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Cotton CapitalistsAmerican Jewish Entrepreneurship in the Reconstruction Era$
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Michael R. Cohen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781479879700

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479879700.001.0001

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Networks from Below

Networks from Below

Chapter:
(p.153) 5 Networks from Below
Source:
Cotton Capitalists
Author(s):

Michael R. Cohen

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9781479879700.003.0006

The fifth chapter analyzes the bottom tier of an ethnic network that brought credit from global financiers to the merchants and farmers of the Gulf South, exploring how the Southern firms with which Lehman Brothers worked dispersed this global investment throughout local economies. In some instances, Lehman Brothers’ customers sold directly to rural farmers and plantation owners, providing them with the credit necessary to purchase farming needs, foodstuffs, and personal goods. But in other instances, firms with which Lehman Brothers worked extended credit to smaller shopkeepers, who could then stock their own shelves at the start of the season, sell goods to their customers on credit, and, if all went well, be repaid by their customers after the harvest. For these smaller businesses, this line of credit was the difference between success and failure, particularly when the vicissitudes of the economy necessitated leniency from creditors. While this leniency was risky for lenders, trust-based economic networks mitigated risk. In this way, Jewish merchants created an ethnic niche in the cotton industry, securing global investment, funneling it to the South, and dispersing it throughout local economies.

Keywords:   cotton, merchants, Jewish, credit

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