This groundbreaking new work presents the first financial history of the United States in the 20th century from the commercial and investment banking perspective. The author traces the development of both industries from the 1920s through the conditions of the present marketplace and looks at the simultaneous development of the federal regulatory agencies that grew up around the financial markets. Arguing that the ideal of an American Dream finds its best tangible expression in the ways in which the financial markets have been used to foster and protect the ideals of quality housing, higher education, and agricultural production, the author analyzes the successes and failures of the markets in producing a high standard of living and well-being over the past 70 years.
Geisst begins by describing the manner in which the financial system and its regulators responded to the developments leading up to the crash of 1929, demonstrating that this period saw the first recognition that government agencies could effectively intervene in capital markets in times of financial crisis. He then reviews, in separate chapters, capital markets since the crash and the commercial banking industry as it evolved after 1934. Turning to a more specific focus on the markets' impact on individuals, Geisst assesses American capitalism's ability to fulfill the goals of universal home ownership, widened access to higher education, and liberal farm credit. He then addresses the financial innovations of the past two decades, evaluating their effects in furthering the general acquisition of wealth. Finally, Geisst looks at the relationships between Republicans and Democrats and the markets. Throughout, Geisst seeks to determine how the complex interactions between the markets themselves and the agencies that oversee and regulate them have fostered and protected the ideals of the American Dream. Ideal as a supplemental text for courses in business and economic history, this book will also be of significant interest to professionals and executives in the commercial and investment banking fields.