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Here are excerpts from two of the one-percenter's cohort. Robertson and Weinberg were brokers at the time. Contributions to Hard Times by young adults in the '70s, regardless of class, demonstrate how quickly, how firmly most parents had suppressed the financial trauma and politics of their own youth.
Arthur A. Robertson: In 1929, it was strictly a gambling casino with loaded dice. The few sharks taking advantage of the multitude of suckers. It was exchanging expensive dogs for expensive cats. There had been a recession in 1921. We came ourt of it about 1924. The began the climb, the spurt, with no limit stakes. Frenzied finance that made Ponzi look like an amateur. I saw shoeshine boys buying $40,000 worth of stock with $500 down. Everything was bought on hope. ... A cigar stock a the time was selling for $115 a share. The market collapsed. I got a call from the company president. Could I loan him $200 million. I refused, because at the time I had to protect my own fences, including those of my closest friends. ... The banks were in the same position, except the government came to their aid and saved them. Suddenly they became holier than thou, and took over the businesses of the companies that owed them money. They discharged the experts, who had built the businesses, and put in their own men. I bought one of these companies from the banks. They sold it to me in order to stop their losses. ...In the early Thirties, I was known as a scavenger. I used to buy broken-down businesses that banks took over. That was one of my best eras of prosperity. The whole period was characterized by men who were legends. When you talked about $1 million you were talking about loose change. Three or four of these men would get together, run up a stock to ridiculous prices and unload it on the unsuspecting public. The minute you heard of a man like Durant or Jesse Livermore buying stock, everybody followed. They knew it was going to go up. The only problem was to get out before they dumped it. ...Many brokers did not lose money. They made fortunes on commissions while their customers went broke. ...Banks used to get eighteen percent for call money --money with which to buy stock that paid perhaps one or two percent dividends. They figured the price would continue to rise. Everybody was banking on it. I used to receive as much as twenty-two percent from brokers who borrowed from me. ...About eight weeks before the bank closings, we decided to take every dollar out of the banks. We must have take out close to a million dollars. In Clyde, Ohio, where I had a porcelain enamel plant, they used my signature for money. I used to com in every Saturday and Sunday and deliver the cash. I would go around the department stores that I knew in Milwaukee and give them thirty-day IOU's of $1.05 for a dollar if they would give me cash. ...In 1933, the night Jake Factor, "The Barber," was kidnapped, an associate of mine, his wife, and a niece from Wyoming were dancing in a nightclub. Each of us had $25,000 cash in our socks. We were leaving the following morning for Clyde, and I was supposed to bring in $100,000 to meet bills and the payroll.
Sydney J. Weinberg: I remember the day very intimately. I stayed in the office a week without going home. The tape was running, I've forgotten how long that night. ...Prominent people were making statements. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., announce on the steps of J.P. Morgan, I think, that he and his sons were buying common stock. Immediately, the market went down again. Pools combined to support the market, to no avail. The public got scared and sold. It was a very trying period for me. Our investment company [Goldman Sachs] went up to two, three hundred, and then went down to practically nothing. As all investment companies did. ...The Street was against Roosevelt. Only me and Joe Kennedy, of those I know, were for Roosevelt in 1932. I was Assistant Treasurer of the Democratic National Committee. I did not support him after the first two terms. I had a great argument with him. I didn't think any man should serve any more than two terms. I was getting a little tired, too, of all the New Deal things. When I was asked to work with the War Production Board in 1940, he delayed initialing my employment paper. Later on, we had a rapprochement and were friendly again. ...Confidence ended the Depression in 1934. We had a recession in 1937. People got a little too gay on the way up, and youu had to have a little leveling off. The war had a great deal of stimulus in 1939.
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