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O.M.W. Sprague (the Man who “Wrote the Book” on Financial Crises) and the Founding of the Federal Reserve

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  • Hugh Rockoff

Abstract

O.M.W. Sprague was America’s leading expert on financial crises when America was debating establishing the Federal Reserve. His History of Crises under the National Banking Act is one of the most enduring legacies of the National Monetary Commission; a still frequently cited classic. Since the Commission recommended a central bank, and its recommendation after some modifications became the Federal Reserve System, it might be assumed that Sprague was a strong supporter of establishing a central bank. But he was not. Initially, Sprague favored more limited reforms, a position that he did not abandon until the Federal Reserve became a fait accompli. Here I discuss the sources of Sprague’s opposition to a central bank and the relationship of that opposition to his understanding of the history and structure of the American banking system at the turn of the nineteenth century.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19758.

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Date of creation: Dec 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19758

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  1. Jon R. Moen & Ellis W. Tallman, 1994. "Clearinghouse access and bank runs: trust companies in New York and Chicago during the Panic of 1907," Working Paper 94-12, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  2. William Walker Swanson, 1908. "The Crisis of 1860 and the First Issue of Clearing-House Certificates: II," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16, pages 212.
  3. John A. James & James McAndrews & David F. Weiman, 2013. "Wall Street and Main Street: the macroeconomic consequences of New York bank suspensions, 1866–1914," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 7(2), pages 99-130, May.
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  6. William L. Silber, 2007. "The Great Financial Crisis of 1914: What Can We Learn from Aldrich–Vreeland Emergency Currency?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 285-289, May.
  7. Gorton, Gary & Mullineaux, Donald J, 1987. "The Joint Production of Confidence: Endogenous Regulation and Nineteenth Century Commercial-Bank Clearinghouses," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 19(4), pages 457-68, November.
  8. Perry Mehrling, 2002. "Retrospectives: Economists and the Fed: Beginnings," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(4), pages 207-218, Fall.
  9. Margaret Jacobson & Ellis W. Tallman, 2013. "Liquidity provision during the crisis of 1914: private and public sources," Working Paper 1304, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  10. Gorton, Gary, 1985. "Clearinghouses and the Origin of Central Banking in the United States," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 45(02), pages 277-283, June.
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