Wells Fargo and the Gold Rush

           Much as it was for the country as a whole, the middle of the 19th century was a formative era for American finance. The Era of Free Banking was a period of very little regulation of banks and saw the founding of many of them. But two of today’s most massive American financial firms, Wells

Postal Savings Systems

           Like almost everything else, access to banking services is often unappreciated by those who have it. Yet, it is so important to economic development and improving the standard of living of ordinary people that it is often a key policy focus of developing countries, and not just their governments. From microfinance to fintech, new approaches

The Knickerbocker Trust Company

           Financial crises have been around longer than many realize. Imagine reading that the stock market plunges by 50%, recession follows, investment firms and banks fail across the country, and the government seeks to get to the bottom of what happened. Could that be describing the Great Depression or the most recent recession? In either case,

Pricing in Eighths

           Up until the year 2000, stock exchanges in the US quoted share prices in eighths. That meant the smallest increment that a stock could move was one-eighth of a dollar, nothing less. In the normal course of a trading day, one share of FedEx would trade hands at $14.125 or $14.25 but nothing in between.

How Stamps Funded a War

           Ever since late medieval Italian city-states sold bonds to finance wars, the availability of debt financing has been crucial to the war-fighting ability of almost every country. However, not until the 20th century did their financing become a public affair. War Bonds played a significant role in civilian participation in the war effort during both

The Tontine Coffee-House

           Those who know a bit about New York’s financial past have almost certainly heard of the Buttonwood Agreement. In 1792, two dozen stockbrokers signed a now famous pact agreeing to trade directly with each other, bypassing any middlemen, under a Buttonwood tree on Wall Street. This agreement standardized trading between them and is thus thought