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Wall Street
Cover of Wall Street
Wall Street
America's Dream Palace
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Wall Street: no other place on earth is so singularly identified with money and the power of money. And no other American institution has inspired such deep moral, cultural, and political ambivalence. Is the Street an unbreachable bulwark defending commercial order? Or is it a center of mad ambition? This book recounts the colorful history of America's love-hate relationship with Wall Street. Steve Fraser frames his fascinating analysis around the roles of four iconic Wall Street types—the aristocrat, the confidence man, the hero, and the immoralist—all recurring figures who yield surprising insights about how the nation has wrestled, and still wrestles, with fundamental questions of wealth and work, democracy and elitism, greed and salvation. Spanning the years from the first Wall Street panic of 1792 to the dot.com bubble-and-bust and Enron scandals of our own time, the book is full of stories and portraits of such larger-than-life figures as J. P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Michael Milken. Fraser considers the conflicting attitudes of ordinary Americans toward the Street and concludes with a brief rumination on the recent notion of Wall Street as a haven for Everyman.

Wall Street: no other place on earth is so singularly identified with money and the power of money. And no other American institution has inspired such deep moral, cultural, and political ambivalence. Is the Street an unbreachable bulwark defending commercial order? Or is it a center of mad ambition? This book recounts the colorful history of America's love-hate relationship with Wall Street. Steve Fraser frames his fascinating analysis around the roles of four iconic Wall Street types—the aristocrat, the confidence man, the hero, and the immoralist—all recurring figures who yield surprising insights about how the nation has wrestled, and still wrestles, with fundamental questions of wealth and work, democracy and elitism, greed and salvation. Spanning the years from the first Wall Street panic of 1792 to the dot.com bubble-and-bust and Enron scandals of our own time, the book is full of stories and portraits of such larger-than-life figures as J. P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Michael Milken. Fraser considers the conflicting attitudes of ordinary Americans toward the Street and concludes with a brief rumination on the recent notion of Wall Street as a haven for Everyman.

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  • Library Journal

    April 15, 2008
    In what is essentially an extended essay, Fraser (lecturer, history, Univ. of Pennsylvania; "Labor Will Rule") examines what the financial markets, as epitomized by Wall Street, have meant to America. He probes the American psyche over some 200 years to show how the Wall Street financier has been portrayed as aristocrat, confidence man, hero, and immoralist. On Wall Street's aristocratic nature, Fraser writes about the early days after the Revolution when the moneyed elites could be equated with a type of aristocracy because many had aristocratic connections to Europe or were at least landed gentry in their own right. He contrasts that era with the Gilded Age, when the newly rich attempted to buy aristocratic trappings to legitimize their fortunes. At times financiers were given heroic stature as they made fortunes in the face of financial peril while at other times being denigrated as confidence men when the public got burned in downward-spiraling markets. Fraser is almost lyrical as he weaves together his tale of how the image of Wall Street fits into American culture and mythology. More for the casual reader than the researcher, his book is nonetheless recommended for larger business collections in both public and academic libraries.Lawrence R. Maxted, Gannon Univ., Erie, PA

    Copyright 2008 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    May 1, 2008
    Fraser, historian and author, reviews the complicated love-hate relationship between Americans and the financial markets byusing Wall Street as the symbol of money and its power. By identifying four personality types that reappear throughout history, he explores more than 200 years of struggle between wealth and work, democracy and elitism, and greed and salvation. These types include the pretentious aristocrat, from the 1792 speculator who was jailed for causing the first crash, to Michael Milken, who was jailed in the 1980s for speculation in junk bonds. Frasers wily confidence-man category with numerous names tells us that such individuals are ever present in a market society. The imperial heroes include Cornelius Vanderbilt and Jubilee Jim Fiskthe latter identified as the Donald Trump of the nineteenth century. The immoralist, the sinner category, includes the Gilded Ages Jay Gould and the cascade of financial scandals beginning with Enron. This is an excellent book that traces the history of Wall Street through those who shaped it, for better or for worse.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2008, American Library Association.)

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    Yale University Press
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America's Dream Palace
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