David R. Henderson  

Anna J. Schwartz, RIP

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Anna J. Schwartz, who co-authored A Monetary History of the United States, 1876-1960 with Milton Friedman, died today. She was 96. Their book was a tour de force. They spent years on it in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I remember one of my professors, the late Robert Clower, telling a class that when he first read the book, he thought he had found many problems with it. He wrote them all down and then worked his way through the book again to see how the problems he noted had been handled. By the end he had crossed every one off the list.

I commissioned Anna to write the article, "Money Supply" for The Fortune Encyclopedia of Economics and then the updated article for The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. The picture at the link is so Anna.

About 9 or 10 years ago, my friend Mary O'Grady at the Wall Street Journal told me she had run into Anna and they got talking about running. Anna said that she had hurt her leg and had had to cut back on running. Mary, who's at least 50 years Anna's junior, said that Anna had said it as if she was a 38-year old athlete talking about having a tough week.

The last time I saw Anna was probably sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Whenever it was, I remember what she reminisced about. I had been an assistant professor at the University of Rochester's Graduate School of Management in the late 1970s. When visiting academics came, various faculty were always looking for people to go to dinner. Because I was single, I was invited often. Anna was visiting Karl Brunner and Karl invited me to dinner with Anna at the faculty club in the Frederick Douglass building. We had a particularly pleasant dinner and then Anna looked at her watch and said she was running late and needed to get to the airport to fly back to New York that evening. So I offered to drive her and I drove pretty fast. She seemed to get a kick out of it and, sure enough, when I ran into her years later, she grinned as she reminisced about that.

She was a good lady.

HT to Tyler Cowen.


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COMMENTS (1 to date)
Jim Glass writes:

The portion of the Monetary History covering the start of the Depression is now available as a separate paperback, The Great Contraction, 1929-1933.

I just read it and was surprised what a good, accessible read it is in addition to being such an excellently informative history.

It's really striking how the arguments, politics and institutional responses of post-1929 have been repeating themselves post-2008 -- notably within the Fed itself. Sometimes beyond striking, startling. With the post-2008ers not realizing it. Those who don't know history ... I think I've learned as much about what is going on today from this one book of history as from all our current reporting and analysis produced in real time.

I've always thought history should be an increasing part of the econ curriculum instead of a decreasing part, though I admit I was put off from reading the Monetary History by how thick (and pricey) it is. But I'm off to read the rest of it now. For anyone else who is as daunted of the full thing as I was, this is a fine selection to start with.

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