America's Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve
by Roger Lowenstein
New York: Penguin Press, 2015. 355 pp. Non-fiction.
Anyone who follows economic and financial news recognizes the pivotal role the Federal Reserve plays in our national economy and as a partner with other nations' central banks. This book explains the extraordinarily improbable creation of the Federal Reserve in the face of vociferous opposition to the creation of a central bank, both from within government circles and the public at large. The book is divided into two parts: the first covering the efforts of key players in banking and Congress to formulate a blueprint for a central bank, following the financial panic of 1907, that would be palatable to a country suspicious of the money power; the second part summarizes the legislative battles fought to get the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 passed. The author does a nice job illustrating both the pressures the new industrial economy was placing on a banking system no longer able to cope against a public highly suspicious of centralized power in general and financial power in particular. While the Fed has cemented its role in public affairs, it has been and remains a locus of controversy and conspiracy (see The Creature From Jekyll Island). This is a highly readable examination of a fascinating period of American history.