The Rise and Fall of the "Money Question" in the Nineteenth-Century United States


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at the American Antiquarian Society during academic year 2006-2007


This project explores the century-long struggle in the United States over what should serve as money, who should control its creation and circulation, and according to what rules. The account offered explains how Americans made sense of their deepening dependence upon cash transactions and bank credit as well as how they understood their place in a national polity united by greenbacks and banknotes and an international economy bound by the gold standard. Approaching political economy as a popular genre akin to melodramatic theater and fiction, evangelical Christian theology and oratory, and pictorial journalism and still-life painting, this project examines the prevailing modes of literary, religious, and visual representation through which Americans grappled with the rise of industrial capitalism.