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The First Wall StreetChestnut Street, Philadelphia, and the Birth of American Finance$
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Robert E. Wright

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780226910260

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226910291.001.0001

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Colonial Precedents

Colonial Precedents

(p.14) 2 Colonial Precedents
The First Wall Street
University of Chicago Press

In the colonial period, Philadelphia was a leading financial innovator. Nascent banks, insurers, and securities market thrived in the Delaware Valley even before independence. Those institutions were but pale imitations of what the revolution would bring forth. Pennsylvania's people and institutions outweighed the Delaware's ice and sand. Financial flexibility was part of that “Philadelphia freedom,” a term that admittedly today has a somewhat gayer connotation. “Liberty to manage their affairs their own way,” Adam Smith argued, was just as responsible for colonial wealth as “plenty of good land” was. In fact, Philadelphia's financiers found freedom as fertile as farmers found the rich red soils of Lancaster County. Early financiers in Philadelphia were quite happy because they had some room to maneuver, and maneuver they did. By the time the revolution erupted in 1775, Philadelphia was North America's most financially advanced city.

Keywords:   Colonial period, innovation, revolution, finance, Philadelphia's

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