- Paperback: 307 pages
- Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (September 21, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0471357529
- ISBN-13: 978-0471357520
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 25 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #607,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Once in Golconda: A True Drama of Wall Street 1920-1938 1st Edition
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From the Back Cover
Once in Golconda "In this book, John Brooks-who was one of the most elegant of all business writers-perfectly catches the flavor of one of history's best-known financial dramas: the 1929 crash and its aftershocks. It's packed with parallels and parables for the modern reader." -From the Foreword by Richard Lambert Editor-in-Chief, The Financial Times Once in Golconda is a dramatic chronicle of the breathtaking rise, devastating fall, and painstaking rebirth of Wall Street in the years between the wars. Focusing on the lives and fortunes of some of the era's most memorable traders, bankers, boosters, and frauds, John Brooks brings to vivid life all the ruthlessness, greed, and reckless euphoria of the '20s bull market, the desperation of the days leading up to the crash of '29, and the bitterness of the years that followed. Praise for Once in Golconda "A fast-moving, sophisticated account.embracing the stock-market boom of the twenties, the crash of 1929, the Depression, and the coming of the New Deal. Its leitmotif is the truly tragic personal history of Richard Whitney, the aristocrat Morgan broker and head of the Stock Exchange, who ended up in Sing Sing." -Edmund Wilson, writing in the New Yorker "As Mr. Brooks tells this tale of dishonor, desperation, and the fall of the mighty, it takes on overtones of Greek tragedy, a king brought down by pride. Whitney's sordid history has been told before..But in Mr. Brooks's hands, the drama becomes freshly shocking." -Wall Street Journal "It's all there in Once in Golconda-the avarice of an era that favored the rich; and the later anguish of myriads of speculators doomed by a bloated market, easy credit, and their own cupidity and stupidity." -Saturday Review
About the Author
JOHN BROOKS was an award-winning New Yorker staff writer and author of several critically acclaimed explorations of business and Wall Street. Besides Once in Golconda, these include The Go-Go Years (Wiley), The Games Players, Business Adventures, and The Fate of the Edsel.
Top customer reviews
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There are superficial differences of course, we have different characters (They: Charles E. Mitchell, Albert Wiggin, et al-- We: Stanley O'Neal, Richard Fuld, et al.), and we have, of course, developed far more sophisticated ways of circumventing fair standards, decent practices, and common sense. But at their core the greed, the recklessness, and the hubris of then versus now is as similar as one malignant strain of virus to another.
Fast-money, fear; booms, busts; glory, and disgrace are all part of the story line, and believe me it is one that will have you turning pages as fast as any Grisham thriller, while shaking your head that so many of its lessons about free markets, easy credit, and wishful thinking have either been forgotten or forsaken.
After reading John Brooks's brilliant expose, surely no historically knowledgeable Fed head would feed speculation by keeping interest rates recklessly low as Benjamin Strong did in the twenties; or any Congress and President be complicit with or cowed into watering down or repealing hard-won safeguards (Glass Steagall eraser Phil Gramm, anyone...?) by special interests. Just as today, "Once in Golconda" reports industry leaders celebrating economic growth while railing against the onerous, anti-capitalist evils of transparency, oversight, and "anti-competitive" regulation-- all while the bubble they were blowing kept expanding. Then, once it popped, many of those same leaders scurried off, carpetbags bulging with slippery loot, leaving both the markets and the economy shattered.
Everyone should read this book. Maybe then, we could avoid the financial devastation of a casino capitalism that demands socialist-style bailouts. Maybe then people would demand accountability from management, and clarity on how their hard earned retirement funds are being bet, borrowed, and blown. Fat chance.
History is indeed just variations on a theme and "Once in Golconda" shows us how easily we are led not only to march to the same drummer, but, before we know it, right off the same old cliff.
Approaching one broker with whom he was on a bad footing, Whitney "made no lame effort to ingratiate himself. Rather he announced brusquely that he 'wanted to get this over with quickly'...Then he said he wanted to borrow $250,000 'on my face.'"
He was denied that time, at least, but Whitney's arrogance was rewarded in other instances. When you were one of Wall Street's aristocrats of the 1920s and 1930s, life was like that.
Whitney is the central character in John Brooks' "Once In Golconda," an absorbing, picaresque account of the New York Stock Exchange's painful coming of age during the Jazz Age and Great Depression. Though there are some patterns watchers of today's stock markets may recognize in this account of the Great Crash of 1929 and its aftermath, some things are probably never to be repeated, probably for the best.
Wall Street in 1929 was a plutocratic fiefdom where might meant right and no one was righter than J.P. Morgan & Co., known by many as "23" for its Wall Street address. But the crash brought anger as it took the rest of the national economy down with it, and in time, calls for reform that the stockbroking elite ignored at their peril. Leading the resistance to change was NYSE President Whitney, who showed great bravery on Black Thursday by placing some stabilizing bids but remained inflexible despite growing demands for needful change.
"Once In Golconda" is a financial history anyone can pick up and enjoy. The terminology is not too technical, and Brooks writes with a real zest for the human equation. At the same time, you get a deeper appreciation for the market forces that dictated what happened on the Street; how the market was democratized, first by the influx of middle-class investors before the bubble burst, and then after, by the formation of the Securities And Exchange Commission; and how J.P. Morgan lost its supremacy to new-money upstarts like Merrill Lynch.
Brooks, writing in the late 1960s, clearly favored a closely regulated market, but he avoids coming off shrill by presenting both sides of the argument at all times. Not completely in the New Deal camp, he describes the theory of an early FDR economic adviser as amounting to populist voodoo economics. "To reverse the roles by trying to make gold prices affect commodity prices was like a man in a building lobby trying to move an elevator from floor to floor by pushing the indicator dial from place to place: it wouldn't work, and it could easily end up ruining the whole mechanism."
This is an excellent companion volume to Brooks' other classic, "The Go-Go Years," a contemporary account about the market's rise in the 1960s. It has the same elegant prose, the same attention to nuance and detail, perhaps an even larger-than-life cast of characters, and a wry wit that pierces through even the driest sensibility. Of one fabled stockbroker, he writes: "He published a book explaining his stock-market techniques - a tip-off that they were no longer working for him."
Two highlights for me are the passionate defense of short selling by Whitney, and how J.P. Morgan's image was transformed virtually overnight by one very humanizing photograph.