Historical and social scientific explanations often rely on major happenings and crises to define the topics of our inquiries or to delineate historical periods. But these models often prove limited and problematic. The challenge is to understand how action unfolds in a crisis and, in the process, reconfigures resources, opportunities, and horizons of possibility for new lines of strategic response. These questions are addressed through a comparison of Herbert Hoover and Harry Hopkins as they dealt with the onset of the Great Depression. Both men had the skills, network ties, and reputational resources that figure centrally in models of effective agency, but the contemporary assessments of their efforts differed dramatically. This pair of lives—Hoover and Hopkins—permits a cross-sectional comparison as both men wrestled with the onset of economic collapse and a sequential comparison as Hopkins inherited responsibility for relieving a crisis that had been shaped and reshaped by Hoover’s actions.