Journal of American History

Articles

“Where the Common People Could Speculate”: The Ticker, Bucket Shops, and the Origins of Popular Participation in Financial Markets, 1880–1920

This photograph of the main New York City office of the bucket shop Haight & Freese shows the proximity of the tickers to the order desk.
Courtesy Haight & Freese’s Guide to Investors (Philadelphia, 1899).

David Hochfelder explores the relationship between technological innovation, social change, and cultural expectations by showing how the stock ticker increased participation in the nation’s financial markets. By 1880 the ticker broadcast real-time market information to thousands of locations. But high margins, large lot sizes, and broker commissions barred all but the wealthy from the markets. Bucket shops, where patrons gambled small sums on the price movements of stocks and commodities, were the only venue for people of limited means to participate, however vicariously, in financial markets. The ticker, by its intimate connection to bucket shops, helped make speculation a popular leisure activity and exposed trouble-some moral and economic relationships between markets and gambling. (pp. 335–58) Read online >

“Religion as Identity in Postwar America: The Last Serious Attempt to Put a Question on Religion in the United States Census”

Conrad Taeuber, pictured here, was assistant director for demographic fields for the 1960 U.S. census. Charged with designing the questionnaire for that census, Taeuber sought to include a question that read: "What is your religion?"
Courtesy U.S. Census Bureau.

In post-World War II America, religion became a social marker almost as important as race. When the United States Census Bureau publicly considered putting a question on religion in the 1960 census, it sparked a nation-wide debate dominated by organized Catholics and Jews who sought to solidify their position in a pluralistic America. Kevin M. Schultz argues that this confrontation shows Catholics’ hope that their numbers would solidify their credentials as good Americans, American Jews’ fear that the data would revive hostile stereotypes, and the Protestant majority’s ambivalence. The decision to leave religious questions out of the census demonstrates the power of the organized Jewish community to affect American institutions through mobilization and alliances with others uneasy about public recognition of religion. (pp. 359–84) Read online >

Exchange

American Consumerism

Our conversation, “Exchange: American Consumerism,” offers a critique of the emergent field of consumer history followed by comments from two historians who have done much to establish the field.

All Hail the Republic of Choice: Consumer History as Contemporary Thought

Consumer history rests on interpretive assumptions drawn from anthropology and media studies: that consumer choice is an autonomous act; that consumer choice reflects group solidarities and reinforces cultural diversity; and that consumer choices have dictated the course of American history. David Steigerwald scrutinizes the development of those often unexamined analytical premises. He argues that consumption is ordinarily a trivial and subjective act without larger importance and that the prevailing assumptions about consumption tell us more about the present intellectual moment than about the past. (pp. 385–403) Read online >

Will American Consumers Buy a Second American Revolution?

Like David Steigerwald, T. H. Breen questions the value of treating consumption as an overarching, independent analytic category, but he challenges Steigerwald’s rejection of consumption as a historical force for political liberation. Instead, Breen contends that consumer behavior acquired effective meaning—especially, political meaning—in specific historical contexts. Focusing on popular mobilization on the eve of the American Revolution, he links household consumption with production and suggests that individual decisions about purchasing manufactured items could become a powerful form of political resistance within communities of men and women prepared to demand consumer sacrifice in the name of a common good. (pp. 404–08) Read online >

Escaping Steigerwald’s “Plastic Cages”: Consumers as Subjects and Objects in Modern Capitalism

Lizabeth Cohen welcomes David Steigerwald’s examination of the fertile but chaotic field of consumer history as a positive step in the maturation of the evolving scholarship. Acknowledging his praise for her focus on the material, objective reality of consumption over consumers’ subjective meaning making and on the ways consumption has oppressed rather than liberated Americans, she nonetheless challenges Steigerwald’s stark dichotomies. She proposes that consumers’ subjective responses and the structures of capitalism exist in dialectical relationship. Two contemporary cases–how China’s consumers have changed McDonald’s and how a Hollywood movie has inspired Latinos to protest recent congressional action on immigration–demonstrate that consumer response can alter economic and political realities. (pp. 409–13) Read online >

Round Table

Contemporary Anti-Americanism

The JAH round table “Contemporary Anti-Americanism” showcases the reflections of Rob Kroes, a Dutch scholar who directed the University of Amsterdam’s American Studies Program. On his retirement in 2005, he delivered a farewell address. Reprinted here, Kroes’s address describes his lifelong affinity with the United States, as a country and a culture, and details how his affection has been shaken by recent American policies. Kroes had explored anti-Americanism throughout his career, examining the perceptions and misperceptions that led other nations to resist America’s impact on their collective lives. In the past few years, however, the topic gained personal poignancy. For the first time in his life, the author has felt forced to measure the shift in his inner image of America and to ask the question: Had he become anti-American himself? (pp. 414–51)

To introduce Kroes’s essay, David Thelen comments on Kroes’s career in connection with European encounters with American culture and politics since World War II. Kroes’s piece is followed by responses from an international group of scholars—David Chidester, Kate Delaney, László Pordány, and Philippe Roger—who offer their perspectives on the current state of anti-Americanism.

  • A Moment in a Scholar’s Understanding of America: Attending Rob Kroess Retirement Talk
    David Thelen (pp. 414–416) Read online >
  • European Anti-Americanism: What’s New?
    Rob Kroes (pp. 417–31) Read online >
  • Atlantic Community, Atlantic World: Anti-Americanism between Europe and Africa
    David Chidester (pp. 432–436) Read online >
  • What’s New? Don’t Forget Capitol Hill
    Kate Delaney (pp. 437–40) Read online >
  • The Eastern European Scene
    László Pordány (pp. 441–47) Read online >
  • Global Anti-Americanism and the Lessons of the “French Exception”
    Philippe Roger (pp. 448–51) Read online >

Interchange

A poster in the War Museum in Hanoi, Vietnam, shows North Vietnamese artists' ongoing anger at the United States over the war and their sense of triumph at having defeated both the United States and China. The poster above was created by Huynh Van Gum and printed in 1965. The flag attached to the bayonet is the flag of the North Vietnamese National Liberation Front (NFL). The top half is red, representing Communism, and the bottom half is blue, the color of brotherhood, referring to the  NFL fighters' ties to their "brothers" in South Vietnam.
Courtesy Ted Engelmann.

Legacies of the Vietnam War

David Anderson, Christian Appy, Mark Philip Bradley, Robert K. Brigham, Ted Engelmann, Patrick Hagopian, Luu Doan Huynh, and Marilyn B. Young (pp. 451–90) Read online >

Book Reviews

Sept. 2006, Vol. 93 No. 2

Alphabetical by the last name of the book's first author or editor.

A
B
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F
G
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J
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M
N
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P
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Web site Reviews

Web site reviews are available without a subscription.

  • California Historical Society, by H. Mark Wild (p. 622) Read online >
  • In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience, by Clare Corbould (p. 623) Read online >
  • The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures, by Bonnie M. Miller (p. 624) Read online >
  • The Flint Sit-Down Strike Audio Gallery, by Nancy Gabin (p. 624) Read online >
  • Virtual Museum & Archive of sec and Securities History, by Michael E. Parrish (p. 625) Read online >
  • National Geographic: Remembering Pearl Harbor, by Emily S. Rosenberg (pp. 626–7) Read online >

Editor’s Annual Report, 2005—2006

Letters to the Editor

Announcements

Recent Scholarship

Browse “Recent Scholarship” listing >

Recent Scholarship is available as a searchable database, Recent Scholarship Online >

cover image

On the cover:

This 1883 board game was emblematic of the American public’s fascination with speculation in the wake of the widespread adoption of the ticker. Courtesy the Museum of American Finance. See David Hochfelder, “‘Where the Common People Could Speculate’: The Ticker, Bucket Shops, and the Origins of Popular Participation in Financial Markets, 1880—1920,” p. 335.

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