Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mr. Wall Street

What with yesterday's debacle on Wall Street and the anniversary of the 1929 Stock Market crash coming up. I am reminded of how a bad time made one man famous.

He was Richard Whitney. A hero of that first day of the crash. Prices were plummeting. The ticker tape was hours behind. Whitney's intent was to restore calm. He began to buy and word spread that he represented New York's major banks.

The market rallied and the press hailed Whitney as a white knight. He was suited for the role. Richard Whitney was one of the most trusted men in America. He had a townhouse on the elegant east side. He raised thoroughbreds on his New Jersey farm. After saving the market, he left for a weekend fox hunt.

Even though the market fell again, people remembered Whitney's hour of glory. He became the youngest man ever to head the New York Stock Exchange.

When Congress investigated the crash, Whitney testified first. He was " Mr. Wall Street".

But he had a secret. The crash had wiped him out. He mortgaged his estate, borrowed from his rich friends, and when the money ran out he stole from everyone. The New York Yacht Club, Harvard, family trust funds, a widow's fund.

No one noticed until Whitney missed a routine meeting and a clerk blurted out the truth. Mr. Wall street went to Sing Sing.

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