Saturday, January 5, 2019: 8:30 AM
Chicago Room (Palmer House Hilton)
The starting point for this paper is the question of why the stock market loomed so large in the American cultural imagination in the late nineteenth century, if only 1% of Americans were invested in it. Whereas earlier in the nineteenth century reports on stocks and shares had largely been confined to specialist publications for market insiders, in the Gilded Age a popular culture of finance came to matter to the general public, who bought it in large numbers. In effect Americans become emotionally invested in the stock market long before they came to hold actual investments. This paper explores the connections between a range of how-to manuals designed to instruct and entice investors, and the stock ticker’s seemingly objective and purportedly democratizing reporting of data. It argues that these new, supposedly scientific modes of stock market prediction involving charts and diagrams set themselves up in contrast to folk forms of financial knowledge, but at the same time they actually incorporated many of those elements.
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