On this very day in 1971, President Richard Nixon announced that U.S. dollars would no longer be redeemable for gold, changing the way the United States did business in what was known as the "Nixon shock." The decision to go off gold spelled the end of the Bretton Woods system of international finance, which had member nations tying their currencies to the dollar. Nixon ended the gold standard, Time reported, "to prevent a run on Fort Knox, which contained only a third of the gold bullion necessary to cover the amount of dollars in foreign hands."
Nearly as controversial as the end of the gold standard was the president's decision to announce it during Bonanza, one of the most popular shows at the time. An excerpt from The Commanding Heights, published on the PBS website, explains the situation:
President Nixon expressed grave concern that if he gave his speech during prime time on Sunday, he would preempt the tremendously popular television series Bonanza, thus potentially alienating those addicted to the adventures of the Cartwright family on the Ponderosa ranch. But his advisors convinced him that the speech had to be given before the markets opened on Monday morning, and that meant prime time. A few of the advisors would recollect that more time was spent discussing the timing of the speech than how the economic program would work.
This is what Nixon interrupted the show to say:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.