What does the term “economic marketplace” mean to you?


All exhibitions need a central theme to help focus the stories curators want to tell. The curators for American Enterprise want to focus the show on the economic marketplace from the 1780s to the 2000s. We want to show how the buying and selling of goods relates to production and innovation.

What images, things, or ideas does “economic marketplace” evoke? Help us out by giving us three words that come to mind.

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    About the Author


    Kathleen FranzKathleen Franz is Associate Professor and Director of Public History in the History Department at American University and curator for the American Enterprise exhibition. Learn more about the exhibition team.View all posts by Kathleen Franz

    • Site Launch System

      great post thank you for this!

      • Anonymous

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    • Neil

      You probably already looked into it but looking at how humans first started with bartering would be a good place to start. Then showing how as bartering became selling and buying, exchange controls were imposed. Finally ending at how mass production rules our world.

      • Peter Liebhold

        Thanks for your comment.

        The American Enterprise exhibition will begin in the 1770s and run through the 2010. While barter has existed forever by the 1770s it was hardly the norm. In the early history of the United States there was a lack of specie (cash or coin). People used a variety of foreign coins and currency for buying things.

        We intend to develop an interactive for each “marketplace” section of the exhibition called What is in Your Pocket which should provide some perspective on how purchases were made (including barter). People have long had cashless transactions using credit or commodities instead of currency. William Cronon in Nature’s Metropolis does a fine job of documenting farmers in the midwest buying goods with corn or wheat. As a result local merchants had to develp standards for grain to regularize transactions and thus commodity trading was born.

        Barter continues today often as a means to avoid taxes.

        Peter Liebhold