1929 AN UPPER CLASS AFFAIR
Author's Note -- The Story Behind The Story
I have made an effort to remain true to the period in
terms of the lifestyles, attitudes, events, and places in which the characters
congregate. The music, books, magazines, movies, hotels, stores, clothes, automobiles,
celebrities, artists, designers, and news discussed are authentic to the
time. Although I am not a
historian, the descriptions of events that occurred during the Stock Market
Crash are based upon first-hand accounts and accredited histories.
For the sake of the story line, I marginally condensed
the time period leading up to the Crash. While the book begins on the last day
of summer, 1929, the high point of the Great Bull Market occurred slightly
earlier on September 3rd. I also would like to note that the
financier Clarence Hatry turned himself in on September 20th and
Henry Ford's special commemoration of EdisonÍs invention of the light bulb
actually took place on October 21st. President Herbert Hoover, who
did indeed speak at the commemoration event, did not have a booger hanging from
his nose but did have his motorcade cheered by large crowds despite inclement
It also should be noted that although psychologically
much of America felt heartened by the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
unemployment remained an issue for several more years and many of the stocks of
the companies listed on the NYSE, in 1931, continued to slide until 1934. Some
historians even assert that it was only World War II that fully ended the Great
Depression and that the programs that President Hoover implemented in the last
year of office started to work and were even incorporated into the much hailed
In terms of the time frame, it should also be noted
that although I have Josie listening to the radio in her Bugati, in November
1929, in fact, it was not until 1930, that the Galvin Manufacturing Company
sold the first commercial car radios. Known as the Motorola model 5T71, the
unit which could be installed in most popular automobiles, retailed between
$110-130 in the United States.
I have also condensed the time period with regard to
the programs designed to stimulate the economy that were initiated by the
Hoover administration during 1930-1933.
Josie, Charles, James, Rebecca, Geraldine, Catherine,
Bentley, Graves, Garrett Goldman, Evelyn Maker, Henry Jay, Alex Carleton, Lydia
Kohler, Bigford, Mrs. Whitney Straight, Warren Bates, Charles MacVeagh, Prince
Mikhail Stravinsky, Michael Mansfield, Mary, Suzie, Michael, Dexter, Edwin
Baruch, Peggy Mitchell, Edmund Tates, Alfredo, Mr. Hedley-Dent, Lily
Vanderhorn, and their families and friends are fictional characters. Although
the history and main events during the course of the novel are accurate, I have
created all encounters described between these fictional characters and those
who actually lived during this time period.
It is my hope that this work will inspire readers to
find out more about this fascinating period in history and those who lived it.
With this in mind, on the next few pages please find a few facts on some of the
real people mentioned in this book.
Prescott Sheldon Bush – The successful investment banker served as a U.S.
senator from Connecticut from 1952-1963. His son, George Herbert Walker Bush
became the 41st President of the United States and grandson, George
Walker Bush served as the 43rd President.
Churchill – The ex-Chancellor of the
Exchequer and later famed Prime Minister of Britain – was an investor in the
American market and really did witness part of the Crash. Undoubtedly
considered one of the greatest public figures of the 20th century,
the successful statesman was also an artist and acclaimed author. He passed
away in 1965 at the age of 81.
Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith – Served as dry agents for five years before the
government dismissed them due to their publicity, on November 13, 1925. Despite
their unmatched record of arrests, convictions and seizures of bootleg booze,
an official at the time of their firing claimed, "Izzy and Moe belong on the
vaudeville stage." Izzy later
wrote a book about his experiences entitled: Prohibition Agent Number 1. Five hundred seventy five copies were sold. Both
agents subsequently worked in the insurance business and did well. A movie was
released in 1985 called Izzy and Moe, starring Jackie Gleason and Art Carney.
Texas Guinan – Born Mary Louise Cecilia in Waco, Texas in 1884 and educated in
Catholic schools, “Texas Guinan” acted in 36 movies and on Broadway before
getting her biggest role of all as the infamous night club hostess. She was so
successful; she netted $700,000 in one ten-month period – close to $10 million
in today’s money. Like most businesses, her speakeasies suffered during the
Great Depression. In 1931, she took her troupe of dancing girls on the road. After
performing in France, Canada and other countries, she suffered from an attack
of ulcerative colitis from which she died at the age of 49, on November 5, 1933.
Prohibition actually was repealed one month after her passing.
Joseph Patrick Kennedy – Despite the public slight he suffered on Wall Street
at the House of Morgan, Joe Kennedy had a lasting impact on America. The banker
who made money selling bootleg liquor during Prohibition and was a short-seller
in the market, also was a film producer and made a great deal of money in real
estate. After serving as the Chairman of the S.E.C. from 1934-35, he headed the
U.S. Maritime Commission from 1936-37 and served as the U.S. Ambassador to
Great Britain from 1937-40. Patriarch of a political dynasty, that includes a
former President, several Congressmen and other government officials, the
Kennedy legacy in the political, social and cultural realms remains alive and
well in America today.
Pierpoint Morgan Junior – Known to his
father and friends as Jack, Morgan continued working and providing philanthropy
through the desperate days of the Depression. New York particularly is richer
for the vast amounts of art, literature and other donations bequeathed by the
Morgan family. After the Senate investigative hearings in 1933, he retired from
active business. Following a number of strokes, he passed away on March 12,
1943 at the age of seventy-five. Through his efforts, his sons and capable
managers like Thomas Lamont, the successors to the family's banking house,
remain among the most powerful and esteemed in the world. Please note: in real
life, Junius Morgan married but there is no reference in this novel to his
actual wife. As previously stated, Catherine Thompson is a wholly fictional
character and all descriptions of her and Junius together are made up.
Helena Rubinstein – Born in 1870 to middle-class Jewish parents in Krakow, Poland,
Helena Rubinstein moved to Australia in 1902 where she started selling face
cream based upon a secret family formula. After studying dermatology, she
successfully opened salons in London (1908) and Paris (1912) before immigrating
to the United States during World War I. In 1953, the "Empress of Beauty," as
Cocteau called her, used a great deal of her wealth to establish a non-profit
foundation to benefit women and children. At the time of her death in 1965, at
the age of 94, her international beauty empire was worth hundreds of millions
of dollars. Now owned by L'Oreal, Helena RubinsteinÍs company continues to
flourish in the billion-dollar beauty business. It should be noted that Helena
Rubinstein really was a passenger on the Berengaria during the Crash and did lose a great deal of money
on her stock investments during the trip. Davenport Pogue was her advisor but
Lydia Kohler is a fictional character.
John D. Rockefeller III – After graduating from Princeton and taking a year to
travel, the tall, apparently shy heir joined his father at their offices on 26
Broadway on December 2, 1929. On November 11, 1932, he married heiress
Blanchette Ferry Hooker before 2,500 guests at Riverside Church. J.D.
Rockefeller has been a most conscientious philanthropist behind numerous
efforts including the Asia Society, Lincoln Center and Population Council as
well as the Rockefeller Foundation. I would like to note that John's uncle,
Percy Rockefeller, actually hosted the dinner for Winston Churchill described
in the book. Please also note: All interactions between J.D. and the character
Rebecca Stanley are made up.
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis – Born on July 28, 1929 to Jack and Lee Bouvier, "Jackie" went on to become one of the most adored First Ladies in history and
an American icon.
Richard Whitney – Served as acting head of the New York Stock Exchange during the Great
Crash. His actions then as well as during the Senate investigative hearings
earned him respect on Wall Street. Unfortunately, while the Depression
worsened, so did Richard Whitney's own financial situation. His firm bankrupt,
personal accounts drained and real estate mortgaged, he resorted to speculating
with his client's money. After his conviction, on April 11, 1938, he was sent
to Sing-Sing to serve his sentence. Paroled in 1941, he lived for another
twenty-seven years before he passed away at the age of 81.
Willy Messerschmitt was a legendary German aircraft designer and
manufacturer. His single most
important design is most often considered the Messerschmitt Bf109, which was
designed in 1934 with the collaboration of Walter Rethel. The Bf109 became the
most important fighter plane for the German Luftwaffe as the country re-armed
before World War II. To this day, this plane remains the most-produced fighter
in history, with some 35,000 built. Another later Messerschmitt aircraft broke
the absolute world air-speed record and held the world speed record for
propeller-driven aircraft until 1969. His company is also credited with
producing the first jet-powered fighter to enter service. After World War II,
Messerschmitt was tried by a de-Nazification court for using slave labor, and
in 1948 was convicted of being a "fellow traveler." Following two years in
prison, he was released and resumed his position as the head of his company.
Herbert Hoover – Due to the bad luck of presiding over the country at the time of the
Crash and Franklin Delano Roosevelt's (FDR) negative Presidential campaign,
Hoover has often been blamed for the Great Depression. Recent scholars have
pointed out that a number of his policies started to work near the end of his
term of office. Rexford Tugwell, New Dealer and member of FDR's "Brain Trust,"
even went so far as to claim, "Practically the whole New Deal was extrapolated
from programs Hoover started." Certainly whether the President's actions helped
or worsened the depression, his legacy in other areas is still impressive.
Orphaned at the age of nine, Hoover excelled through
his own efforts. After graduating from Stanford, he traveled the world as a
successful mining engineer and even co-founded his own company before working
as a humanitarian in Europe. It is ironic that the man who helped organize the
return of 120,000 Americans safely from Europe at the start of the First World
War and then successfully administered the distribution of over 1 ½ million
tons of food to 9 million war victims and provided food aid to post-war Germany
and Russia, (despite opposition from his own party about feeding the starving
people ruled by "Bolsheviks"), is often seen as uncaring about humanity due to
the suffering during the Great Depression.
Hoover was the first and only President to date who
rose directly from a full cabinet position (Secretary of Commerce). During his
one term as President, a brief description of some of his achievements include:
setting aside 3 million acres of national parkland and 2.3 million acres as
national forests, advocating tax reduction for low-income Americans, doubling
the number of veteran hospital facilities, drafting a children's charter that
advocated the protection of every child regardless of race or gender, starting the
building of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the construction of the
Hoover Dam, re-organizing the Bureau of Indian Affairs, creating an anti-trust
division at the Justice Department and having the IRS and Justice Department go
after gangsters. Hoover also took a goodwill tour of South America, withdrew
troops from Nicaragua and Haiti and in response to the Japanese seizure of
Manchuria, created a doctrine stating that the United States would not
recognize territories gained by force.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) – So much has been written about FDR, I will simply
state a few basics as related to this novel and the recent financial downturn.
Born in 1882 to a wealthy family with a political history (President Theodore
Roosevelt was his cousin), FDR succeeded Herbert Hoover as the 32nd
President of the United States. FDR's legacy includes the fact that many of the
programs he initiated during the Depression such as the Federal Deposit
Insurance Corporation (FDIC), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and the United
States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), continue to have fundamental
roles in the United States economy.
In the 1932 election, Roosevelt won 57% of the vote
and carried every state bar six. After the election, Roosevelt refused the
outgoing PresidentÍs requests for meetings to come up with a joint program to
calm investors. His reason was that to do so "would tie his hands." Certainly
this decision preserved FDR from being associated with any of the "failed"
policies of the Hoover Administration. However, it may also have helped to
contribute to the continuation of the economy's spiraling downward and a near
collapse of the banking system that resulted in a complete shutdown by the end
of the Hoover administration.
When FDR was finally inaugurated (which in those days
was not until March 4th Ð a full four months after the election),
the country was unquestionably in the depths of the worst depression in its
history. One quarter of the workforce was unemployed, 2 million were homeless
and 32 of the 48 states and the District of Columbia had closed their banks.
The New York Federal Reserve Bank failed to open the following day because of
the amount withdrawn by panicky customers. FDR blamed the economic crisis on
the bankers and financiers, "quest for profits and the self-interest basis of
capitalism." To this end, he enacted a number of programs to redress these
grievances, including the Glass Steagall Act which many financial experts
believe helped build a more stable financial sector. It is interesting to note
that many now blame the repeal of this in 1999, as a contributing factor to the
Global Financial Crisis of 2008-2009. The repeal "allowed commercial lenders
like Citigroup, to underwrite and trade instruments like mortgage-back
securities and collateralized debut obligations and to establish structured
investment vehicles (SIVs) that in turn bought those securities. It should be
noted that while the year before the repeal sub-prime loans made up only 5% of
all mortgage lending, by the time of the credit crisis of 2008, they were close
In Presidential rankings, FDR is invariably ranked
among the top 5. He is also the only President to have been elected to serve 4
The character Evelyn Maker was inspired in part by
astrologist Evangeline Adams who was in fact called the Seer of Wall Street and
did a great deal for the legitimization of her field of study. Evangeline Adams
was married but had no children. Amongst other predictions, she did in fact predict
her own death (to the day) and she witnessed the flock of birds perish on Wall
Street during the Crash.
The character Garrett Goldman was inspired in part by
the famed securities speculator Jesse Livermore. Livermore made and lost
several fortunes by short-selling during the stock market crashes of 1907 and
1929 and investing in the great World War I bull market.
While browsing in the beautiful main reading room of
the Mount Holyoke College library late one night several years ago, I randomly
came across the yearbook for the class of 1929. Within its spirited pages and
several others from the 1920s, the smart setÍs Jazz Age came alive and I found
the inspiration for a vivacious, amusing flapper named Josephine Baxter-Browne.
I spent many hours writing her story in the former Duke Mansion, now New York
University's Fine Art Institute on East 78th Street. Josie's
parents' home is in part based upon this elegant mansion.
For more information on the period and real and
fictional characters, please visit the website:www.1929anupperclassaffair.com
I will be posting information on resources pertaining
to the period, including a bibliography and welcome visitors to post their own
family's accounts of experiences during the roaring twenties, Stock Market
Crash, Great Depression and subsequent market crashes. My hope is that this
novel will provide some light entertainment and encourage the view that women
of all ages can be attractive, smart, witty, and successful in their own rights
and find love. Finally, as stated previously, I hope that the period described
will make readers want to find out more about this fascinating time.