The Capitol Hill Circus

Lya Graf Meets J.P. Morgan
After the 1929 stock market crash, the Senate created a Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to investigate the cause of the U.S economic meltdown.

After a year of hearings the committee had made little progress into the inner workings of Wall Street. With only 6 weeks left to complete the findings, Ferdinand Pecora, an assistant DA for the County of New York, was brought in to write the final report. Since little had been accomplished there wasn’t much to write so Pecora asked for a month-long extension of the hearings and he brought in the heavy-hitters of Wall Street for questioning, including J.P. Morgan.

On June 1st, 1933, J.P. Morgan was called before the committee. It was his first public appearance in 20 years!

Pecora exposed evidence that Morgan Bank had a preferred list of influential friends which included former president Calvin Coolidge and Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts. The hearings also revealed that Morgan hadn’t paid any income taxes in 1931 or 1932.

Anyway, on that same day in Washington DC, the Ringling Bros. Circus had come to town. One of the star attractions was the smallest woman in the world, Lya Graf.

As the publicity-shy Morgan sat alone at the witness table during a break he was taken by surprise when a circus promoter, looking for  a chance to use the hearings to get some publicity for his show, placed the 27 inch tall Lya in Morgan’s lap. The photographers went crazy! Despite pleas to keep the photos out of the press, all the photographers ran out of the courtroom and back to their offices. By the end of the day the image of Morgan with Graf on his lap appeared on front pages across the country and became a symbol of the hearings.

The Pecora hearings led to the creation of the SEC, the Securities Act and the now repealed, Glass Steagall Act.

Enjoy Enter The Circus by Christina Aguilera: