 1907. And he launched the United States as a world monetary power by honoring America's commitment to the gold standard. His actions provide a blueprint for crisis control that merits attention today. McAdoo's recipe emphasizes an exit strategy that allows policymakers to throttle a crisis while minimizing collateral damage.

When Washington Shut Down Wall Street recreates the drama of America's battle for financial credibility. McAdoo's accomplishments place him alongside Paul Volcker and Alan Greenspan as great American financial leaders. McAdoo, in fact, nursed the Federal Reserve into existence as the 1914 crisis waned and served as the first chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.


"An insightful new book by William L. Silber . . . argues that the closing of the New York Stock Exchange at the outbreak of World War I played a critical role. . . . The conventional view was that the exchange was closed to keep share prices from plunging. But the book, When Washington Shut Down Wall Street, asserts that the historians--and contemporary observers--had it wrong. . . . By delaying the reopening of Wall Street and making sure that American grain was ready to be exported to Europe to bring in gold, the United States was able to stay on the gold standard and become an alternative to London as a financial capital."--Floyd Norris, New York Times

"In his fascinating work of financial history, When Washington Shut Down Wall Street, William L. Silber recounts the heroics of Treasury Secretary William McAdoo, who closed the New York Stock Exchange for more than four months--four months!--in 1914 to avert a larger economic crisis. . . . It was, as Silber explains, a brilliant exercise of arbitrary power that helped propel the United States toward global financial supremacy."--Carlos Lozada, Washington Post

"It is an engaging story; part economic history, part how-to manual on dealing with financial crises. . . . William Silber's main contention . . . is well taken. It takes a lot to uproot an incumbent world financial leader. Potential rivals need to be smart enough to take advantage if and when a moment of opportunity arises--a moment that almost by definition will be one of global financial crisis."--Krishna Guha, Financial Times

"[This] lively new book by New York University economist William Silber, When Washington Shut Down Wall Street, makes a convincing plea for the inclusion of William McAdoo in the Dollar Pantheon."--Daniel Gross,

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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments xi
Introduction: The Legacy of 1914 1
Chapter One: The Opening Salvo 8
Chapter Two: The European Gold Rush 26
Chapter Three: The Nightmare of 1907 42
Chapter Four: Unlocking Emergency Currency 66
Chapter Five: Sterling Steals the Spotlight 86
Chapter Six: New Street Defies McAdoo 104
Chapter Seven: Rescue 116
Chapter Eight: End Game 131
Chapter Nine: Birth of a Financial Superpower 151
Epilogue: Blueprint for Crisis Control 173
Notes 177
References 201
Index 207

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