Eyewitness to Wall Street: 400 Years of Dreamers, Schemers, Busts and Booms

David Colbert, Author Broadway Books $30 (416p) ISBN 978-0-7679-0660-9
Using the same approach as he did in Eyewitness to America, Colbert presents a pastiche of newspaper accounts, book excerpts and other primary source materials that sketch the history of American finance from the founding of New Amsterdam in the 17th century through the bursting of the dot-com bubble in April 2000. By taking the long view of Wall Street, Colbert demonstrates that virtually every age has had its share of men who believed they could get rich quick by legal or other means. Long before Ivan Boesky, William Duer, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Alexander Hamilton, was the first insider trader to be exposed. While most of Colbert's firsthand accounts come from newspapers, industry insiders (e.g., Peter Lynch) and government officials (e.g., Henry Morgenthau), he adds dimension by mining a wealth of other primary sources, including letters, journal entries and books. In one piece, Charlie Chaplin humorously recollects using his celebrity to market Liberty Bonds during WWI, while the next features John Maynard Keynes's more sobering prediction that Germany's postwar economic downfall would lead to another world war. Serious history buffs may be annoyed that Colbert neglects to clearly identify his vast array of eyewitness accounts, and by the equal treatment given to such pivotal moments as the crash of 1929 and an almost negligible 1967 prank at the New York Stock Exchange, when Yippies Stew Albert, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin littered the floor of that bastion of capitalism with money. Still, this expansive and entertaining book will appeal to a broad readership. (On-sale date: May 15)
Reviewed on: 08/01/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
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