Miller Center

Julia Ott

History, Yale University

When Wall Street Met Main Street: the Quest for an Investors' Democracy and the Emergence of the American Retail Investor, 1900–1930

Ott photo

Julia Ott is Assistant Professor of History at the New School's Eugene Lang College.

Ott's interests include 20th century American history, financial and business history, political conservatism, consumer culture, and women's and gender history.

Given the depths of populist and progressive hostility toward Wall Street in the decades before the World War I, few could have predicted that the nation's stock and bond markets would emerge as icons of a new era of permanent prosperity, even before the late 1920s stock market boom. Roughly 30 million Americans acquired federal war bonds, while the number of corporate shareholders likely increased fivefold in the 1920s. Ott's dissertation explained these transformations in political attitude and social practice by relating an intertwined history of investors and investorism. By analyzing the marketing of stocks and bonds by the federal government, corporations, and the financial industry, as well as new investorist theories of political economy formulated by a range of economic thinkers, her study revealed the early twentieth century origins of the idea of an ownership society in American political culture. Without the ideological validation considered in this dissertation, the United States would have never developed its first broad, national, impersonal market for financial securities in the 1920s.

Fellowship year: 2006

Mentor: Meg Jacobs, Princeton University

Selected Recent Publications

When Wall Street Met Main Street: The Quest for an Investors’ Democracy, (Harvard University Press, 2011).

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