Cover

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Contents

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Introduction

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pp. 1-12

In her civil case against Benjamin Wickham, Jr., Abigail Stoneman presented an unusual form of evidence to the court: the nine of clubs. By the time of its court appearance, this playing card had traveled across the landscape of the late eighteenth-century economy. It had also transformed...

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1. Urban Housefuls

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pp. 13-38

Census-takers, like historians, understood early American society in terms of households. The smallest building block of society was also the organizing principle of the population count. As they made their tallies, census-takers grouped residents together under a single name, called...

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2. Work in the Atlantic Service Economy

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pp. 39-68

Most of the women who moved through the streets of Newport and Charleston were hard at work—carrying goods, pumping water, attending the market, and visiting stores. In some ways, these tasks echoed what generations of African, European, and American women had done on behalf...

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3. Family Credit and Shared Debts

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pp. 69-100

In 1776, Sarah Cantwell responded indignantly and in print to her husband’s claim that she had run away from him, taking his credit and good name with her. In the pages of the South Carolina and American General Gazette she asserted: “JOHN CANTWELL has the Impudence to advertise...

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4. Translating Money

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pp. 101-128

A sheaf of promissory notes distributed throughout the city marked a woman as a person of credit but not necessarily of wealth. From tax lists with only a sprinkling of female names to poorhouse rolls dominated by them, official city records tell a tale of relative female poverty. ...

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5. Shopping Networks and Consumption as Collaboration

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pp. 129-160

In March 1775, Eliza Pinckney packed a trunk with limes, aprons, paper, and cloth to send to her daughter Harriott Horry. Pinckney tucked the trunk’s key into a newsy letter that reported on her labors:...

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6. The Republic of Goods

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pp. 161-189

The work of shopping networks—circulating information, looking for bargains, arranging credit payments—spurred business, cemented social connections, and offered moments of autonomy and authority to subordinates. The process was emphatically not self-sufficient, which was what...

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Conclusion

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pp. 190-196

“All the World is becoming commercial,” Thomas Jefferson wrote to George Washington after the Revolution, though he would not say “whether commerce contributed to the Happiness of mankind.”1 Ambivalence over commerce, which brought great wealth and sudden disaster, was...

Notes

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pp. 197-242

Index

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pp. 243-250

Acknowledgments

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pp. 251-253