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25 posts on "Crisis Chronicles"
November 18, 2016

The Final Crisis Chronicle: The Panic of 1907 and the Birth of the Fed

The panic of 1907 was among the most severe we’ve covered in our series and also the most transformative, as it led to the creation of the Federal Reserve System. Also known as the “Knickerbocker Crisis,” the panic of 1907 shares features with the 2007-08 crisis, including “shadow banks” in the form high-flying, less-regulated trusts operating beyond the safety net of the time, and a pivotal “Lehman moment” when Knickerbocker Trust, the second-largest trust in the country, was allowed to fail after J.P. Morgan refused to save it.

May 13, 2016

Crisis Chronicles: Gold, Deflation, and the Panic of 1893

In the late 1800s, a surge in silver production made a shift toward a monetary standard based on gold and silver rather than gold alone increasingly attractive to debtors seeking relief from rising real debt burdens through higher prices. The U.S. government made a tentative step in this direction with the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, an 1890 law requiring the Treasury to significantly increase its purchases of silver. Concern about the United States abandoning the gold standard, however, drove up the demand for gold, which drained the Treasury’s holdings and created strains on the financial system’s liquidity. News in April 1893 that the government was running low on gold was followed by the Panic in May and a severe depression involving widespread commercial and bank failures.

February 5, 2016

Crisis Chronicles: The Long Depression and the Panic of 1873

It always seemed to come down to railroads in the 1800s. Railroads fueled much of the economic growth in the United States at that time, but they required that a great deal of upfront capital be devoted to risky projects. The panics of 1837 and 1857 can both be pinned on railroad investments that went awry, creating enough doubt about the banking system to cause pervasive bank runs. The fatal spark for the Panic of 1873 was also tied to railroad investments—a major bank financing a railroad venture announced that it would suspend withdrawals. As other banks started failing, consumers and businesses pulled back and America entered what is recorded as the country’s longest depression.

January 15, 2016

Crisis Chronicles: The Gold Panic of 1869, America’s First Black Friday

Wall Street in the late 1860s was a bare-knuckles affair plagued by robber barons, political patronage, and stock manipulation. In perhaps the most scandalous instance of manipulation ever, a cabal led by Jay Gould, a successful but ruthless railroad executive and speculator, and several highly placed political contacts, conspired to corner the gold market. Although ultimately foiled, they succeeded in bankrupting several venerable brokerage houses and crashing the stock market, causing America’s first Black Friday.

November 20, 2015

Crisis Chronicles: The Cotton Famine of 1862-63 and the U.S. One-Dollar Note

When the U.S. Civil War broke out in 1861, cotton was king.  The southern United States produced and exported much of the world’s cotton, England was a major textile producer, and cotton textiles were exported from England around the world.

October 2, 2015

Crisis Chronicles: Defensive Suspension and the Panic of 1857

Sometimes the world loses its bearings and the best alternative is a timeout.

August 7, 2015

Crisis Chronicles–The California Gold Rush and the Gold Standard

On the crisp morning of January 24, 1848, James Marshall, a carpenter in the employ of John Sutter, traveled up the American River to inspect a lumber mill that Sutter had ordered constructed close to timber sources.

June 5, 2015

Crisis Chronicles: Railway Mania, the Hungry Forties, and the Commercial Crisis of 1847

Money was plentiful in the United Kingdom in 1842, and with low yields on government bonds and railway shares paying handsome dividends, the desire to speculate spread—as one observer put it, “the contagion passed to all, and from the clerk to the capitalist the fever reigned uncontrollable and uncontrolled” (Francis’s History of the Bank of England).

May 8, 2015

Crisis Chronicles: The Man on the Twenty-Dollar Bill and the Panic of 1837

Thomas Klitgaard and James Narron Correction: This post was updated on May 8 to correct the book title and spelling of the author’s name in the fifth paragraph. We regret the error. President Andrew Jackson was a “hard money” man. He saw specie—that is, gold and silver—as real money, and considered paper money a suspicious […]

April 10, 2015

Crisis Chronicles: The Panic of 1825 and the Most Fantastic Financial Swindle of All Time

Centered in London, the banking panic of 1825 has been called the first modern financial crisis, the first Latin American crisis, and the first emerging market crisis. And while the panic displayed many of the key elements of past crises we have covered—fluctuations in money growth, an investment bubble, a stock market crash, and bank runs—this crisis had its own twists, including a Bank of England that hesitated before stepping in as lender of last resort. But it is perhaps best known for an infamous bond market swindle surrounding an entirely made-up Central American principality. In this edition of Crisis Chronicles, we explore the Panic of 1825 and visit the mythical nation of Poyais.

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