Okay, I’m somewhat loathed to write this post since I do not want to crawl over even more tourist in New York’s financial district, but hidden among the high-end retailers, gyms and other businesses that support Wall Street workers is a great museum, The Museum of American Finance.
It is easy to walk by the museum and not know that it is there. The building used to be The Bank of New York’s headquarters during the Roaring Twenties and fits in well with the rest of the neighborhood. The museum is a block east of the George Washington statue in front of Federal Hall and right next to the subway entrance for the 2 line. Or more precisely, it’s located at 48 Wall Street.
After walking in through the front doors and up the stairs to the exhibits space, life-size statues of Aaron Burr and American patron saint of finance Alexander Hamilton in mid-duel meet visitors.
The museum makes great use of its 10,000 to 12,000 square-foot exhibit space, which includes its permanent exhibits on birth and growth of the American markets from the colonial era to present day. The two rotating exhibits on display trace the origin and growth of today’s financial crisis and the history of Baring Bank’s investment in the US from the 18th to early 20th Century.
Many people might find finance a dry topic, but the museum does a great job of presenting content in a fun an interactive way using the latest technology.
I probably would wait until children reach their double-digits before bringing them to the museum. However, Ms. Gallo’s fourth-grade class from P.S. 66 in Brooklyn, who toured the museum at the same time, seemed to enjoy the exhibits before disappearing to a presentation by “Inspector Collector” in museum’s instructional space.
In a very generous gesture, private equity firm Southport Lane is sponsoring a free Saturday admission for all visitors until the end of the year. Not only can families enjoy the museum for free, but every students who visits on Saturdays also will go home with a souvenir stock certificate.
From a personal perspective, there were two artifacts that caught my eye. The first was a replica of one of the bonds that financed the Louisiana Purchase from France. The curious part of about the bond is that English merchant banker Francis Baring underwrote the entire deal during the Napoleonic Wars and beat Michael Corleone to the “It’s strictly business” defense by two centuries.
The other was a ledger containing the federal budget when Alexander Hamilton served as US Secretary of the Treasury under Washington. The ledger was about 80 pages and the entire budget for the US Department of War was a whopping $7,135.19.
I am sure you will walk away with your own favorites like the solid gold and gem-encrusted Monopoly set on loan from the Smithsonian Institute.
Go. You will have a good time while learning about the financial markets.