Anne Bentley forwarded this press release about an October lecture at the Massachusetts Historical Society. At 6pm on October 21, 2008, Jane Kamensky, of Brandeis University will speak at the society about her new book on a topic related to banking and obsolete paper money. -EditorThe Exchange Artist: A Tale of High-Flying Speculation and America's First Banking Collapse rediscovers a lost chapter in early American history: the story of Andrew Dexter, Jr. and the seven-story skyscraper for which he amassed--and then lost--a paper fortune.
Defying the then-predominant Puritan work ethic, Dexter financed his construction of the Exchange Coffee House by issuing millions of dollars in paper money using a string of banks stretching from Boston to Detroit. But in 1809, just as workers were putting the finishing touches on the Exchange, the financial pyramid collapsed. A now-bankrupt Dexter absconded to Canada, eventually making his way south to found the town of Montgomery, Alabama, which he named after one of his Revolutionary War heroes. Meanwhile, in Boston, the 'Change remained, a monument to Dexter's high-flying ambition and his equally monumental failure.
Speculation, fraud, luck, and failure have become important topics in American history in recent years; with The Exchange Artist, Kamensky steers the reader through the narrative of a second American founding: the birth of speculative capitalism, and uses architecture and the labor of building as (literally) concrete windows onto a vanished world.
Jane Kamensky is Associate Professor of History at Brandeis University and the author of Governing the Tongue: The Politics of Speech in Early New England and The Colonial Mosaic: American Women, 1600-1760. She is a consultant and on-camera expert for documentaries shown on PBS and The History Channel, and has made appearances on National Public Radio and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Anne Bentley adds:
Jane's book is fabulously written and meticulously researched. If her speaking style is anything like her writing style, this should be a fantastic evening.
To read the original lecture announcement, see: The Exchange Artist: A Tale of High-Flying Speculation & America's First Banking Collapse (http://www.masshist.org/events/more_info.cfm?eventID=295)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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