A family of bankers pioneers in Nebraska and experiences the ups and downs of the economy from 1873 to 1929.
In 1873 New York Roger Standish (Richard Dix) kisses Caroline Ogden (Ann Harding). Her father objects, fires Roger from his bank, and tells him to leave. Roger goes home drunk. A financial collapse ruins Caroline's father, and he dies. At the estate auction Roger tells Caroline he has no job; but she suggests going west. They go to Nebraska but are robbed on a flat-boat, and Roger is shot while defending Caroline. At the hotel of Matilda Blake (Edna May Oliver) her drunk husband, Dr. Danny Blake (Guy Kibbee), treats Roger, leaving the bullet in him. Caroline scrubs the floor while Roger recovers. Matilda counts her money after Danny takes some to go out. Caroline tells Roger they can expect a child. Bandits rob the saloon and the hotel. Roger persuades men to go with him after the Slades; but he falls off his horse. The men go on and hang the Slades. Roger and Caroline open a bank, and Matilda deposits $7. Danny urges men to put their money in the bank and gets Matilda to withdraw a dollar for him. Caroline gives birth to twins, a girl and a boy. Roger asks Drummond to route the railroad through their town; he refuses until he meets Caroline and tells her he knew her father. Danny takes their boy in a carriage and is run over by the train, killing both. Caroline and Roger mourn.
Years later their daughter Frances (Julie Haydon) marries Warren (Donald Cook). Money increases and then falls. People line up at the bank. Warren tells Roger that he certified over-draft checks. A man demands his money back from Roger and pulls a gun. Roger takes the gun; but Caroline persuades him not to call the police. Roger gives his word to reimburse him and returns the gun. Warren shoots himself as Frances gives birth to a boy called Roger. Frances takes young Roger to the movies showing the Wright brothers' airplane flying. Years go by, and the family reads that young Roger shot down three German planes. Soldiers return from the war, and Caroline dies. Industry advances, and stocks go up. When the market crashes, young Roger Standish (Richard Dix) asks his grandfather Roger for his trust fund to save the bank. Having had a similar experience, old Roger signs, and young Roger predicts television and prosperity. Old Roger remembers Caroline.
This epic is as melodramatic as an unstable economy; but faith in the investment of capital survives the roller-coaster ride. Thus audiences were consoled that depressions had happened before, and they were followed by renewed prosperity.