cover image 1929: The Year of the Great Crash

1929: The Year of the Great Crash

William K. Klingaman. HarperCollins Publishers, $22.5 (393pp) ISBN 978-0-06-016081-4

The year 1929 saw both the peak of roaring-'20s prosperity and the stock market collapse that led to the Great Depression, when a third of the U.S. work force was unemployed. With vivid narrative and anecdotal profiles of such diverse characters as Herbert Hoover, Al Capone, Joseph P. Kennedy, the Marx Brothers, F. Scott Fitzgerald and J. P. Morgan, Klingaman ( 1919 ; 1941 ) shows that the same ``mob psychology'' that ``had borne the bull market to irrational heights'' eventually dragged stock prices far below inherent value. RCA, for example, plunged from 110 to 26. Ostentatious wealth, Prohibition gang wars, deadly labor suppression, political corruption, bank and brokerage wipeouts and margin-loan suicides: all are seen here as part of an economic and government failure that preceded the rise of Adolf Hitler and Franklin D. Roosevelt. (Aug.)