Abstracts of Annual Meeting Papers

Annual Meeting Author(s) Title Abstract
2017 BHC Meeting Raúl Bringas-Nostti “Colonel Sanders goes to Mexico: the first venture of the fast food industry into the developing world, 1963-1975”

As founder and initial force behind Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Harland David Sanders, later known as Colonel Sanders, was a pioneering businessman. With the innovative use of pressure cookers, he accelerated the cooking process, which is the very essence of fast food. By polishing his personal image, he became the first popular character in the fast food industry, years before Ronald McDonald was even born. However, Colonel Sanders and his company are not remembered for their third great innovation: the conquest of the developing world. Fast food redefined the urban culture of developing countries. It became one of the core elements of the post-war “clash of civilizations”. In present days, a globalized planet without fast food signs would be unrecognizable. The restaurant KFC built in Monterrey, Mexico, in 1963, was the beginning of a successful expansion. It became the pioneer of a new era in American business “civilization”. In the same year, A&W Restaurants went to Malaysia and the Philippines, but not with the same success. Colonel Sanders traveled to Monterrey to supervise his bold move. This venture was his last contribution as head of the company. In 1964 he sold his assets to a group of investors, but retained a role as advisor and representative. In the following decade, more KFC restaurants opened their doors in Mexico. By then, history had already been made. The customers in Monterrey, who cheered the legendary man with the white suit and the Van Dyke goatee, had witnessed the day fast food arrived to the developing world.

2017 BHC Meeting Evelyn Atkinson Popular Sovereignty and Railroad Regulation: The Saga of the West Wisconsin Railroad

Wisconsin’s infamous Potter law of 1874 is considered the beginning of state attempts to regulate railroad corporations in the late nineteenth century.  Yet the social context of the law has never been explored.  Examining the case study of the West Wisconsin Railroad reveals that the Potter law was merely the tip of a much larger movement to reassert popular sovereignty over railroad corporations that emerged in Wisconsin in the 1870s.  Farmers, along with merchants, townspeople, passengers, lawyers, and politicians, rallied to reclaim what they saw as the right of the people to control corporations like the railroad.  Yet as the experience of the West Wisconsin Railroad illuminates, in practice popular control over the railroads was hard to enforce.  The complete dependency of local communities on the railroads for their livelihoods overcame more abstract claims of popular sovereignty in specific cases.  Even when it was widely conceded that the railroad had abused its privileges and acted unfairly or even illegally, local communities and state actors were often reluctant to enforce the law to hold railroads accountable for fear of losing railroad access altogether.

2017 BHC Meeting Muwei Chen Institutional inertia induced by the institutional change in traditional Nishijin-ori Necktie industry of Kyoto in the post-1970s

The clusters featured by flexible specialization are faced with an increasing diversity of the products turned out and heterogeneity of the actors. As a result, the “subclusters” have formed within the base clusters. And they are influenced by both the base cluster and the industry they belong to. However, the mechanism of how the two forces influence the evolutionary route of the subclusters is not clear. This paper intends to fill this gap by analyzing the history of the Nishijin-ori necktie cluster, a subcluster within the silk weave cluster in Kyoto, in the post-1970s.

This paper argues that the industrial changes and the performance of the base cluster are mediated by the institutions of the subcluster, which are devised and revised by the actors. However, the actors, both the individual entrepreneurs and the professional associations, have either failed in institutional changes or actually reinforced the extant institutions, which resulted in an institutional inertia. In consequence, before the 1990s the industrial crises were buffered by the extant institutions, half relying on the base cluster. But with a decline of the base cluster thereafter, the institutional inertia had hampered the necktie cluster’s ability to deal with industrial changes. Therefore, in the 2000s the industrial crises--- the shift of the ODM&OEM to China and the policy of “no necktie in office”--- have led to an overall decline of the subcluster. On the other hand, the crises in the 2000s suggested chances for institutional changes as can be observed in the entrepreneurs’ endeavors, which aim to bridge a connection between silk weave tradition and a new necktie market.

This study will contribute to an understanding of the dynamism of clusters by bringing in institutional theory. In addition, as to the Nishijin-ori necktie cluster, this study will also complement the lack of research on the silk weave cluster in Kyoto after the 1970s.

2017 BHC Meeting Gregory Ablavsky The Rise of Federal Title

How land was distributed in the United States shifted dramatically in the 1790s.  Although most histories of the federal lands fixate on the Land Ordinance of 1785, which created the rectangular grid, the neglected subsequent decade and a half witnessed an equally significant transformation, as the federal government altered from corporate to governmental distribution of the public lands.

 Initially, the federal government anticipated using land companies, modeled on prerevolutionary efforts, to distribute the public domain.  In its waning days, the Continental Congress sold millions of acres in the Northwest Territory to three such companies: the Ohio, Scioto, and Miami Companies.  These companies would bear the risk and cost of settlement, while the federal government would achieve its policy goals of securing revenue and establishing a clear, systematic method to distribute land.  But in practice, the companies succumbed the era’s rampant speculation on bare promises of ownership; their gambles using implicit congressional endorsement forced the federal government to compensate disgruntled purchasers.  In place of corporate land distribution, the federal government shifted toward direct sales through federal land offices.  This bureaucratic system ultimately governed much of the distribution of federal land over the following century.

 This transformation from corporate to federal land sales has important historiographical implications.  It underscores recent scholarship emphasizing the strength of early national federal government; it demonstrates shifting ideas about the nature and source of ownership in the early United States; and it stresses changing understandings of corporate and governmental power in the early republic, as older models that saw corporate authority as bolstering the state waned.  

2017 BHC Meeting Graeme G. Acheson, Gareth Campbell, and John D. Turner Common Law and the Origin of Shareholder Protection

This paper examines the origins of investor protection under the common law by analysing the development of shareholder protection in Victorian Britain, the home of the common law. In this era, very little was codified, with corporate law simply suggesting a default template of rules. Ultimately, the matter of protection was one for the corporation and its shareholders. Using c.500 articles of association and ownership records of publicly-traded Victorian corporations, we find that corporations afforded investors with just as much protection as is present in modern corporate law and that firms with better shareholder protection had more diffuse ownership.

2017 BHC Meeting Michael Aldous Partners, Servants or Entrepreneurs? Banians in the 19th century Bengal Economy

The difficulties of long-distance trade in the 18th and 19th centuries often saw merchants use intermediaries with expertise of the local markets and languages to carry out various trade functions. In Asia this was described as the ‘comprador’ system, whilst in the Anglo-Indian trade individuals carrying out the same functions were known as ‘banians’. The banians built relationships with individual East India Company managers, overseeing and managing investments, providing capital to them, and becoming wealthy and highly important individuals in their own right.

There is disagreement about how the function of the banians changed over the 19th century, the importance of their role in the trade, and the impact they had on the local economy. The literature suggests that they declined in importance as European business enterprises no longer required their services (Marshall, 1979), and successful banians moved away from commerce to became rentier landlords. A related argument proposes that as the British came to dominate business and politics, Indian commercial interests were subordinated with the banians marginalised (Misra,1999). Yet, British firms continued to employ them until late in the 19th century, and Indian intermediaries remained important in credit and labour markets. There are also indications that Indian business interests evolved in the second half of the 19th century, with successful banians using their experience and contacts to independently enter new industries and establish competitive international operations (Mukherjee, 1967).

This paper explores these debates by examining how the role of the banians, and their interactions with European merchants evolved across the 19th century. It uses new data from Calcutta commercial registers to quantify the number and type of banians operating in Bengal, and other Indian owned businesses. It also uses a range of new qualitative sources including legal contracts with banians to analyze changes in their role and the structure of their relationship with European business interests.

An improved understanding of how and why these roles and relationships changed, offers insight into a number of debates.  First, it enables a reassessment of how the Europeans established themselves in the Indian economy in the 19th century. The evolution of the organisation and function of the European trading firms has been widely examined, but less attention has been paid to the role of Indian intermediaries in enabling the expansion of the Anglo-Indian trade, and the integration of the trading firms into other areas of the Bengali economy. Analysis of the function of intermediation provides an interesting lens through which to assess the changing structure and operations of the trading firms, identifying which activities could be outsourced or integrated, to reveal changes in their capabilities and focus of activity.

Second, the banians were conduits between cultures, bellwethers of the relationship between the European and Indian communities, transferring knowledge in both directions. Examination of these relationships allows analysis of how long-run collaborations between different cultural groups shape the transference of knowledge and development of commercial systems.  That the Europeans benefited from the banians knowledge of local markets is clear, what is less understood is the role they played in shaping Indian owned business. In particular, the marginalisation of Indian business interests is proscribed as a cause of entrepreneurial and economic stagnation in the 20th century, yet the evidence for this is conflicting. There is an interesting opportunity to examine how the organisation and ownership of Indian business evolved in the 19th century, and consider how this affected the long-run development of Indian business organisation.

2017 BHC Meeting Rolv Petter Amdam Creating the new executive: Post-war executive education in a civilization perspective

In the US, executive education defined as short non-degree business school programs, emerged out of the managerial revolution as an offer to assist the new professional top executives to define their role and act accordingly in the context of civilization.  While previous business leaders were embedded in social structures and norms through ownership, the new CEO was detached from such strong ties. These executives needed assistance to develop into actors who could take the process of changing civilization further, or as Professor Fritz Roetliesberger who was one of the creators of the first Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School in 1945, said:  “At that time I decided that my goal was not to make persons into better executives but to make executives into better persons.”

This paper explores the content of executive education from 1945 to the 1970s. Ideas of profitability and efficiency were strongly represented in the new programs. However, the paper offers an alternative cultural-based interpretation of the phenomenon. Post-war executive education was an expression of how the academic community acted according to its societal obligations by offering the new leaders norms and values that could replace what was lost during the managerial revolution. This perspective gives meaning to the observations that these programs discussed issues like how to deal with loneliness, how to cooperate, how to work in team, how to act in the civil society, and even how to be a good dancer. This function legitimized executive education within the business schools, which at time primarily was characterized by a very different logic of scientization.

2017 BHC Meeting Enrico Beltramini Civilization Builders: The Case of Space Entrepreneurs

This paper addresses the current notion of space entrepreneurship through the history of RpK, a commercial space transportation company. From 2006 to 2013, the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program administered by NASA endeavored to stimulate U.S. commercial space transportation capabilities by pursuing a new way of doing business with industry. In August 2006, NASA selected SpaceX and RpK as its first COTS partners. The history of RpK revels the selective path to success that is available for space entrepreneurship between governmental regulations and financial requirements. 

2017 BHC Meeting Gavin Benke John Naisbitt’s Trend Letter: Reimagining Business Civilization in the 1980s

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, John Naisbitt enjoyed success as a trend forecaster. In his paid speaking engagements, his two subscription-based publications, and his 1982 book, Megatrends, the author and publisher offered a way for executives to make sense of potentially unsettling economic, political and social transformation by tracking tiny changes taking place all over the country. These documents offer glimpses of an informal, but vibrant, discourse that helped shape managers’ sense of the global economy in the 1980s. Tucked in among the many trends he saw as important, including tofu - “the yogurt of the eighties” – Naisbitt provided a coherent narrative and chronicle of a business scene that was becoming more international in scope. Naisbitt, in other words, detailed events that he saw as evidence of a globalizing economy. In this paper, I trace how Naisbitt’s evolving concept of a “business state” - or civilization - shaped American managers’ sense of globalization.

 

2017 BHC Meeting Mark Billings, Philip Garnett, and Simon Mollan Amalgamation and Survival in Lancashire Banking

Britain’s commercial banking system had become heavily concentrated by 1920.  Five large London-based banks dominated, having grown through a process of amalgamation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  A pocket of exceptionalism remained in northwest England, with a handful of banks with their head offices in Manchester and Liverpool.  These banks had merged or been taken over by larger banks by 1940, victims of interwar depression and the long-term decline of some of their major customers in cotton textiles manufacturing.  This paper explains and analyses this process of consolidation, driven by the Governor of the Bank of England, Montagu Norman.  But the process took much longer than he had anticipated, and did not deliver his initial aim of creating a single large bank to counterbalance the Big Five.  Nevertheless, Norman showed considerable persistence in overcoming the obstacles to reshaping Lancashire banking to secure financial stability. Familiar banking themes are present: the risks of herd-like behaviour and geographical and industry concentration in lending; the key role of the central bank in orchestrating support for weak banks; the dominance of a small number of large ‘too-big-to-fail’ banks; and the tensions between competition, diversification, moral hazard, stability, and trust.

2017 BHC Meeting Jennifer M. Black Respectfully Soliciting your Patronage: The Language of Legitimacy in Antebellum Advertising

          In January 1844, printers Ackerman & Miller placed an advertisement in the New York Tribune, soliciting orders from the public.  The Nassau Street firm addressed their audience formally—“To Merchants in want of signs for new firms, &c.”—and promised “superior” work, even offering to match competitors’ pricing while providing “as artistical” a product.  They implored the public to “call and ascertain our charges, before leaving your [sic] orders elsewhere,” and closed with “Yours respectfully, Ackerman & Miller.”  This self-conscious address to the public combined several elements that sought to alleviate public concerns about hucksters and frauds in New York, including a rhetoric that mimicked genteel forms of written address, and a shrewd promise to meet competitors’ pricing and quality in exchange for the consumer’s favor. 

            This paper examines newspaper advertisements to determine how business owners responded to a crisis in legitimacy in the antebellum period, when urban marketplaces lacked widespread regulation and illicit hucksters intermingled with legitimate entrepreneurs.  The “free-wheeling” marketplace of the antebellum city has been well-documented by historians such as Stephen Mihm, Wendy Woloson, and Robert J. Gamble, who point to the high presence of counterfeit goods and money, secondhand dealers in stolen merchandise, and warnings of confidence men waiting to swindle unsuspecting marks.  Amidst this unsavory landscape, some business owners in New York City employed the codes of genteel expression when inviting potential clients to call.  This form of relationship-building through print helped middle-class business owners encode their solicitations with civility to position themselves as worthy of the public’s patronage.  Genteel language also helped to validate such addresses in opposition to the many clandestine forms of commerce in the antebellum city.  Echoing the prescriptions for transparent behavior that appeared in contemporary etiquette manuals, these ads betray entrepreneurs’ anxieties about their own positions in the market economy, and suggest that language provided a mode of asserting one’s identity as a legitimate business owner.  This paper thus examines the ways that business owners sought to navigate the boundaries of legitimate and illegitimate commerce by turning to advertising rhetoric as a self-conscious display of civility and character.  

2017 BHC Meeting Kendra Boyd Urban Renewal and the Decline of Black Business in Mid-twentieth Century Detroit

In my paper I will discuss two civilizing missions: one which used business as a means of racial uplift, and the other which sought to redevelop urban neighborhoods in order to construct modern cities in the mid-twentieth century. Most scholarship on the effects of urban renewal on communities has focused on the issue of housing and the displacement of residents. However, I contend that black entrepreneurs’ experiences with urban renewal highlight the ways urban planner’s vision of modernity truncated the progress of Detroit’s black business community.

At the start of the twentieth century, Booker T. Washington’s influential philosophy of pursuing racial uplift through accumulating wealth was widely accepted by African Americans across the nation. As blacks left the south for urban centers in the North and West during the Great Migration, they took with them a vision for achieving black economic independence, self-determination, and financial security though business. Though they faced obstacles, black entrepreneurs in Detroit were able to achieve considerable success from the 1920s through the 1940s. However, in the late forties city planners began planning freeway construction and urban redevelopment projects that would devastate the black business community in the 1950s and 1960s.

2017 BHC Meeting Mara Caden Credit and the Advent of Paper Money in Colonial Pennsylvania

The boundary between money and credit became increasingly fragile in the eighteenth century. In the early 1720s, the colony of Pennsylvania suffered a severe shortage of coin, brought on by a combination of the province’s position as a net importer of goods and the recent collapse of the South Sea Bubble. In response, the province issued its first paper money in 1723. Pennsylvania was the first British colony to create a permanent circulating paper currency, but in discussions about the initial paper money emission, most referred to it as paper credit. The notes were issued by a General Loan Office and were backed by land values—in essence, they were a type of mortgage. Increasingly, Pennsylvanians began to refer to these notes as paper money. This terminological change highlights a wider transition in Britain and its colonies from the treatment of money as a concrete and intrinsically valued commodity to money as an abstract instrument of exchange. Pennsylvania’s paper currency engendered deep divisions in Pennsylvania society and with governing bodies in Britain—divisions that were often over the meaning and function of money and credit. Were the notes that Pennsylvania’s General Loan Office issued a form of credit or a form of currency? Notions of inflation and intrinsic value intertwined with notions of trust and creditworthiness in the debates over the proper use and quantity of paper credit. This paper explores those divisions to explain why Pennsylvania’s paper money was so limited. Despite the high popular enthusiasm for paper money and the dire need for an alternative to coin, the problem of trust limited the scope of Pennsylvania’s paper currency.

2017 BHC Meeting Henderson Carter “Degrading the Civilising Mission”: The Operation of the Plantation System in Barbados, 1838 to 1876

In the four decades after emancipation in Barbados (1838 to 1876), missionaries harboured notions of the “backwardness” of the newly emancipated persons and sought to “civilise” the negro. While their main goal was the Christianisation of the freed persons, they also envisaged the advancement of the society.  The paper applies the “civilising” mission, not to the moral condition of the labourers, but to the plantation society which contained many “brutish” and coercive aspects that retarded its development. It is argued that in the period 1838 to 1876, missionaries and liberal planter groups sought the removal of the punitive aspects of the plantation system such as child labour and evictions from estate houses. However, the general planter body in Barbados denounced the liberal reformist groups and adopted initiatives which prevented social improvements, thereby “degrading the civilising mission”. This was done, not because of economic difficulties, but to maintain plantation profitability and control over labour.

2017 BHC Meeting Youssef Cassis, Anna Knaps, Giuseppe Telesca The Memory of Financial Crises: The Great Depression and the Global Financial Crisis of 2008

It is usually assumed that financial markets have a short memory: crises are quickly forgotten and excessive risk-taking replaces caution as new business and profit opportunities arise, with the conviction that ‘this time is different’, to use Reinhart’s and Rogoff’s formula. On the other hand, comparisons with the great depression of the 1930s feature prominently in commentaries on the depth and spread of the global financial crisis of 2008 and reveal the extent to which policy-makers seek to ‘learn’ from the past. But how relevant is the past as a guide to the present, or even the future, and how is it used when policymakers, bankers and the public are faced with difficult economic challenges?

Surprisingly, economists and economic historians have paid little attention to memory in their attempts to explain financial crises.  And despite the ‘memory boom’ that started some forty years ago with Pierre Nora’s Les lieux de mémoire, few business historians have made use of the concept of memory, however vaguely defined, for the analysis of financial crises and their aftermath. This paper, part of a larger project, is a first attempt to reflect on how and by whom financial crises have been remembered, why some have been remembered and others forgotten, and what use has been made of the memory of financial crises, whether for economic or political purposes.

The paper considers how the financial crises of the Great Depression (the Wall Street crash of 1929 and the various banking crises that broke out in Europe and the United States between 1931 and 1934) have been both remembered and discussed in terms of lesson-drawing since the end of the Second World War, especially at the time of significant anniversaries (twenty-fifth, fiftieth, seventy-fifth) and outbreaks of meaningful financial crises (1974, 1982, 1987, 1997, 2008). The collective memory of financial crises is analysed through the leading newspapers, the archives of the major banks (reports, memos, etc.) and the memoirs, when available, of some of the main actors, in Britain, France, Germany, and the United States. Particular attention is paid to the fading and changing of memory and its replacement by historical and economic analysis; to the ephemeral role of the Great Depression as a warning signal, and its different use by bankers and policymakers.

2017 BHC Meeting Stephen Chambers When the Business of Civilization Gets Personal: The Civilizing Process of Family Business in Massachusetts

In early nineteenth-century Massachusetts, business was personal--but why? It is by no means obvious that insurance, banking, and manufacturing empires situated in a relatively concentrated geography should have been networked according to kinship and family ties. In the years from the Early Republic to the Civil War, the region’s economy boomed and was reconfigured by the creation of a network of canals, railroads, textile manufacturing, and commercial infrastructure that shifted entire populations, doubling the size of cities in just a handful of years, and, in some instances cases, creating new towns entirely. This economic and social transformation has been well-documented by generations of historians, as has the concentration of commercial power that accompanied it.

Yet, why should Massachusetts commercial families have invested in domestic manufacturing? The long-term returns at Lowell, for example, were just 7.9 percent annually, which was less than 2 percentage points above the legal rate of bank interest. And why should this have been shaped into a coherent business civilization defined by family? The explanation lies in what immediately preceded and accompanied this wave of early industrialization in New England: namely, the expansion of complimentary-competitive global trade depots in the region. From this perspective, banks and mills were conceived as stable “adventures”—ships that did not move. 

2017 BHC Meeting David L. Chappell Conflicted Meanings of Corporation before the Dartmouth Decision (1819)

Pauline Maier posed a startling question in her 1993 article, "Revolutionary Origins of the American Corporation." Why did the new United States host an unprecedented contagion of incorporations--in which the number of corporate charters quickly dwarfed the number in England and other modern states? The usual explanation in American economics texts for the growth corporations in the U.S. (still casually echoed by historians and legal scholars) has been that incorporation removed financial barriers to industrialization: the legal privilege of incorporation uniquely enabled disparate strangers to pool capital and reduce risk with limited liability. Yet as Maier noted, the first modern industrial revolution, England’s, did not in fact rely on corporations as the U.S. did. The data suggest that well into the 19th century -- even in highly commercialized and industrializing states like Pennsylvania -- the predominant purpose of incorporation was not commerce but municipal government. A full solution to Maier’s mystery requires appreciation and analysis of the meanings of the highly contested and elastic word "corporation" --and equivalent and cognate terms-- in rapidly changing contexts, long before what we think of as modern manufactures and the Age of Revolution. This paper will begin to outline some of the highlights of those meanings, mainly by zeroing in on the first recognizably English lawgivers and codifiers, William the Conqueror, Ranulf de Glanvill, and Henry Bracton. Ultimately, inventory and analysis of the usages of "corporation" (and other terms that were interchangeable with it) will not only help unravel Maier's mystery but perhaps shed new light on a modern nation that prides itself on its individualism, and yet seems to demand an unusually high concentration of collective power in "private" as well as public institutions. The investigation may suggest a new perspective on how corporations above all serve, perhaps inadvertently, to obscure shifts in the line between private and public. From this may emerge a picture of the North’s peculiar institution playing an unexpected role in shaping constitutional development as much as slavery did.

2017 BHC Meeting Muwei Chen Institutional inertia induced by the institutional change in traditional Nishijin-ori Necktie industry of Kyoto in the post-1970s

The clusters featured by flexible specialization are faced with an increasing diversity of the products turned out and heterogeneity of the actors. As a result, the “subclusters” have formed within the base clusters. And they are influenced by both the base cluster and the industry they belong to. However, the mechanism of how the two forces influence the evolutionary route of the subclusters is not clear. This paper intends to fill this gap by analyzing the history of the Nishijin-ori necktie cluster, a subcluster within the silk weave cluster in Kyoto, in the post-1970s.

This paper argues that the industrial changes and the performance of the base cluster are mediated by the institutions of the subcluster, which are devised and revised by the actors. However, the actors, both the individual entrepreneurs and the professional associations, have either failed in institutional changes or actually reinforced the extant institutions, which resulted in an institutional inertia. In consequence, before the 1990s the industrial crises were buffered by the extant institutions, half relying on the base cluster. But with a decline of the base cluster thereafter, the institutional inertia had hampered the necktie cluster’s ability to deal with industrial changes. Therefore, in the 2000s the industrial crises--- the shift of the ODM&OEM to China and the policy of “no necktie in office”--- have led to an overall decline of the subcluster. On the other hand, the crises in the 2000s suggested chances for institutional changes as can be observed in the entrepreneurs’ endeavors, which aim to bridge a connection between silk weave tradition and a new necktie market.

This study will contribute to an understanding of the dynamism of clusters by bringing in institutional theory. In addition, as to the Nishijin-ori necktie cluster, this study will also complement the lack of research on the silk weave cluster in Kyoto after the 1970s.

2017 BHC Meeting Albert Churella Railroads, War, and Conscience: Reconciling Business and Religion in 1840s Philadelphia

            Business and religion have each been regarded as profoundly civilizing forces, sometimes operating in tandem, and sometimes in opposition to one another.  Since the seventeenth century, Philadelphia’s Quakers had successfully blended economic acumen with religious commitment as part of their civilizing vision.  The transportation revolution of the early nineteenth century induced new forms of corporate organization and business finance, calling into question the ability of Friends to maintain both their religious and their commercial values.

            This paper explores the difficult choices facing Quakers who invested in the railroad business during the 1840s.  Disagreements between Hickside and Orthodox (Gurneyite) Friends shaped debates concerning the investment of municipal funds in railroad construction.  On the state level, charter provisions requiring that railroads transport troops and war matériel at a discount troubled many Quakers who viewed the Mexican War as an act of unprovoked aggression designed to enhance the power of the slave-owing southern aristocracy. 

      Primary sources, ranging from the diaries of merchants to the minute books of railroad corporations, suggest that a crisis of conscience affected the Quaker community during the first half of the nineteenth century.  Quakers went to extraordinary lengths to reconcile their new business activities with their longstanding religious traditions.  Friends opposed both war and slavery, yet invested in activities that promoted both.  Theirs was not a crass decision to place profits ahead of principles.  Instead they struggled to balance their obligations to their community and to their businesses against the moral imperative of their inner light.  In an economic arena where business, society, government, and politics had become so thoroughly intertwined, they found it impossible to opt out of any activities that violated the tenents of their faith.

2017 BHC Meeting Mandy L. Cooper 'I am induced to trouble you': Family, Affective Labor, and Business Networks in the Antebellum U.S.

The scholarship on business and economics in the nineteenth-century United States has emphasized the importance of personal relationships for establishing credit, with familial relationships central to establishing personal and economic credit. Yet, business and credit networks and their activities are often viewed as public simply because of their economic and political work.

This paper uses emotion as a lens to examine the creation and maintenance of familial business networks in the antebellum period. Analyzing the correspondence of extended familial business networks demonstrates that such networks were extended and maintained through adherence to emotional conventions specific to distinct yet overlapping communities – familial, business, and political. Within business culture, these conventions included using the language of favors (which implied reciprocity); relying upon assurances of friendship, respect, and intimacy; and deploying the metaphor of servitude. Deploying the language of favors in business correspondence reinforced reciprocal obligations of support in family networks generally and in business networks more specifically, tying the economic interests of individual members together. Similarly, assurances of friendship and respect built the trust necessary for credit and conducting business transactions from afar. Many business relationships were explicitly hierarchical, as evidenced by the repetitions of phrases such as “Your Obedient Servant” in correspondence. The use of servant carried very different connotations than employee. Where an employee remained in the seemingly public world outside the home, a servant breached the boundary into the home and consequently into the seemingly private world of the family. Men and women utilized these conventions to establish and maintain trust and credit, reinforce reciprocal obligations of membership, and ensure the success of the family network’s economic interests. Thus, this paper argues that the use of such conventions in business correspondence created, extended, and maintained business networks while firmly ensconcing them in the private world of the family.

2017 BHC Meeting Mark J. Crowley Thrift, Saving and the Role of the Post Office Savings Bank in Britain in War and Peace, c.1914-1945

This paper will focus primarily on the way in which the Post Office Savings Bank (POSB) proved instrumental in the shaping of attitudes among the British people towards savings in the period 1918-45.  It contends that the presence and contribution of the POSB to both the First and Second World Wars galvanised the nation by creating the inextricable connection between savings and national strength.  Saving became a national requirement during both wars, but in peacetime, the POSB also provided schemes for saving in the interest of preparing for later enjoyment (such as leisure activities and holidays). Martin Daunton’s study of the Post Office has argued that the earlier savings bank movements prior to the creation of the POSB were regarded as ‘paternalistic rather than democratic, without a sense of collective identity and purpose.’   Thus, the creation of the POSB sought not only to fill this gap in the society, but also increase people’s trust in the savings movement.    
This paper will show how war changed the government’s perceptions concerning the importance of savings and the participation of the working-class in the savings movement.  Furthermore, it will demonstrate how the experience of the First World War informed the preparations and initiatives of the POSB in preparation for the Second World War. Ultimately, it will display how the POSB acted as a complementary force to the pre-existing high street banks and other financial services used by the working class, and how it worked to define new perceptions concerning saving and spending in the first half of the twentieth century in Britain.  Drawing on a range of archival material from the British Postal Museum and Archive, the National Archives (Public Records Office) and the Mass Observation Archive (Sussex), this paper provides insight into both the government and public perceptions of the Post Office Savings Bank as an institution for encouraging saving and communicating the government’s wartime propaganda.

 

2017 BHC Meeting Tom Cutterham Credit and Deception in Transatlantic Finance, 1784-1792

Credit is a relation of knowledge, a form of information that helps business actors make judgments about potential partners. But of course, that knowledge is always partial and asymmetric—information is liable to being hidden, manipulated, and even forged. This paper uses the correspondence of revolutionary-era merchant Daniel Parker, who traded in United States public debt in the years either side of the Constitutional Convention, to catalogue the methods by which deception shaped relations of credit in this emerging market. It argues that historians are overly sanguine when they see credit as an efficient mechanism for judging commercial risk in the eighteenth century. More than that, it suggests that deception—and the manipulation of credit relations—was crucial to the formation of such high-risk, long-distance markets. Men like Parker were both con-artists and classic entrepreneurs. Without them, the early public finance of the United States would have turned out quite differently.

2017 BHC Meeting Phillip Dehne Rebuilding “Business Civilization” After the Great War: Dilemmas Facing the Supreme Economic Council in Paris 1919

The First World War produced an economic calamity across all of Europe, but particularly in the devastated lands of the central and eastern European empires that lost the war.  In early 1919 during the months immediately following the armistice, politicians, diplomats, businessmen, and socialites from all the victorious powers gathered in Paris to craft the peace treaties.  They were confronted by a wide variety of immediate crises, perhaps the most overwhelming of which was social unrest among the starving people of central Europe.   Such disturbances threatened to bring down barely functioning new governments under a wave of Bolshevism from the east. 

To deal with these difficulties, the leaders of the Conference – Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd George of Britain, and Georges Clemenceau of France – decided in early February to create a Supreme Economic Council (SEC), comprised of the leaders of their wartime economic systems.  Its leaders, including the former Minister of Blockade Lord Robert Cecil of Britain, the Treasury official John Maynard Keynes, French Minister of Commerce Étienne Clémentel, and American businessmen including Bernard Baruch and Herbert Hoover, agreed that to solve the fundamental problems of central Europe (lack of jobs and uncertain food supplies) they must help to restart trade there.  The members of the SEC disagreed, however, about the best course of action to achieve this. This paper describes this debate in Paris about how to revive or perhaps recreate the business civilization of Europe. 

2017 BHC Meeting Nathan Delaney Futures Markets as Trustbusters: The Secretan Copper Corner and the London Metal Exchange, 1887-89

The business history of the late nineteenth century was to a large extent characterized by attempts at monopolistic combination in both the US and Europe. As historians know, cartels, trusts, and syndicates proved to be tempting alternatives to the price wars and volatile commodity markets that developed in the wake of the Depression of 1873. One particularly vivid example occurred when a group of producers and financiers attempted to corner the copper market from 1887-1889. This phenomenon came to be known as the Secrétan Syndicate.

After years of overproduction, large shareholders of copper companies began clamoring for a collective solution in order to arrest declining copper prices and company profits. In 1887, a plan was devised by Pierre Secrétan, owner of the largest copper fabricator in Europe, who recruited a group of 16 European investors to help buy up the world’s visible supply of copper. From November 1887 through September 1888, Secrétan’s Société des Métaux came to control 80 percent of the world’s copper supply, effectively cornering the global market. In the process, the syndicate sent copper prices on the London Metal Exchange soaring from £40 per ton to £106.

The Paris scheme’s success, however, proved to be fleeting. Obstinate LME traders sold short 3-month copper futures, betting that the newly inflated prices would signal for new sources of supply. The bear’s risky wager soon paid off as red metal poured into London from around the world, satisfying both the traders’ maturing “short” bets while simultaneously breaking the Syndicate’s monopoly.

While historians of capitalism have often interpreted financial institutions (like the LME) as little more than dens of greed and speculation—enriching middlemen at the expense of honest producers—the story of the Secrétan Syndicate shows how futures markets can, in some circumstances, unsettle monopolistic market arrangements. In this case, speculators managed to enrich both themselves and the consuming public at the expense of producers.

2017 BHC Meeting Lynne P. Doti Creating Business Communities in the Spanish California Missions

Starting in 1769, the Spanish established missions in Alta California to create Spanish communities and convert the Natives Californians to Catholicism. A small band of soldiers, Franciscan priests and volunteers walked from Baja California to San Francisco Bay through semi-arid, scarcely populated land, stopping occasionally to establish a location for a mission. As at each location, missionary priests, soldiers and Indians from Baja California stayed behind. Since the total number of people left to establish the mission was less than ten, they needed the local Indians to help establish the community. They attracted the local Indians with gifts, then recruited some of these Native Californians to join the religious community and perform the work necessary to create a mission community. By 1790, some of these missions had a population of more than a thousand people, each still with only a handful of priests and soldiers. While a regimented work schedule, whipping, increased contact with foreign disease, and repression of their customs were negative aspects of mission life, almost all the local tribal members joined and stayed willingly. It is hypothesized that they stayed because they desired more reliable supplies of food and clothing, housing, and protection that the mission offered. While missions were promised support from Spain, they quickly became self-supporting, with surplus goods available for trade. The missions traded with passing ships, and developed the skills of the Indians to create thriving economies. These communities offered an attractive lifestyle which contributed to the Native Californians’ willingness to stay and work.