2010-2011 Business History Forum at Columbia University

The Business History Forum at Columbia University highlights the relationship between Columbia University and the city through the history of city, national, and global businesses. The Forum features speakers who address the past, present and future of industries that have been and, in many cases, continue to be important to the development of New York City, including accounting; communications, finance; law; media; real estate/development; theater; and trade. It brings together academic experts, industry practitioners, students, and the public. The Forum also provides examples of how the university acquires, preserves, and provides access to business collections through its Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Questions? E-mail Eric Wakin.

All sessions take place in 523 Butler Library, 6:30– 8:00 p.m. unless otherwise noted.


November 3, 2010 (Wednesday)

Lynne Sagalyn
Earle W. Kazis and Benjamin Schore Professor of Real Estate
Director, Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate, Columbia Business School

Of Money and Manhattan: Perspectives on the New York Real Estate Market
At the end of his life, John Jacob Astor, America's first millionaire, reportedly said, "If I could live all over again, I would buy every square inch of Manhattan." Professor Sagalyn will discuss how crucial the high stakes, contact sport of real estate development has been to the city. At the root of this story is the changing landscape of real estate power—power among a diverse, fragmented market of big players and smaller owners; and power amid an island mentality of limited land. Sagalyn will also discuss land assembly and the creation of land value by regulatory action and market dynamics.

Co-Sponsors: Rare Book & Manuscript Library; Columbia Business School; Herbert H. Lehman Center for American History


March 9, 2011 (Wednesday)

Richard R. John
Professor, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism

Antimonopoly: The Commercial Origins of an American Obsession  
Big business critics have long warned of the dangers of economic consolidation, but so, too, have business leaders. Since the Gilded Age, vilified financiers like Jay Gould set the tone that prompted historians to term an entire generation of business leaders "robber barons." Professor John's lecture will show how in the nineteenth-century, American merchants, promoters, and industrialists popularized an antimonopoly tradition that still retains relevance today.

Co-Sponsors: Rare Book & Manuscript Library; Graduate School of Journalism; Herbert H. Lehman Center for American History


May 9, 2011 (Monday)

Charles Calomiris
Henry Kaufman Professor of Financial Institutions, Columbia Business School
Professor of International and Public Affairs, School of International and Public Affairs

The Dred Scott Decision and Slave Prices
The territorial expansion of slavery, and the consequences of restricting that expansion on slaveholders' wealth (the value of slaves), have been viewed as central to the economic motivations for the Civil War. A calculation of the effect of Dred Scott on slave prices can give an indication of what was at stake for Southerners by having Lincoln, who swore to repeal the decision, elected as president. Professor Calomiris will address two specific historical questions: How much did Dred Scott (and its effects on the rights of slaveholders, and the geographical extent of slavery in the United States) matter for the prices of slaves, and for inspiring slaveholders to take up arms, leading to the Civil War?

Co-Sponsors:  Rare Book & Manuscript Library; Columbia Business School; the Herbert H. Lehman Center for American History; and the School of International and Public Affairs.