Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Readings: Dreiser

"Railroads had been built to the South, East, North, and West. There was as yet no stock-ticker and no telephone, and the clearing-house had only recently been thought of in New York, and had not yet been introduced in Philadelphia. Instead of a clearing-house service, messengers ran daily between banks and brokerage firms, balancing accounts on pass-books, exchanging bills, and, once a week, transferring the gold coin, which was the only thing that could be accepted for balances due, since there was no stable national currency. 'On 'change,' when the gong struck announcing the close of the day's business, a company of young men, known as 'settlement clerks,' after a system borrowed from London, gathered in the center of the room and compared or gathered the various trades of the day in a ring, thus eliminating all those sales and resales between certain firms which naturally canceled each other. They carried long account books, and called out the transactions -- 'Delaware and Maryland sold to Beaumont and Company,' 'Delaware and Maryland sold to Tighe and Company,' and so on. This simplified the bookkeeping of the various firms, and made for quicker and more stirring commercial transactions."
Theodore Dreiser, The Financier (1912)

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