Abstract: Investing in Masculinity: Gender Construction in the Banking Trade Press, 1945-1970

Sean A. Vanatta


While aggressively acquisitive, free-market masculinity may seem systemic to the banking profession, the line connecting J. P. Morgan to Gordon Gekko is in fact a long and crooked one. Building on a deep exploration of the American banking press, this paper seeks to trace an alternative piece of this thread: a specific sort of white middle-class masculinity founded on economically stable community leadership and civic responsibility—what I term fiscal paternalism—that emerged in this literature immediately following the Second World War. Male bankers in this period used their trade press to craft a gendered identity that justified the male banker's dominance in his industry and community, and defended this dominance against the increasing encroachments of women and minorities. In doing so, the banking press constrained the possibilities for these groups within the banking industry, constructing gendered roles and spaces that denied both women and African Americans access to the banker identity—a denial with direct repercussions for their entry into actual positions in bank management. By uncovering these gendered constructions and grounding them in the lived realities of bankers and their employees, this paper takes a step toward historicizing banking culture and the shifting currents of banker masculinity.