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U.S. Government Bond Trading Database, 1776-1835

Description of the Data Set

Compiler:

Robert E. Wright, Stern
School of Business, New York University, rwright@stern.nyu.edu

 

Abstract:

This document describes
a large data set of U.S. government bond trades that took place
between 1776 and 1835. This is the data used to create some of the
figures and tables in Robert E. Wright, One Nation Under Debt:
Hamilton, Jefferson, and the History of What We Owe
(New York:
McGraw Hill 2008).

 

Acknowledgments:

Some funding for the
creation of this data set was provided by a Mellon/Betty Sams
Christian Fellowship in Business History, Virginia Historical
Society, 2006-2007, an Arthur H. Cole Research Grant, Economic
History Association, 2004, and an Alfred D. Chandler, Jr. Travel
Grant, Harvard Business School, 2001-2002. Most of the data
collection was undertaken by Stephanie Vasta under the supervision of
Wright, who entered approximately 10 percent of the data himself.

 

Table of Contents:

General Description of the Data

The following 19 files compose this data set:

Central Treasury (11,110 records) [csv] [excel]

Connecticut (25,043) [csv] [excel]

Connecticut Revolution (20,413) [csv] [excel]

Delaware Revolution (1,834) [csv] [excel]

Georgia (68) [csv] [excel]

Maryland (6,930) [csv] [excel]

Maryland Revolution (8,354) [csv] [excel]

New Hampshire (2,086) [csv] [excel]

New Hampshire Revolution (2,127) [csv] [excel]

New Jersey Revolution (14,161) [csv] [excel]

New York (18,479) [csv] [excel]

New York Revolution (14,142) [csv] [excel]

North Carolina (174) [csv] [excel]

Pennsylvania (39,510) [csv] [excel]

Pennsylvania Revolution (55,835) [csv] [excel]

Rhode Island (18,520) [csv] [excel]

Rhode Island Revolution (1,526) [csv] [excel]

South Carolina (7,243) [csv] [excel]

Virginia (16,362) [csv] [excel]

Each name refers to the
state loan office where trades and other transactions were recorded.
“Revolution” files contain initial issuance records of bonds
created during the American Revolution (1775-1783). Files without
“revolution” in the title contain the details of bond trades that
took place after the adoption of Alexander Hamilton’s funding plan.
For additional details, see the text of Robert E. Wright, One
Nation Under Debt: Hamilton, Jefferson, and the History of What We
Owe
(New York: McGraw Hill 2008).

Combined, the
“Revolution” files contain information regarding 118,394
transactions while the post-Hamilton files document 147,729 trades.
The number of records in each file are listed in parentheses above.
The records are neither a sample nor a population but rather all of
the legible entries found on the microfilm reels cited, all of which
are available in Record Group 53, National Archives and Records
Administration, College Park, Maryland. Due to cost and time
limitations, numerous additional U.S. government bondholder records
available in RG 53 were not coded.
It is hoped that any
researchers who code one or more of the remaining Treasury transfer
books will post their data here upon publication of their articles,
books, or other research outlets.


Explanation of Data Fields

“Revolution” files
contain the following fields:

 

Field
Heading

 

Explanation

 

First Name

 

Bondholder’s first name.

 

Last Name

 

Bondholder’s last name.

 

Occupation

 

Bondholder’s occupation, if given.

 

Date

 

Bond issuance date, provided in year.monthday
format (e.g. 1776.1205 = 5 December 1776).

 

Scratched out

 

For reasons that remain unclear, some records
(1) were scratched out while others (0) were not.

 

Amount

 

Face or par dollar value of the bond.

 

Notes

 

Free form notes of anything unusual about the
record. Many such notes are directly transcribed from the
original source.

 

Type

 

Type of bond.

 

Loan Office

 

Loan office that issued the bond.

 

Record No.

 

The National Archives’ record number for the
source.

 

Roll

 

Microfilm roll number.

Column
A
B C D E F G H I J K

 

Post-Hamilton files
contain the following fields:

 

Field
Heading

 

Explanation

 

First

 

Bondholder’s first name.

 

Last

 

Bondholder’s last name.

 

Abode

 

Bondholder’s place of residence, if given.

 

Occu.

 

Bondholder’s occupation, if given.

 

Date

 

Transaction date, in year.monthday format
(e.g. 1796.1001 = 1 October 1796).

 

Amount

 

Par or face dollar value of the bond being
traded.

 

Buy?

 

1 if the bondholder bought or otherwise
acquired the bond.

 

Sell?

 

1 if the bondholder sold or otherwise divested
the bond.

 

Type

 

Type of bond, including 3s, Sixes, Deferred,
Convertibles, Exchanged, and others.

 

Notes

 

Free form note field used to record anything
unusual about the record, including the transfer book clerk’s
marginal notations.

 

Loan Office

 

Loan office in which the transaction was
recorded.

 

Record No.

 

The National Archives’ record number for the
source.

 

Roll No.

 

Microfilm roll number.

 

Creation?

 

This was coded 1 if the bond appeared to have
arisen from the subscription of Revolutionary War-era bonds.

 

Transfer?

 

1 if the bond was transferred to or from
another loan office.

 

Redeem?

 

1 if the bond was redeemed by the government.

Column
A
B C D E F G H I J K L M N* O* P*

*Due to limitations in the primary sources, these
three fields were inconsistently coded during the project and are
best left out of any summary statistics.

Suggested Data Uses

The data provided in the files described herein
can be used in a number of ways, including:

 

    • ascertaining whether a specific individual
      owned U.S. government bonds. Researchers using the data for this
      purpose should check all files because sometimes people registered
      or traded their bonds in states other than their state of residence.
      Also, due to the partial nature of the data as described above, they
      should not categorically state that a particular person did not own
      U.S. government bonds if there name does not appear in any of the
      files.

 

  • macroeconomic studies, especially if the
    trading volume data that can be generated from the data provided
    here is used in conjunction with the price data provided by Richard
    Sylla, Jack Wilson, and Robert E. Wright in their Early U.S.
    Securities Prices” database
    .

 

 

  • sociological studies addressing questions of
    race, gender, class, age, section, occupation, and rural vs. urban
    lifeways. Significant numbers of early bondholders were women,
    juveniles, rural farmers, etc.

 

 

  • prospographic surveys of bondholders of a
    single state, city, occupation, and so forth.

 

Files