John Brown Today

John Brown's Bankruptcy Bookshelf

January 22, 2021 Louis DeCaro Jr. Season 2 Episode 1
John Brown Today
John Brown's Bankruptcy Bookshelf
Show Notes

What can be learned by looking at a person's bookshelf?  In this episode, Lou reflects upon John Brown's early business and financial difficulties and argues that despite the simplistic and often manipulative way that writers have portrayed this theme in Brown's biography, few if any biographers have taken an adequate look at both Brown's business life and the economic circumstances of the United States that impacted him. Lou argues that Brown was not categorical failure in business, and in the later 1840s actually improved his business reputation significantly despite the challenges that he faced.  In this episode, however, Lou is concerned with the nadir of Brown's business life in the late 1830s and early 1840s which culminated with two difficult outcomes--his moral lapse, made out of desperation, in manipulating a client's investment, and his bankruptcy in 1842.  However, using the bankruptcy inventory of 1842, Lou makes a brief survey of a handful of books that were reviewed by the assignee for his case, George De Peyster.  Interestingly, there are some fascinating connections to Brown's life and background to be found in his "bankruptcy bookshelf."  An unabridged transcript of this episode is published on the "John Brown Today" blog at this link.