I suppose it's human nature for people to think that they're living in unprecedented times, but the credit crisis that we're going through now has been repeated many times in world history and even American history.
It's no surprise that the first major crisis occurred under Thomas Jefferson's watch as he was a great lover of embargoes against then world power Great Britain and a hater of the banking industry.
Britain, the biggest trading partner with America at the time, upset over the increasingly punitive measures against its commerce and what it felt was the arrogance of its former colonial possession, chose to retaliate by requiring all importers of British goods to pay in gold at time of purchase.
Since the banking industry was in disarray with two presidents, Adams and Jefferson who did not even want a national banking system, this caused a major problem. Compounding the economic crisis, most of the importers of British goods had the credit lines they were purchasing goods with eliminated by this policy.
This made the importers cut the credit lines of the large wholesalers, who cut the lines of the merchants, who then squeezed the small farmers and manufacturers that were buying their goods.
This led to deflation and a 'liquidity crisis' that stopped many companies from going into business, people lending to each other etc. It also led to a major armed regional rebellion, but that's for another post.
Times may be bad, but at least we don't have to pay in gold bullion yet.