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The Good Consumer: Credit Reporting and the Invention of Financial Identity in the United States, 1840–1940

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 February 2015


The Good Consumer offers a historical account of consumer credit reporting in the United States, from its nineteenth-century antecedents in commercial credit reporting through its professionalization and transformation into a key communication infrastructure during the first half of the twentieth century. While describing the technical and institutional development of the modern credit bureau, The Good Consumer draws special attention to one of the most consequential effects of credit reporting: the invention of financial identity. Formalized systems of credit evaluation produced their own categories of social reality and fostered new forms of economic objectification. The title refers to the “goodness” of credit consumers in several contexts: as prompt paying customers, trustworthy and morally upright citizens, profitable target markets, and collectively as a vital force behind the growth of the twentiethcentury American economy.

Copyright © The Author(s) 2010. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Business History Conference. All rights reserved.

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