Business: Giant into Armor

Early in 1950, the London Economist's Geoffrey Crowther, a footloose editor with a nose for news, made his annual inspection trip of U.S. industry. "I came here expecting to see a boom," he said, "but nothing I had read prepared me for this. The very air smells of boom. For the firsttime, the U.S. is beginning to smell like 1929 again."

There was certainly a lot of 1929's heady, champagne flavor about the U.S. in 1950, right down to the biggest bull market in 20 years. Gold-Digger Lorelei Lee was a reigning musical-comedy queen; F....

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