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Other People's Money

How Banking Worked in the Early American Republic

Pieces of paper that claimed to be good for two dollars upon redemption at a distant bank. Foreign coins that fluctuated in value from town to town. Stock certificates issued by turnpike or canal companies—worth something... or perhaps nothing. IOUs from farmers or tradesmen, passed around by people who could not know the person who first issued them. Money and banking in antebellum America offered a glaring example of free-market capitalism run amok—unregulated, exuberant, and heading pell-mell toward the next "panic" of burst bubbles and hard times.

In Other People’s Money, Sharon Ann Murphy explains how banking and money worked before the federal government, spurred by the chaos of the Civil War, created the national system of US paper currency. Murphy traces the evolution of banking in America from the founding of the nation, when politicians debated the constitutionality of chartering a national bank, to Andrew Jackson’s role in the Bank War of the early 1830s, to the problems of financing a large-scale war. She reveals how, ultimately, the monetary and banking structures that emerged from the Civil War also provided the basis for our modern financial system, from its formation under the Federal Reserve in 1913 to the present.

Touching on the significant role that numerous historical figures played in shaping American banking—including Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and Louis Brandeis—Other People’s Money is an engaging guide to the heated political fights that surrounded banking in early America as well as to the economic causes and consequences of the financial system that emerged from the turmoil. By helping readers understand the financial history of this period and the way banking shaped the society in which ordinary Americans lived and worked, this book broadens and deepens our knowledge of the Early American Republic.

About the Author

Sharon Ann Murphy is a professor of history at Providence College. She is the author of Investing in Life: Insurance in Antebellum America.

Reviews

"This is a brisk, well-researched tour of how the American finance and banking sector got its start."

- Financial History

"Murphy has provided what should be the go-to source for anyone looking to understand the differences among savings banks, investment banks, and commercial banks in pre-Civil War America; to know what it meant for banks to provide discounts on commercial paper; and to know what terms like fractional reserve, independent treasury, bimetallism, shinplasters, wildcat banks, and bills of exchange meant."

- Civil War Book Review

"Murphy has written what this financial historian considers a sound and reliable introductory or companion text to early American banking that is both engaging and easy-to-read, and at the same time broadly consistent with recent economic research on the topics covered."

- EH.net

"It [Other People's Money] does much to further our understanding of an important feature of international capital markets, and it raises crucial policy issues."

- EH.Net

"The strengths of this work are numerous. In addition to narrating some intriguing vignettes on Abigail Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Herman Melville, this book contains a fascinating array of cartoons and images of credit instruments, many of which are drawn from the author’s extensive personal collection. Murphy’s writing is also straightforward; her analysis, insightful."

- Common-Place

"I recommend Other People’s Money highly to anyone seeking a brief but accurate introduction to this fascinating era in banking and monetary history."

- Business History Review

"Other People’s Money is a beautifully written book on "how banking worked in the early American Republic." Part of Johns Hopkins University Press’s How Things Worked series, the target audience for this book is undergraduates studying U.S. history or economic history. The book condenses a large literature from American history and economic history as well as contemporary material from periodicals and novels into an interdisciplinary narrative of the political battles over money and banking from the early Republic to the Civil War. Murphy’s book shows that the politics of money shaped how money worked."

- Jane Knodell, University of Vermont - Enterprise and Society

Endorsements

"A concise, approachable, and well-organized discussion of US banking up to the Civil War. Murphy clearly explains the mechanics and politics of banking in early America."

- Howard Bodenhorn, author of A History of Banking in Antebellum America: Financial Markets and Economic Development in an Era of Nation-Building

"Logical and coherent, Other People's Money makes eminent sense. It fills a serious void and will be a welcome guidebook to the complicated history of money and banking in this era."

- Stephen Mihm, author of A Nation of Counterfeiters: Capitalists, Con Men, and the Making of the United States

"It is difficult to overstate the quality of Murphy's work. Other People's Money is an outstanding contribution that brilliantly accomplishes the herculean task of digesting the complexities of banking in the early republic. Moreover, Murphy manages to convey these points clearly in immensely readable prose. Helpful for both the layperson and the scholar, this book deserves a place on syllabi and the bookshelves of anyone with an interest in capitalism during this period. Murphy reminds the reader that the story of American banking has a long and complex history, and this erudite study does an excellent job of explaining that complexity in accessible terms."

- Aaron L. Chin, University of New Hampshire - American Nineteenth Century History

"The real strength of Other People's Money can be found in its clear explanation of early American banking. Murphy makes a complex topic simple, but her treatment is anything but simplistic... Because of the book's engaging and lively discussions, I suspect that if it is assigned in classrooms Other People's Money will inspire more than a few students to dive more deeply into the complex and fascinating world of early American banking history."

- Andrew J. B. Fagal, Princeton University - Journal of American History
Johns Hopkins University Press
How Things Worked
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9781421421742 : other-peoples-money-murphy
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Investing in Life

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