The Library Company’s collections – crossing several subjects and genres – document the country’s economic shifts as they permeated and transformed all aspects of life, from agriculture to transportation to consumption.

Printed titles include many and variant editions of long-standing works by political economists such as Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, and Mathew Carey. Reports from organizations concerned with economic matters and conditions, from the Pennsylvania Society for the Encouragement of American Manufactures to the Free Trade Convention, are well represented, as are reports from various city chambers of commerce. Investment in internal improvements is recorded not only in reports of railroad, ironwork, turnpike, and bridge companies but also in petitions to legislative bodies supporting and opposing proposed local internal improvements.

An extensive pamphlet literature documents the changing economic landscape and concerns about national stability. Subjects such as bank wars, economic panics, and bankruptcy legislation are all covered in the literature. The popular literature records and expresses public opinion on various economic issues, which overlap with moral concerns. Advertisements for and diatribes against lotteries are equally represented (from the early Republic to the late nineteenth century), as are works advising on how to be a successful stockbroker and, conversely, tracts likening stock market investing to gambling.

The collection also includes works by radicals who championed the rights of laborers working within an unjust capitalist system. Radical literature includes that generated by utopian communities such as Hopedale and by individuals proposing alternative value systems (such as those based on labor), like Stephen Pearl Andrews.

Prescriptive literature advising young clerks how to get ahead, how to keep books, and how to keep their stores was also an important body of nineteenth-century economic literature, for it trained novices how to be successful economic actors. Later in the century this training included formal education in business schools, reports from many which are also represented in the collection. Trade catalogs, promotional broadsides, circulars, trade cards, and other forms of advertising comprise an important kind of material illuminating economic history from the consumers’ point of view.


Margaret Canney and David Knott, comps. Catalogue of the Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature. (Cambridge: At the University Press for the University of London Library, 1970). 2 vols.

Harry C. Bentley and Ruth S. Leonard. Bibliography of Works on Accounting by American Authors. (Boston: Harry C. Bentley, 1934). 2 vols.

The Kress Library of Business and Economics Catalogue. (Boston: Baker Library, Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, 1940). 4 vols. plus supplement.

E. Richard McKinstry. Trade Catalogues at Winterthur: A Guide to the Literature of Merchandising 1750-1980. (New York: Garland Publishing, 1984).

Frederick B. Adams, Jr. Radical Literature in America (Stamford: Overbrook Press, 1939).

Lawrence B. Romaine. A Guide to American Trade Catalogs 1744-1900 (New York: R.R. Bowker Co., 1960).