November 8 brought Dr. Paul Crosthwaite to the Center for the History of the Book Seminar series at the University of Edinburgh. Dr. Crosthwaite’s lecture was titled Ticker Tape Readers: Investment Advice Writing in “the Shadow of 1929”. The presentation involved research related to the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s project entitled History of Financial Advice. It was another well-attended event in the CHB’s series of seminars.
Dr. Crosthwaite first took us back to the eighteenth century and the publication of Every Man His Own Broker: or, A Guide to the Stock-Exchange to show is that writers have been happily telling others how to make money on stock exchanges for centuries.
The public’s appetite for this “professional” advice on how to make their fortunes continued through the nineteenth century up to the 1920’s where Dr. Crosthwaite continued the story, demonstrating that click-bait is not a modern phenomenon.
Some things never change.We were then introduced to two fascinating financial writers from the nineteenth century, W. D. Gann and Ralph Nelson Elliot. These gentlemen, instead of keeping their money-making information to themselves graciously shared it with the public for only the cost of their books and seminars.
Dr. Crosthwaite insightfully made the connection between these gentlemen and their ilk with mediums and tent show preachers who were common in the United States at the same time. The titles and dust jackets accompanying their works sometimes had the same aura of mysticism.
Sadly, the history of financial advice continues to produce this type of bunkum. Hucksters with fancy charts and call themselves “technical analysts” and try to convince people to but their books or subscribe to their products with surefire models that predicted the market flawlessly (up until tomorrow). It was wonderful to see Dr. Crosthwaite give us the perspective that we do not live in a singularly deluded time.
Report by Keith Bossert, current MSc student, Book History and Material Culture