From Publishers Weekly
After a strong start, this history of American money loses its thread and ends up as an entertaining collection of trivia, personality profiles and vignettes rather than the compelling narrative promised in its opening. Still, Goodwin's flair for a colorful tale makes for rich reading, covering such odds and ends as a brothel in the Treasury Department, a prayer vigil over banking deposits, exploding printing presses and even a counterfeit scheme run from behind prison bars. Goodwin (Lords of the Horizons) makes some excellent points about the role of paper money in early U.S. history-it was the earliest symbol of the new country; it helped push colonists West; it even helped familiarize Americans with their native artists-but the significance of the stories he's chosen to include isn't always clear. After presenting a single national currency as one of the holy grails of early American banking, for instance, he glosses over the moment it finally arrives, a true turning point in American financial history. Goodwin's position as a foreign observer (he is an English journalist) occasionally trips him up: no one in America, for example, says "that will be four dollars thirty six." The cast of characters is as colorful as they come, and in the end the book makes good reading for those interested in odd and exciting tales from American financial history. But it's not the fascinating narrative take on the history of money in America that Goodwin sets out to deliver, and which the subject deserves. 30 b&w illus.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Goodwin tells the story of the world's dominant currency, the dollar, and its astonishing role in American history. We learn about the endless list of characters who shaped this country, both famous and obscure, and how they profoundly influenced its growth because they understood that money was the key to unlocking liberty and the pursuit of happiness or wealth. Paper money, invented in Boston in 1698, was known as "bills of credit," which people could use now and pay for in years ahead. Unlike Europeans, who were attached to money for its own sake, Americans used it as a medium for growth with an entrepreneurial spirit that has flowered in this country during the more than 300 years since the dollar was invented. Goodwin reports, "America's theology was a secular one. It revolved around money and liberty, promise and return, profit and loss. It revolved, in fact, around the miracle of money." Mary Whaley
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