The Great Depression was not the country’s first depression, though it proved to be the longest. Several others preceded it.
- In 1819, after three years of currency inflation caused by the federally chartered Second Bank of the United States, the economy fell apart.
- The slump of 1836-37 occurred as the inflationary distortions of the central bank era were liquidated when President Andrew Jackson prevented the re-charter of the Second Bank, calling it a “money monster.”
- In 1857 the economy retrenched after a decade of money and credit expansion on behalf of state governments that had forced their debt obligations onto the state banking systems.
- In 1873, a post-Civil War downturn followed the excesses of the government’s rampant “greenback” inflation.
- The Panic and Depression of 1893-95 hit the country after Congress force-fed the economy for years with depreciating silver and paper notes.
And in 1921, a brief but sharp tumble took place after several years of credit and currency expansion to accommodate the spending for World War I.
The common thread woven through all of these earlier debacles was disastrous manipulation of the money supply by government. For various reasons, government policies were adopted which ballooned the quantity of money and credit in the economy. A boom resulted, followed later by a painful day of reckoning. None of these depressions, however, lasted more than four years and most of them were over in two. The calamity that began in 1929 lasted at least three times longer than any of the country’s previous depressions because the government compounded its monetary errors with a series of harmful interventions