Museum Chronicles History of U.S. Capital Markets

Article excerpt

The museum has the distinction of being the nation's only independent public museum dedicated to capitalism, entrepreneurship, and free enterprise.

The universe of museums is broad, encompassing everything from the Louvre to more modest collections appealing to smaller but no less enthusiastic audiences. New York City is home to an estimated 800 museums, including the Museum of American Financial History in lower Manhattan.

The building, a few blocks from the New York and American Stock Exchanges, is across the street from the well-known "Charging Bull" sculpture and once served as headquarters of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company. Centuries earlier, Alexander Hamilton's law offices were located on the same site. The museum was founded in 1988 by John Herzog, a Merrill Lynch executive who is the current chair of its board of trustees. In 1999 the museum became an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, and it has the distinction of being the nation's only independent public museum dedicated to capitalism, entrepreneurship, and free enterprise.

Through its collections and resident experts, the museum showcases the history of Wall Street, the development of capital markets, and the movers and shakers of American business, from Hamilton's initial designs for a national economy through the rise of the dot-com entrepreneur and the "New Economy."

Through March 6 the museum is hosting a traveling exhibition of 40' unique, antique, and contemporary coin banks. The exhibit chronicles the history of this icon of American culture and its evolution from the traditional ceramic piggy bank, designed to teach children to save their pennies, into sophisticated gadgets and marketing pieces. Other temporary exhibitions have examined the careers and lives of financial titans Rockefeller and J.P Morgan, the artistry of African currency, and the history of financial journalism. Permanent exhibitions feature vintage stock and bond certificates; photographs; archival corporate documents, prospectuses, and annual reports; bank notes, checks, and engravings; actual ticker tape from the morning of October 29, 1929; and a recreated 1960s-era brokerage firm trading desk. …

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