Thursday, July 14, 2011

Museum of American Finance: Wall St and Williams St

Alexander Hamilton at Final Duel
In my touring around various downtown sites like Trinity Church & St. Paul's Chapel, Federal Hall, and Fraunces Tavern, and the Museum of Jewish Heritage, I have passed by the Museum of American Finance, but I was too tired or for one reason or another failed to go in. 

Aaron Burr at Fateful Duel
I finally decided to make a trip to go to the Museum of American Finance (Museum of American Finance Info) and after the visit today I wondered why I had delayed to visit.  It is a perfect complement to a visit to the New York Federal Reserve and if you can coordinate a visit to both, it would make for a wonderful few hours spent learning about the American financial system and its history.

Inside there is an area that is dedicated to Alexander Hamilton (from his birth in Nevis, to his untimely death at a duel against political rival Aaron Burr--see photos above and left), who is credited for much of the foundations of the American banking system. 

There is a large timeline on the back wall that tracks the market since the credit crisis beginnings in 2007, and there is a small alcove about the history of U.S. currency, including regional notes, fractional currency during the Depression, and even a dollar that is labelled "HAWAII" so that if we lost the islands in WWII that currency could be identified and disavowed (see right).

There is a wall also noting all of the major financial scandals, starting from Hamilton's days during the early years of the nation, through more recent events like the Lehman Brothers demise (see left) and the ponzi scheme of Bernard Madoff.

Besides the explanations of the beginnings of the equities and bond markets, the mercantile commodities exchange, and the options market (which were very educational), there was a constantly changing sign that calculated our national debt.  When I was at the museum yesterday, July 13, 2011 around 1:49 pm EST, the debt tally was at $14,411,408,925,789 and about 4 seconds later, it had increased by $92,003!  Amazing and horrifying.  How are we ever going to service this debt and lower it?!

If you have an interest in money (yes, you know some of you do even if you are unwilling to admit to it at parties or in front of friends), this museum is a definite "must see."  It is educational, fascinating, and may raise your attention to the financial pickle this country is currently in.  If none of this interests you, you may appreciate its location in an old Bank of New York; it is beautiful and intentionally very grand inside.

1 comment:

  1. I had fun choosing this particular painting online that now hangs in my downtown office, from, who sells canvas prints of art masterpieces. While the original is treasured in some art museum in England, my print, of this painting by Edward Burne-Jones is very much appreciated by my staff and clients. The print quality is really excellent.