Roundtable Skyscraper Index, Hemline Index, Champagne, Nail Polish, and the Dow Jones

AHA Session 24
Business History Conference 1
Thursday, January 3, 2013: 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
La Galerie 5 (New Orleans Marriott)
Daniel Levinson Wilk, Fashion Institute of Technology
Skyscraper Height and the Business Cycle
Jason Barr, Rutgers University–Newark
The Rise and Fall of the Hemline Index
Clara Berg, Museum of History and Industry
Champagne, Nail Polish, and the Dow Jones
Adam Davidson, Planet Money, National Public Radio

Session Abstract

An index is a measure of an economy and how it changes over time that uses a set of commodities (often stocks) as an estimate of the size and trend of the entire economy.  This panel presents economic and cultural histories of unusual indexes.  They are not computed from the values of a set of stocks and bonds, but from everyday objects--skirts, skyscrapers, etc.   In this roundtable discussion, two specialists (economist Jason Barr and fashion historian Clara Berg) and a generalist (Adam Davidson of NPR's Planet Money and newly regular columnist in the New York Times Magazine) will discuss the origins of the hemline index, the skyscraper index and others, their accuracy in measuring and predicting changes in the economy, their popularity and cultural uses, and their relationship to more traditional indexes like the Dow Jones Industrial Average. 

Many panels submitted in recent years through the Business History Conference's Liaison Committee have put business historians in dialogue with business scholars from other disciplines, business journalists, and business people.  This panel continues in that tradition.

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