The Investment Frontier
New York Businessmen and the Economic Development of the Old Northwest
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The American West did not grow in isolation from the East. On the contrary, New York financiers and other eastern entrepreneurs were crucial to America's western economic development, providing the necessary capital and expertise to transform the West into a productive part of the nation's economy.
This thesis is powerfully demonstrated by John Denis Haeger in this study concerning the "Old Northwest" (the present-day states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin) during the years 1815-1840. The result of years of research in manuscript collections and government documents, the book provides a comprehensive picture of early land speculators, examining their investments in farm lands, town lots, banks and transportation improvements, as well as their influence on western businessmen and institutions. It also explores their political and economic affairs on the East Coast, since these matters dramatically affected the scope of their western investments.
Historians' generalizations about nonresident investors or eastern speculators have previously assumed a common type and business method when, in fact, easterners possessed varying economic goals and utilized different business strategies. To demonstrate this, Haeger compares and contrasts the promoter Charles Butler and the conservative speculators Isaac and Arthur Bronson, key figures among New York's financial elite, whose careers and strategies are for the first time described in detail.
The activities of these investment pioneers, whose "every move was calculated to return profits," challenge the traditional images of westward expansion as a largely unplanned and spontaneous movement of people and capital.
John Denis Haeger, Professor of History at Central Michigan University, has previously published several studies of the Old Northwest.