The Library Company of Philadelphia Takes a Look at Crime
Philadelphia: December 19, 2011 – Drawing on books, pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, prints, photographs, and ephemera in the Library Company’s collection, guest curator Wendy Woloson explores underground urban commerce in early America in our upcoming exhibition “Capitalism by Gaslight: The Shadow Economies of 19th-Century America.” The exhibition focuses on the ways many Americans earned their livings outside the spheres of wholesale and retail commerce, conducting economic transactions in
illicit and semi-legal ways.
The reason for this public bookmark:
Crime was certainly nothing new to Americans, and reports of highway robberies and stolen goods appeared in newspapers from their first issues on colonial soil. Yet the profound and relatively rapid shifts in the country's economic structure and demographic patterns after the Revolution contributed to the flourishing of both legal and illegal commerce.
Woloson explores these changes using the Library Company's rich collections of Americana.
An interactive portion of the exhibition features electronically displayed pamphlets, as well as a recipe book containing instructions for making one’s own whiskey at home, that visitors can page through. Visitors will leave the Library Company with a small reminder of the show, a trade card with a biography of someone who operated in the commercial underworld.
From pick-pocketing to gambling, counterfeiting to prostitution, “Capitalism by Gaslight” describes the myriad ways people participated in an earlier, shadowy realm of commerce that required a surprising degree of creativity, cunning, and financial acumen.
This exhibition will be on display from Monday, January 17, through Friday, August 24, 2012....MORE
Capitalism by Gaslight Conference, June 7-8, 2012
Inspired by the Library Company's current exhibition "Capitalism by Gaslight," this conference highlights the innovative research being done by historians of capitalism and its culture. These scholars examine the many ways in which Americans earned a living through economic transactions made beyond the spheres of legitimate commerce. Although these shadow economies may have unfolded off the books, they were anything but marginal. They were, rather, crucially important parts of the mainstream economy, bound up in the development of commercial and industrial capitalism in nineteenth-century America. In papers about how these shadow economies worked, panelists analyze the creative, flexible, and adaptive means entrepreneurs adopted in order to succeed in their endeavors....MORE