Sunday, July 18, 2010

75 Yrs. of American Finance from the St. Louis Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, through its FRASER (Federal Reserve Archival System for Economic Research) project, aims "to provide timely and convenient data to scholars, analysts, students and interested observers of the U.S. economy."  Unique among the documents digitized is 75 Yrs. of American Finance: A Graphic Presentation, 1861-1935, created by L. Merle Hostetler of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland in 1936, and later expanded to include the years 1936-1938.  "The entire book consists of a chart, approximately 85 feet long, fanfolded into 40 pages with additional years attached to the last page. It also includes a 'topical index' to the chart and some questions of technical interest" that can be answered by consulting the chart.  Concurrent economic and political events are detailed for each year. Some sample pages:

Hostetler, p. 9, 1864

Hostetler, p. 17, 1872

Hostetler, p. 79, 1933

Many of the events listed are of course well known, such as the introduction of the Bessemer process in the United States (1864), the Credit Mobilier scandal in 1872, and the creation of the TVA in 1933.  But the lists of information less commonly known, particularly juxtaposed in the time line format, provide a unique visual aid: for example, the fact that glass mason jars were supplanting crocks  for fruit preserves (1864); the existence of an "epizootic epidemic" among horses that impeded trade (1872); the beginning of  construction of the San Francisco Bay bridge (1933).