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Democratic Dividends: Stockholding, Wealth, and Politics in New York, 1791–1826

  • HILT, ERIC
  • VALENTINE, JACQUELINE

This paper analyzes the early history of corporate shareholding, and its relationship with political change. In the late eighteenth century, corporations were extremely rare and were dominated by elites, but in the early nineteenth century, after American politics became significantly more democratic, corporations proliferated rapidly. Using newly collected data, this paper compares the wealth and status of New York City households who owned corporate stock to the general population there both in 1791, when there were only two corporations in the state, and in 1826, when there were hundreds. The results indicate that although corporate stock was held principally by the city's elite merchants in both periods, share ownership became more widespread over time among less affluent households. In particular, the corporations created in the 1820s were owned and managed by investors who were less wealthy than the stockholders of corporations created in earlier, less democratic periods in the state's history.

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Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal The Journal of Economic History.

Volume (Year): 72 (2012)
Issue (Month): 02 (June)
Pages: 332-363

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Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:72:y:2012:i:02:p:332-363_00
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  1. Rousseau, Peter L., 2009. "Share liquidity, participation, and growth of the Boston market for industrial equities, 1854-1897," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 203-219, April.
  2. Musacchio,Aldo, 2009. "Experiments in Financial Democracy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521518895.
  3. Howard Bodenhorn, 2004. "Free Banking and Bank Entry in Nineteenth-Century New York," NBER Working Papers 10654, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Eric Hilt, 2007. "When did Ownership Separate from Control? Corporate Governance in the Early Nineteenth Century," NBER Working Papers 13093, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Hilt, Eric & O'Banion, Katharine, 2009. "The Limited Partnership in New York, 1822–1858: Partnerships Without Kinship," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(03), pages 615-645, September.
  6. Klein, Daniel & Majewski, John, 1991. "Economy, Community and Law: The Turnpike Movement in New York, 1797-1845," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt61b022cr, University of California Transportation Center.
  7. Huberman, Gur, 2001. "Familiarity Breeds Investment," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 14(3), pages 659-80.
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