The American mathematical research community experienced remarkable changes over the course of the three decades from 1920 to 1950. The first ten years witnessed the "corporatization" and "capitalization" of the American Mathematical Society, as mathematicians like Oswald Veblen and George Birkhoff worked to raise private, governmental, and foundation monies in support of research-level mathematics. The next decade, marked by the stock market crash and Depression, almost paradoxically witnessed the formation and building up of a number of strongly research-oriented departments across the nation at the same time that noted mathematical refugees were fleeing the ever-worsening political situation in Europe. Finally, the 1940s saw the mobilization of American research mathematicians in the war effort and their subsequent efforts to insure that pure mathematical research was supported as the Federal government began to open its coffers in the immediately postwar period. Ultimately, the story to be told here is a success story, but one of success in the face of many obstacles. At numerous points along the way, things could have turned out dramatically differently. This talk will explore those historical contingencies.