Dow Jones & Co.

           Honest financial journalism is indispensable to ethical financial markets. It is hard to imagine a clean financial industry in operation if the state of its trade press was unchanged from that of the middle of the 19th century, when financial journalism could be summarized as the propagation of rumors, often with nefarious ends. The professionalization

Tobacco Money

           In the absence of metal coins or modern banknotes, commodities have been used as money. The commodities most suitable are those held in high demand by traders and merchants. In colonial America, examples of these included beads, beaver belts, and tobacco. The latter is particularly interesting not only because of its particularly broad acceptance as

From Debtors’ Prison to Bankruptcy

           Bankruptcy gives debtors a reprieve from their creditors by allowing an orderly liquidation of assets or a restructuring, often alongside a reduction or complete discharge of remaining debts. Usually a sign of financial defeat, it can be easy to forget that bankruptcy is a protection largely provided to the borrower and not the creditor. Before

American Express

           The world became more interconnected in the 19th century as railways and telegraph expanded the reach of business. By facilitating long-distance transactions, express shipping became vital to many industries, including finance. This softens any surprise accompanying the fact that two of the largest financial firms in the United States today, Wells Fargo and American Express,

John Jacob Astor

           America’s Gilded Age fortunes are infamous, but much less well known to the average person in America are its early tycoons. Like those of the late 19th century, those of the earlier part of that century benefited from opportunities obvious only in hindsight along with employing at least some questionable practices. John Jacob Astor possessed

Biddle, Jackson, and the Bank War

           In spite of, if not because of, their importance, banks are not usually popular. They are frequently the target of zealous reformers. Yet, bold policies rushed into enthusiastically should be the most worrisome. Campaigning against any institution in the name of progress should bring into question what exactly will replace it. Left unaddressed or poorly

Seashell Money in America

              Today, coins and banknotes are the most common physical manifestations of money, but money does not need to take these common forms. Anything could be money, or at least exhibit some of the qualities of money, even seemingly common items anyone could produce. Consider that cowrie shells were used as money in Africa and Asia

New York Produce Exchange

             Agricultural commodities have been traded between places for millennia before modern commodity exchanges were founded. However, these exchanges brought many of the services required by merchants and traders under a single roof. In the 19th century, exchanges became larger, partly the result of improved communications and transportation infrastructure. Two American commodities exchanges formed in the

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