Proposal preview

Weaving Webs of Connections: The Roles of Information and Communication Services during Waves of Globalisation.

Information flows underlie the process of economic integration within countries and globalization on an international scale. The successful movements of labour, goods, or capital usually has to be preceded by communication. The main institutional actors facilitating these information flows since the First Globalization are Post, Telegraph and Telephone firms, public and private, whose extensive spread under the idea of universal access touch essentially everyone. PTT firms and agencies, however, not only affected other sectors through information transmission, they also horizontally integrated and competed in areas like news, transport, travel and especially financial services.

This panel has two main, related focus points: First, how did postal and telecommunication operations spread throughout countries and what impact did this spread have on contemporary local economic conditions and modern development outcomes? Second, what impact had the involvement of postal operators in financial services on the economy and the development of the financial sector?

Organizer(s)

  • Florian Ploeckl University of Adelaide florian.ploeckl@adelaide.edu.au Australia

Session members

  • Mark J Crowley, Wuhan University
  • Markus Lampe, WU Vienna
  • Tom Velk, McGill University
  • Terence Hines, Pace University
  • Robert W Dimand, Brock University
  • Elizabeth Murphy, McGill University
  • Mengyue Zhao, McGill University
  • Matthew Jaremski, Colgate University
  • Elisabeth Perlman, US Census
  • Steven Sprick Schuster, Colgate University
  • Claudia Rei, University of Warwick
  • Jessica Vechbanyongratana, Chulalongkorn University

Discussant(s)

Papers

Panel abstract

Information flows underlie the process of economic integration within countries and globalization on an international scale. The successful movements of labour, goods, or capital usually has to be preceded by communication. The main institutional actors facilitating these information flows since the First Globalization are Post, Telegraph and Telephone firms, public and private, whose extensive spread under the idea of universal access touch essentially everyone. PTT firms and agencies, however, not only affected other sectors through information transmission, they also horizontally integrated and competed in areas like news, transport, travel and especially financial services. This panel has two main, related focus points: First, how did postal and telecommunication operations spread throughout countries and what impact did this spread have on contemporary local economic conditions and modern development outcomes? Second, what impact had the involvement of postal operators in financial services on the economy and the development of the financial sector?

1st half

Using Postal Revenue as A Proxy for Nineteenth-Century Local Economic Activities- Data Validation

Mengyue Zhao, Thomas Velk, Terence Hines, Robert Dimand

We have digitized and cleaned part of an unexplored biennial 1813 to 1881 dataset from U.S. Official Register. It covers every town that had a postal office. There are two dimensions to our efforts that are separated into two papers. First, we validate this dataset statistically as proxy for local economic activities by linking it to economic variables from U.S. census records (which are, in contrast to our dynamic biennial dataset, a snap-shot created every decade). Second, we use the dataset to study “the Postal Ladder of Opportunity”. We show that well-paid, respectable and long-lived jobs as postmasters were available to women and racial minorities in the 19thcentury. Also, applying appropriate statistical approaches and using postal revenue as a proxy for local economic activities, we study whether towns with aboriginal populations have economic dynamics that are significantly different from non-aboriginal towns.

We have digitized and cleaned part of an unexplored biennial 1813 to 1881 dataset from U.S. Official Register. It covers every town that had a postal office. There are two dimensions to our efforts that are separated into two papers. First, we validate this dataset statistically as proxy for local economic activities by linking it to economic variables from U.S. census records (which are, in contrast to our dynamic biennial dataset, a snap-shot created every decade). Second, we use the dataset to study “the Postal Ladder of Opportunity”. We show that well-paid, respectable and long-lived jobs as postmasters were available to women and racial minorities in the 19thcentury. Also, applying appropriate statistical approaches and using postal revenue as a proxy for local economic activities, we study whether towns with aboriginal populations have economic dynamics that are significantly different from non-aboriginal towns.

The Spread of the Telegraph in the US

Aaron Honsowetz,

Research on the impact of the telegraph in the United States has been hindered from the lack of accessible maps of the United States telegraph system. To rectify the situation, I am involved with two concurrent projects that are assembling GIS maps of United States telegraph offices in the 19th and 20th century. This paper updates the progress on both projects. Honsowetz, Hornbeck, and Weaver are using Western Union Tariff books to identify telegraph office locations staring in the 1870’s into the early 20th century. Honsowetz and Perlman are refining Barr’s 1853 US telegraph map with historical sources to identify telegraph locations in the early 1850’s. In addition to providing the location of telegraph offices, the finish maps may also contain telegraph prices, services provided at locations, and companies serving a location. The information will enable researches to better study access and the spread of the United States telegraph network.

Research on the impact of the telegraph in the United States has been hindered from the lack of accessible maps of the United States telegraph system. To rectify the situation, I am involved with two concurrent projects that are assembling GIS maps of United States telegraph offices in the 19th and 20th century. This paper updates the progress on both projects. Honsowetz, Hornbeck, and Weaver are using Western Union Tariff books to identify telegraph office locations staring in the 1870’s into the early 20th century. Honsowetz and Perlman are refining Barr’s 1853 US telegraph map with historical sources to identify telegraph locations in the early 1850’s. In addition to providing the location of telegraph offices, the finish maps may also contain telegraph prices, services provided at locations, and companies serving a location. The information will enable researches to better study access and the spread of the United States telegraph network.

Priests and Postmen: Historical Determinants of Civic Capital

Claudia Rei

The nineteenth century marked the emergence of the modern state, after the fall of absolutism in Western Europe. Technological developments brought consolidation of power allowing for a more continuous state presence throughout the territory. This was also the time when civic responsibility started being recognized beyond the realm of cities with special statuses, as individuals farther afield were asked to participate on the destiny of their countries, albeit with notable restrictions initially. This paper evaluates the association between historical state capacity in the nineteenth century Portugal and civic capital measured by voter turnout in Portuguese democratic elections (1975-2017). Using historical data on postman and parish density I find that places with a stronger presence of postmen in 1875 vote more in any election today, but curiously, they vote less in local elections relative to national elections. The results for historical parish presence are smaller but always positive.

The nineteenth century marked the emergence of the modern state, after the fall of absolutism in Western Europe. Technological developments brought consolidation of power allowing for a more continuous state presence throughout the territory. This was also the time when civic responsibility started being recognized beyond the realm of cities with special statuses, as individuals farther afield were asked to participate on the destiny of their countries, albeit with notable restrictions initially. This paper evaluates the association between historical state capacity in the nineteenth century Portugal and civic capital measured by voter turnout in Portuguese democratic elections (1975-2017). Using historical data on postman and parish density I find that places with a stronger presence of postmen in 1875 vote more in any election today, but curiously, they vote less in local elections relative to national elections. The results for historical parish presence are smaller but always positive.

2nd half

“Everyman’s financial globalization? Understanding international postal money orders, 1886-1937”

Markus Lampe, Florian Ploeckl,

The 19th century was characterized by the rise of national postal systems including a diversification into financial services. To facilitate international transactions these national services began to cooperate systematically, including the creation of the Universal Postal Union in 1875. One important aspect of international coordination was the creation of an international money order system, allowing for small cross-border financial transactions by ordinary postal customers in many participating countries. This paper utilizes records about participation and transaction volumes to identify the factors driving the participation decisions and therefore global expansion of the system. Additionally, a panel gravity approach shows the underlying determinants of postal money order flows and a stochastic network model links the money order system to the network of international currency exchange notations.

The 19th century was characterized by the rise of national postal systems including a diversification into financial services. To facilitate international transactions these national services began to cooperate systematically, including the creation of the Universal Postal Union in 1875. One important aspect of international coordination was the creation of an international money order system, allowing for small cross-border financial transactions by ordinary postal customers in many participating countries. This paper utilizes records about participation and transaction volumes to identify the factors driving the participation decisions and therefore global expansion of the system. Additionally, a panel gravity approach shows the underlying determinants of postal money order flows and a stochastic network model links the money order system to the network of international currency exchange notations.

The Role of Post Offices in Thailand's Economic Development, 1910-1980

Jessica Vechbanyongratana,

While the development of formal banking institutions is recognized as important for economic development, the roles of traditional or alternative financial intermediaries in development are not well understood. In particular, there is scarce literature on post offices as financial intermediaries and their role in a country’s economic development. This paper assesses the role of post offices as financial intermediaries in Thailand from 1910 to 1980. In absence of a well-developed government and commercial branch banking system outside of Bangkok for most of the twentieth century, Thailand’s postal system provided one of the only means to quickly and safely make domestic money transactions over long distances. This paper utilizes data on provincial- and post office-level postal money order transactions over time to assess the growing geographical reach of post office money services and the role that post offices played in regional economic development, especially during a period of increased regional investment...

While the development of formal banking institutions is recognized as important for economic development, the roles of traditional or alternative financial intermediaries in development are not well understood. In particular, there is scarce literature on post offices as financial intermediaries and their role in a country’s economic development. This paper assesses the role of post offices as financial intermediaries in Thailand from 1910 to 1980. In absence of a well-developed government and commercial branch banking system outside of Bangkok for most of the twentieth century, Thailand’s postal system provided one of the only means to quickly and safely make domestic money transactions over long distances. This paper utilizes data on provincial- and post office-level postal money order transactions over time to assess the growing geographical reach of post office money services and the role that post offices played in regional economic development, especially during a period of increased regional investment during the Vietnam War.

Did the U.S. Postal Savings System Reach the Unbanked? An Empirical History

Matthew Jaremski, Elisabeth Perlman, Steven Sprick Schuster

Seeking to reach the unbanked, the United States Postal Savings System (1911-1967) provided a federally insured savings alternative to traditional banks. Using novel datasets on postal deposits, demographic characteristics, and banks, we study how and by whom the System was used. We find the program was initially used by non-farming immigrant populations for short-term saving, then as a safe haven during the Great Depression, and finally as long-term investment for the wealthy during the 1940s. However, even during the earliest period, Postal Savings was only a partial sub-stitute for traditional banks, as locations with banks often heavily used postal savings.

Seeking to reach the unbanked, the United States Postal Savings System (1911-1967) provided a federally insured savings alternative to traditional banks. Using novel datasets on postal deposits, demographic characteristics, and banks, we study how and by whom the System was used. We find the program was initially used by non-farming immigrant populations for short-term saving, then as a safe haven during the Great Depression, and finally as long-term investment for the wealthy during the 1940s. However, even during the earliest period, Postal Savings was only a partial sub-stitute for traditional banks, as locations with banks often heavily used postal savings.

Thrift, Saving and the role of the Post Office Savings Bank in Britain in War and Peace, c1914-1945

Mark Crowley

This paper will focus primarily on the way in which the Post Office Savings Bank (POSB) proved instrumental in the shaping of attitudes among the British people towards savings in the period 1918-45. It contends that the presence and contribution of the POSB to both the First and Second World Wars galvanised the nation by creating the inextricable connection between savings and national strength. This paper will show how war changed the government’s perceptions concerning the importance of savings and the participation of the working-class in the savings movement. Ultimately, it will display how the POSB acted as a complementary force to the pre-existing high street banks and other financial services used by the working class, and how it worked to define new perceptions concerning saving and spending in the first half of the twentieth century in Britain.

This paper will focus primarily on the way in which the Post Office Savings Bank (POSB) proved instrumental in the shaping of attitudes among the British people towards savings in the period 1918-45. It contends that the presence and contribution of the POSB to both the First and Second World Wars galvanised the nation by creating the inextricable connection between savings and national strength. This paper will show how war changed the government’s perceptions concerning the importance of savings and the participation of the working-class in the savings movement. Ultimately, it will display how the POSB acted as a complementary force to the pre-existing high street banks and other financial services used by the working class, and how it worked to define new perceptions concerning saving and spending in the first half of the twentieth century in Britain.