Abstract: Bunking with Strange Bed-Fellows: The Social Foundations of Interregional Capital Flows in the Late Nineteenth Century

Noam Maggor


In the aftermath of the Civil War, capital from the cities of the Atlantic coast financed railroad construction, mineral extraction, farmland expansion, and industrial manufacturing across North America. Bankers, merchants, and brokers directed this unprecedented wave of capital migration. Far from lurking in back rooms, these men traveled extensively throughout the continent. They observed development, gathered information, and built networks of business connections. These men of capital wielded immense power in shaping the contours of economic activity in the West and across the border in Mexico. The paper attends in particular to the unlikely relationships that underpinned the process of capital movement. It shows how elite Easterners forged webs of interaction that controlled investment patterns. Reaching across class and geographical divides, they overcame the impulse to insulate themselves and instead joined forces with ambitious men of humble backgrounds. Old and new wealth thus socialized in a variety of venues, including feasts hosted by chambers of commerce in aspiring new towns, exotic hunting trips in untamed "wilderness," and luxurious railroad cars in the vast expanses of the West. These encounters presented opportunities for the two groups to mediate political, social, cultural, and ideological differences. Despite wide gulfs separating them, they formed a shared vision of economic development that helped power the second industrial revolution in the United States.