THE BERENGARIA EXCHANGE: The Lively Account of a Floating Stock Exchange During the Fateful Week of the 1929 Crash by Paul Knapp

THE BERENGARIA EXCHANGE: The Lively Account of a Floating Stock Exchange During the Fateful Week of the 1929 Crash

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An outsized addendum to John Malcolm Brinnin's Sway of the Grand Saloon (p. 1044). In August 1929, Mike Meehan, the wonder boy of the stock market, received permission from the New York Exchange to establish a brokerage office on what was then the queen of Cunard's luxury fleet, the Berengaria, and on October 19th the liner sailed from Cherbourg for New York with a full cargo of the wealthy and famous, many of whom were up to their haughty manners in market investments, including beauty specialist Helena Rubinstein, Edgar Wallace (""the one-man novel factory""), the redoubtable Molly Cogswell (the Jazz Age's most prominent girl reporter), colorful Massachusetts Congressman George Holden Tinkham who accurately predicted the crash, Abraham Cahan (editor of the Jewish Daily Forward), and just plain rich Jay O'Brien and his well-travelled wife Dolly. All went well for a few days -- the normal parties, champagne, routine speculation via wireless which was a novelty -- but on Wednesday the 23rd the bull turned into a hungry bear, G.E. down 20 points in a single day, Kodak -14, Adams Express an unbelievable -96. Black Thursday was even worse: ""Something ghastly had happened to the bejewelled and elegant ladies, to their mascara and the controlled ripple of their voices. And the transfigured miens of the mighty were hardly recognizable."" This petty historical voyeurism of the opulent in panic is Knapp's first book (he's a freelancer with magazine experience) and, like those voices, it's only a ripple.

Pub Date: Feb. 18th, 1971
Publisher: Dial