“IT’S A SWEET, PRETTY GAME, ISN’T IT?”: LIMITED FIRST EDITION OF LAWSON’S HIGH COST LIVING, 1913, ASSOCIATION COPY DESIGNATED FOR SAMUEL UNTERMYER, INTELLECTUAL FATHER OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE
LAWSON, Thomas W. High Cost Living. (Boston): Dreamwold (Nathan Sawyer & Son), 1913. Folio (9-1/2 by 14 inches), original full maroon limp reverse calf gilt, yap edges, silk pastedown endpapers, uncut and largely unopened. $700.
First edition of this “insider’s account” by financial wizard and Wall Street reformer Lawson— number 675 of 1,000 copies “prepared solely for the free distribution to law-makers and law-administrators,” a scarce association copy designated in an unidentified hand on the limitation page to Samuel Untermyer, whose attack on the “money trust” and leader role in the Pujo investigation earns high praise from Lawson, who features excerpts from Untermyer’s cross-examination of major Wall Street figures and praises the Pujo Report as a “true-to-life picture of the System’s blackjacking the American people.”
“In an era when corporate stocks were first being offered as investment instruments, financial advice consisted of advertisements and promotional articles in the press. Lawson’s skill in using these devices to publicize the stocks he backed enabled him to attain a following among investors in New England. He became a millionaire by age thirty… Lawson’s proposal for government regulation of securities, High Cost Living,… [is] an insider’s account of the pecuniary guile of an era filled with stock market machinations” (ANB). The flamboyant and highly successful Lawson writes: “It’s a sweet, pretty game, isn’t it? I ask you— you American people. If I, the outsider, from ‘reading’ the tape, can make $1,600,000, what do you think of the chance of the insiders, the ones who ‘make’ the tape, to make easy money out of your hard-earned wages and incomes?” With color frontispiece, two color plates, in-text line cuts and stock market charts. Recipient Samuel Untermyer was praised by Lawson in his book, Frenzied Finance (1905), as “the Machiavelli of the New York Bar.” Early in his landmark career Untermyer “represented major business interests in some of the most important cases of the period,” including the formation of Bethlehem Steel and key mergers. In October 1912 Untermyer “was appointed counsel of a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Banking and Currency, which conducted… the Pujo Money Trust Investigation, [that] involved months of testimony and the examination of some of the most important financiers in the country, including J. Pierpont Morgan” (ANB). In High Cost Living Lawson provides extensive laudatory coverage of the Pujo investigation, and attacks the “Money Trust”— a practice identified by Untermyer in his famous speech of December 1911, which “alleged that a ‘money trust’ controlled the economy of the United States through a network of interlocking directorships” (ANB). Lawson includes journalistic coverage and excerpts of Untermyer’s cross-examination in the Pujo investigation, ultimately praising the Pujo Report as “the greatest contribution to the history of modern finance… It is a true-to-life picture of the System’s blackjacking the American people.”
Untermyer and the Pujo Report led to groundbreaking legislation, “including the Federal Reserve Act of 1914. Untermyer assisted in the preparation of the bill and argued in favor of it before Congress. He also made a substantial contribution to the drafting and passage of the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914 and the Clayton Anti-Trust Act of 1914. Untermyer retained an active interest in the financial sector and campaigned for reforms in the practices of the New York Stock Exchange to strengthen the rights of minority stockholders against corporate abuses… One of the earliest American opponents of the Nazi government in Germany, Untermyer became, in 1933, president of the… Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League to Champion Human Rights… To draw attention to Hitler’s violations of human rights and, in particular, the persecution of the German Jewish community, Untermyer campaigned for an American boycott of German imports. In July 1933, as president of the World Jewish Economic Federation, he presented an unsuccessful proposal for an international boycott of Germany to the League of Nations” (ANB).
Very lightest scattered foxing mainly to endpapers, frontis with a few fold lines. A fine copy with a distinctive association.