During the Panic of 1907 John D. Rockefeller, the wealthiest man in America, pledge half of his wealth to maintain America’s credit
“The Panic of 1907, also known as the 1907 Bankers’ Panic or Knickerbocker Crisis, was a financial crisis that occurred in the United States when the New York Stock Exchange fell almost 50% from its peak the previous year. Panic occurred, as this was during a time of economic recession, and there were numerous runs on banks and trust companies. The 1907 panic eventually spread throughout the nation when many state and local banks and businesses entered bankruptcy. Primary causes of the run include a retraction of market liquidity by a number of New York City banks and a loss of
confidence among depositors, exacerbated by unregulated side bets at bucket shops. The panic was triggered by the failed attempt in October 1907 to corner the market on stock of the United Copper Company. When this bid failed, banks that had lent money to the cornering scheme suffered runs that later spread to affiliated banks and trusts, leading a week later to the downfall of the Knickerbocker Trust Company—New York City’s third-largest trust. The collapse of the Knickerbocker spread fear throughout the city’s trusts as regional banks withdrew reserves from New York City banks. Panic extended across the nation as vast numbers of people withdrew deposits from their regional banks.The panic might have deepened if not for the intervention of financier J. P. Morgan, who pledged large sums of his own money, and convinced other New York bankers to do the same, to shore up the banking system. At the time, the United States did not have acentral bank to inject liquidity back into the market. By November the financial contagion had largely ended, yet a further crisis emerged when a large brokerage firm borrowed heavily using the stock of Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company (TC&I) as collateral. Collapse of TC&I’s stock price was averted by an emergency takeover by Morgan’s U.S. Steel Corporation—a move approved by anti-monopolist president Theodore Roosevelt. The following year, Senator Nelson W. Aldrich, father-in-law of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., established and chaired a commission to investigate the crisis and propose future solutions, leading to the creation of the Federal Reserve System.
When U.S. President Andrew Jackson allowed the charter of the Second Bank of the United States to expire in 1836, the U.S. was without any sort of central bank, and the money supply in New York City fluctuated with the country’s annual agricultural cycle. Each autumn money flowed out of the city as harvests were purchased and—in an effort to attract money back—interest rates were raised. Foreign investors then sent their money to New York to take advantage of the higher rates. From the January 1906 Dow Jones Industrial Averagehigh of 103, the market began a modest correction that would continue throughout the year. The April 1906 earthquake that devastated San Francisco contributed to the market instability, prompting an even greater flood of money from New York to San Francisco to aid reconstruction. A further stress on the money supply occurred in late 1906, when the Bank of England raised its interest rates, partly in response to UK insurance companies paying out so much to US policyholders, and more funds remained in London than expected. From their peak in January, stock prices declined 18% by July 1906. By late September, stocks had recovered about half of their losses.Theodore Roosevelt commanding two large bears “”Interstate Commerce Commission”” and “”Federal Courts”” to attack Wall Street (Puck, May 8, 1907)The Hepburn Act, which gave the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) the power to set maximum railroad rates, became law in July 1906. This depreciated the value of railroad securities. Between September 1906 and March 1907, the stock market slid, losing 7.7% of its capitalization. Between March 9 and 26, stocks fell a further 9.8%. (This March collapse is sometimes referred to as a “”rich man’s panic””.) The economy remained volatile through the summer. A number of shocks hit the system: the stock of Union Pacific—among the most common stocks used as collateral—fell 50 points; that June an offering of New York City bonds failed; in July the coppermarket collapsed; in August the Standard Oil Company was fined $29 million for antitrust violations. In the first nine months of 1907, stocks were lower by 24.4%. On July 27, The Commercial & Financial Chronicle noted that “”the market keeps unstable … no sooner are these signs of new life in evidence than something like a suggestion of a new outflow of gold to Paris sends a tremble all through the list, and the gain in values and hope is gone””. Several bank runs occurred outside the US in 1907: in Egypt in April and May; in Japan in May and June; in Hamburg and Chile in early October. The fall season was always a vulnerable time for the banking system”