The Marketplace of Ideas: The Business of Knowing in 19th-Century America

Friday, January 5, 2018: 4:30 PM
Thurgood Marshall East (Marriott Wardman Park)
Travis E. Ross, Beinecke Library, Yale University
This paper will examine the business of knowledge production in

nineteenth-century America, particularly the ways in which publishing companies

and people across the social spectrum used subscription publishing to negotiate

cultural, intellectual, and economic support for works according to their tastes

and values. This paper will examine the history of subscription publishing as it

changed during the nineteenth century with an eye toward the ways in which

other kinds of subscription goods, services, and organizations changed during

the same period. This paper will contextualize the ostensibly new, online

phenomenon of crowdfunding by demonstrating how subscription publishing

gave potential subscribers an opportunity not only to consume particular kinds of

information, but also to shape the production of knowledge for the imagined

benefit of American society. In giving them an opportunity to shape knowledge

production as subscribers, this publishing scheme simultaneously allowed even

common Americans to act as patrons of the press even as it further conditioned

them to exert political, cultural, and social agency primarily by acting as


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