Investment Management in Boston by David Grayson Allen
Publication Date: 2015-01-21
“Encyclopedic” best describes this remarkable account of investing over the course of Boston’s long history. Under the auspices of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Allen (principal, Allen Associates) provides countless vignettes of individuals, families, and institutions in addition to lessons in financial terminology and processes. His research spans documents, interviews, and previous studies. Insights abound in Allen's book, such as the observation that by the 1830s, “individuals came to see interest as the improvement of money ... no longer as a mutual aid among men.” Institutions arose to formalize financial practices, facilitating and responding to Bostonians’ changing economic activities. Allen effectively connects financial pursuits with Boston’s economic and social evolution. He notes that endowment management and international trade dominated the earliest stages, but industrialization, railroads, mining, and securities brokerage led the 19th century. The 20th-century practices and fluctuating fortunes of banks, trusts, pension funds, mutual funds, endowments, and venture capital firms fill most pages of the book. Finally, Allen concludes that Boston’s traditional attitudes “endure,” with prudence trumping “the quickest or largest return.” To know if this remains accurate, readers need to learn more about recent outcomes than they do here. Well written and engaging throughout, with endnotes full of additional details and resources.