The year 1837 was a defining moment, when the rising tide of
overextended credit and investment that had been washing over Americans suddenly ended. State and local banks, flush with Mexican silver, were overwhelmed by demand from hundreds of thousands of citizens for loans to buy land, build businesses, or invest in the country’s rapid development. Despite signs of economic strain coming from rising prices for land, food, and rent, bank notes and paper currencies proliferated, and confidence grew in Americans’ ability to make wondrous economic things happen.

Few people predicted the dire consequences of abandoning their long cherished reliance on gold and silver as the foundation of all true wealth, and the dangers of advancing personal and national wealth with open-ended credit, bank loans, and personal indebtedness. It was all too easy to blame the Andrew Jackson administration for the swift retrenchment of these inflationary benefits in 1836, and to decry the “bank war” that many Americans then – and historians since – have seen as a central cause for the Panic of 1837. New scholarship points in other directions and suggests other causes for the panic. It also points toward unforeseen, and previously unexamined, consequences of the extended economic crisis that gripped every region of the country for years to come.

The scholars who have prepared papers for this conference look at economic crisis from many new standpoints, including the intellectual meanings of financial panics, the effects of panics on business investment and personal economic security, the reach of panics into households and business cultures at the margins of society, and the role of panics in shaping views of class, labor, and gender. Papers will be posted here by September 10, 2007. We encourage everyone coming to the conference to read them in advance, and then join us for a lively discussion.

Header: Specie Claws. New York: Printed & pub. by H.R. Robinson 52 Courtlandt St., ca. 1838. Handcolored lithograph.

OCTOBER 11-12, 2007

This conference is free and open to everyone interested in the topic.

For more information please contact
Cathy Matson,
PEAES Director

or call 215-546-3181


Click Here for Conference Papers

We encourage everyone coming to the conference to read the papers in advance, and then join us for a lively discussion.


Conference Brochure