cover image America’s Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve

America’s Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve

Roger Lowenstein. Penguin, $29.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5942-0549-1

This superb chronicle by Lowenstein (Buffet), a former Wall Street Journal reporter, traces the formation of America’s Federal Reserve. Lowenstein helpfully reminds readers that at the start of the 20th century, the U.S. was the world’s sole industrialized nation to lack a central banking system, following two failed attempts, in 1791 and 1816, respectively, and a charter vetoed by President John Tyler in 1841. With many Americans, especially those in rural areas, suspicious of both banks and the federal government, the idea of a government-run banking system was widely unpopular. Lowenstein identifies four figures as integral in turning the tide, starting with Paul Warburg, a German immigrant who believed the American system should mimic the European model, and Sen. Nelson Aldrich, an ambitious, successful Republican from Rhode Island who was the subject of intense criticism by muckraking journalists. Centralization was also championed by President Wilson and Rep. Carter Glass, a Virginia Democrat, who was charged with creating a plan that would balance reform with states’ rights. Lowenstein vividly recounts the key moments in this hard-fought battle, from the Panic of 1907 to the 1912 presidential campaign to Wilson’s impassioned declaration to a joint session of Congress. Captivating and enlightening, this book brings a pivotal time in American history to life. Agent: Melanie Jackson, Melanie Jackson Agency. (Oct.)