Echoes Dispatches From Economic History
With banking systems reeling, credit shrinking and tariff walls rising, customary trade channels began faltering in 1932. In their place, global and local barter economies developed.
“Following the lead of the United States and Brazil, which traded wheat and coffee, Germany has begun to obtain coffee in exchange for coal, Danish cattle for agricultural implements, and Russian petroleum for electrical machinery,” the Wall Street Journal reported in September.READ MORE
The Past Speaks on how gold-standard madness engulfed the Republican Party
Social Science Research Network on plague, war and urbanization in early modern Europe
The Freeman on the dangers of comparing today's economy to the wrong depression
Munich Personal RePEc Archive on pre-1900 visions of a "cashless society"
The Big Picture on the importance of learning from the history of “false flag terrorism”
Read more from Echoes, Bloomberg View's economic history blog.READ MORE
Boosted by technology and social media, political campaigns have broadened and deepened their funding bases in recent years. Democrats have even rolled out a new text-to-give promotion aimed at soliciting small donations by encouraging voters to text 62262 -- key strokes that spell out President Barack Obama’s last name.
Broadening the funding base has long been a goal of politicians and parties, although some innovations have been more successful than others. In the late 1970s, both parties signed on to an ill-fated plan to actually put party-branded credit cards in constituent hands.READ MORE
Loyalty points, frequent-flier miles, corporate-branded umbrellas, tote bags, stress balls and other trifles: All are contemporary versions of an old and very effective marketing strategy. We have always been suckers for free stuff.
Many of us remember pulverizing dry cereal to dust in an attempt to retrieve a free prize at the bottom of the box. Older generations were drawn to the miniature books, plastic charms and base-metal tokens sealed inside boxes of Cracker Jack. The mix of caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts was often an afterthought.READ MORE
When the New Orleans chugged into the city for which it was named on Jan. 10, 1812, it made history as the first steam-powered vessel to travel the western waters of the U.S. At the time, few people thought it would touch off a commercial revolution.
Within 10 years, however, western-river steamboats carried twice as much freight in two weeks as had gone upriver in all of 1811. The Mississippi River pulsated with commerce. People and goods moved with relative ease between Pittsburgh, St. Paul, St. Louis, New Orleans and even Montana.READ MORE
From Boss Tweed’s influence in the 1800s to political scandals during the Great Depression, New York City was a hotbed of corruption.
Theodore Roosevelt fought it as police commissioner in the 1890s, but when his reform efforts angered corrupt New York politicians, he left to become the assistant secretary of the Navy. A generation later, Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt also confronted New York graft in his efforts against its principal beneficiaries, Tammany Hall, the Democratic machine and New York City Mayor James Walker.READ MORE
Business Insider on nine wars that were really about commodities
Gold Money on the history of exchange-rate regimes
BBC on the dangers of economists' obsession with the Great Depression
The Atlantic on 60 years of U.S. history in one graph
Project Syndicate on Glass-Steagall's ghost
The Exchange on the publication geography of Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations"
History News Network on how Mitt Romney's economic plan misreads history
Read more from Echoes, Bloomberg View's economic history blog.
In the early years of the American republic, Sackets Harbor in upstate New York was one of the U.S. Navy’s most important ports, guarding access to the St. Lawrence River. In the War of 1812, Americans repulsed two British assaults there. As the war ended, they erected an odd memorial to their victories: the forlorn, uncompleted hulk of the battleship New Orleans.
It could still be seen rotting on its stocks 70 years later. If it had been launched, the New Orleans would have been one of the most powerful ships in the Navy. It was larger than Horatio Nelson’s HMS Victory. But when peace came, construction stopped and the New Orleans began its long decline.READ MORE
(Corrects year of railway’s completion in first paragraph and number of buffalo in 14th paragraph.)
The completion of the first transcontinental railway in 1869 divided the Great Plains in two. Some of its earliest passengers were buffalo hunters, and as they spread out from the railroad’s embankments, the vast buffalo herds were divided, as well.READ MORE
In the summer of 1861, shortly after the start of the Civil War, U.S. Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase negotiated a loan of gold from northeastern banks.
Until that gold arrived in Washington, the government planned to issue $50 million in demand notes, a currency payable on demand in gold at any Treasury office, to fund the military effort. Because the Treasury Department had no facility for the production of paper money, a private business in New York, the American Bank Note Company, produced the notes in sheets of four. These sheets were then sent to the Treasury, where scores of workers cut them and trimmed the almost 7 million notes with scissors.READ MORE
“There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that, if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them.”
There couldn’t be a more concise presentation of the current partisan standoff in Congress and also of this year’s presidential race.READ MORE
In 1932, Lancashire, the U.K.’s cotton-manufacturing center, was a terrible mess.
At its peak in 1913, the nation’s cotton industry turned out 8 billion yards of cloth, 85 percent of which was sold abroad, the Economist reported. In 1924, production had slowed to 5.6 billion yards, 83 percent shipped internationally. By 1931, output was dismal, 3.1 billion, as exports shrank 60 percent due to higher tariffs and increasing capacity elsewhere, particularly in Japan.READ MORE
While watching the “Today Show” one morning in 1967 from his Southern California home, Roy Bellman felt his knees buckle. The program was offering remote coverage from the iconic Gimbels department store in New York’s Herald Square. There, a reporter breathlessly introduced the “world’s first computerized ticketing system.”
For Bellman, a manager at Computer Sciences Corp., it was as though the floor had dropped out beneath him. He could barely process the images on the flickering screen because, up until that moment, he had thought that his company -- not the one featured on the “Today Show” -- was developing the world’s first computerized ticketing system.READ MORE
Once, not too long ago, the local shopping district was filled with booksellers and hardware dealers who had known you for years.
Then an out-of-town competitor homed in on the party, offering goods of all sorts delivered from a far-away warehouse. The local merchants, paying rent on their brick- and-mortar stores, couldn’t match the intruder’s prices. One by one, they began to close their doors.READ MORE
Lee Jared Vinsel
Beginning with 2011 model-year vehicles, federal regulators have required automakers to use petite female crash dummies in frontal automotive crash tests.
Several news outlets have picked this story up. Yet they haven’t recognized that it’s part of a longer struggle in business-government relations -- and the product of a long-held cultural resistance to considering gender differences in design.READ MORE
In summer 1932, sections of the Midwest experienced militant and sometimes violent responses to an intensifying agricultural crisis.
Grain farmers denounced futures markets and the ineffectual policies of President Herbert Hoover. Dairy and livestock farmers revolted when unregulated spot markets savaged their returns on investment.READ MORE
Naked Capitalism on the 40-year war on students
History News Network on whether Monica Lewinsky saved Social Security
Slate on the historic importance of the pallet
The New York Times Magazine on predictions of the future from 1964
Wonkblog on how people think recessions are rarer than they are
Read more from Echoes, Bloomberg View's economic history blog.
Lawrence B. Glickman
Representative Paul Ryan, Romney’s recently announced running mate, uses the phrase even more frequently. In his very first speech as Romney’s selection, he called for a return to the founding principles of “liberty, freedom, free enterprise.”READ MORE
Helen Gurley Brown, who died this week at 90, embodied countless contradictions. In her first book, “Sex and the Single Girl” (1962), Brown scandalized the nation by arguing that single women ought to have lives of sexual fulfillment rather than of spinster desperation. Notably, she waited to do this until she had safely nabbed her own Mr. Right, and then wrote the book only at his urging.
She advised women to use their feminine wiles in the work place (though she always contended that sleeping your way to the top was all but impossible). She steered the failing Hearst publication Cosmopolitan far into the black, and into pop culture history, by eliminating all traces of cosmopolitanism and recasting the magazine as a guidebook for what became known as the “Cosmo girl.”READ MORE