Business success is not just due to a lot of opium

14 minutes

•  The Bizgnus time machine gears up for a remarkable podcast

•  “Business and politics were more overtly intertwined”

(Total Recorded Time is 17:06)

Longtime members of the Bizgnus audiences will be delighted to note that we have finally recharged the batteries on the company’s Wayback machine and it has taken us back in time by two centuries to the 1820s in the United States.

Actually, it is not the dusty Wayback machine which has never worked for us but a remarkable new book, “An Illustrated Business History of the United States,” (University of Pennsylvania Press, May 2021) by the Secretary of Banking and Securities for the state of Pennsylvania, Richard Vague.

One of the continuous threads of the American economy, from founding to present day, is real estate, he says.

“Real estate continues to be a huge part of the U.S. story because the uses of real estate are always being transformed,” says Mr. Vague.  “We’ve seen that happen right before our eyes during the pandemic when the use of commercial office space has diminished but at the same time, we’re seeing a boom in the use of real estate for internet companies as storage and distribution facilities.”

The book covers U.S. history from the founding to about 2015.  In it, the reader will find not just data, but example upon example of life in various epochs.

“Warren Delano, Jr., grandfather of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, made a fortune selling opium in China, and this wealth made up a substantial part of the inheritance that he passed down to Franklin,” Mr. Vague writes. might also hear of the opening of a canl connecting the Great Lakes to the Hudson River and thus New York City. “The Erie Canal was the most important and transformational business achievement in early American history,” Mr. Vague says in his book

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And something often “overlooked” in today’s political arguments was central to the growth of the nation. “Business and politics were more overtly intertwined in this era. Everyone admired U.S. senator and attorney Daniel Webster for his intelligence, rhetorical power, and knowledge of constitutional law. But as senator, Webster sent a private law client a bill because he had inserted an amendment favorable to that client’s interests into a piece of legislation. No one at that time viewed this as a conflict or an ethical transgression,” writes Mr. Vague.

Richard Vague’s day job is Pennsylvania Banking and Securities Secretary. Prior to his 2020 appointment, he was managing partner of Gabriel Investments and chairman of the Governor’s Woods Foundation, a nonprofit philanthropic organization. Previously, he was co-founder, chairman and CEO of Energy Plus, an electricity and natural gas company. Vague was also co-founder and CEO of two banks and founder of the economic data service Tychos.

His new book is “An Illustrated Business History of the United States” (University of Pennsylvania Press, May 2021).


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