Forecasting & Business Charts [Slideshow]

The slideshow below, assembled by Walter Friedman, author of Fortune Tellers: The Story of America’s First Economic Forecasters, brings together several forecasting and business charts from the early twentieth century.

More information on many of these charts and the forecasters themselves is in Friedman’s book which you can sample here. If you would like to download a PDF of these images and captions, please right click and save this file.

Fortune Tellers 2
Fortune Tellers 1
1 The Babson Compositplot, 1921
2 Irving Fisher's Diagram of the Equation of Exchange, 1912
3 Irving Fisher's Diagram of the Equation of Exchange, 1912
4 John Moody's View of the Economy, 1904
5 James H Brookmire's Barometer, 1907
6 Brookmire's Barometer Chart
7 Harvard Economic Service Chart
Karl Karsten's Map of Business Conditions
9 Brookmire's Cycle Chart of Business and Banking
10 Malcolm Rorty's Depiction of the Business Cycle
11 Babson's Map of the United States for Merchants and Bankers, 1911
12 Brookmire's survey of business conditions in the United States

A new type of forecasting

The years from the turn of the century to World War I were a fertile time for many business analysts, including the scientific management exponent, F. W. Taylor. While some experts sought to improve the inner workings of firms, other tried to make sense of the very atmosphere in which business operated.

Who were the Fortune Tellers?

After the Panic of 1907, economic forecasters began producing newsletters.

Roger W. Babson published Babson’s Reports, which featured the Compositplot of ups and downs. In 1909, John Moody, who is today remembered for his credit rating company, started his own weekly market report. In 1910 Irving Fisher, a pioneer of mathematical economics, published the first of several charts, intended for economic prediction, in the Journal of Economics. Around this same time, James Brookmire, the son of a grocer in St. Louis, founded the Brookmire Economic Chart company and began publishing forecasts on a regular basis.

The most influential forecasting chart of the period belonged to the Harvard Economic Service, which, in 1922, founded a weekly newsletter that featured its A-B-C curve. Along with these charts were other efforts to map economic activity, including Malcolm Rorty’s sketch of the business cycle and several attempts to capture the geography of business within the U.S.

The Babson Compositplot, from 1921

The large shaded areas marked A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, represent depressions below and expansions above the “normal” line. Babson believed that areas of expansion (B, for instance), would be equal to areas of recession (C, for instance) that followed. The chart also contained a wealth of other information, including stock prices, bond prices, and commodity prices.

Source: Roger W. Babson, Business Barometers Used in the Accumulation of Money (Wellesley Hills, Mass: Babson Institute, 1921), insert.

Irving Fisher’s Diagram of the Equation of Exchange for use in forecasting, 1912

While Fisher did not produce a forecasting chart, he did create a diagram to illustrate the Equation of Exchange (MV + M’V’ = PT), which he depicted showing a mechanical balance. The left side of the balance symbolized the left side of the equation, with a small weight standing for M, the money in circulation, and a larger bank book standing for M’, deposits in checking accounts. The distance to the left of the fulcrum of the weight represented the velocity of circulation (V) and the distance of the bankbook, the velocity of circulation of bank deposits (V’).

(continued in the next slide)

Irving Fisher’s Diagram of the Equation of Exchange for use in forecasting, 1912

The volume of trade (T) was represented by a tray on the right, with the index of prices (P) at which these goods were sold, represented by the distance of the tray to the right. The diagram showed the changes in the values for all the components of the Equation of Exchange from 1896 to 1911. To predict the future, Fisher thought, one needed to look especially at recent changes in the bank deposits, which, if rising rapidly, indicated a coming crisis.

Source: Irving Fisher, “‘The Equation of Exchange,’ 1896-1910,” The American Economic Review 1:2 (Jun 1911): p. 299.

John Moody’s view of the economy

In this 1904 chart, Moody encapsulates a firm-centered view of the economy, in this case showing the dominance of the Morgan banking interests and Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. Moody wrote at the top of the chart, “The large circle in the center of the chart indicates the dominant position of the Trust-formed industries of the Nation; directly linked to and representing this dominant force we find two groups of capitalists, the Standard Oil, or Rockefeller, and the Morgan groups.” Moody’s diagram resembled something of a family tree of capitalism.

Source John Moody, The Truth about The Trusts: A Description and Analysis of the American Trust Movement (New York: Moody Publishing Company, 1904), between pages viii and ix.

James H. Brookmire’s Barometer, close-up

James H. Brookmire’s Barometer depicted three indexes of economic sectors—business activity, the stock market (an index of thirty-two stocks), and banking resources. The small print reads, “Condition of business, banking, and the stock market in February, 1907, foretelling the panic of October, 9 months later.”

Source: The Brookmire Economic Chart Company, A Graphic Record of Fundamental, Financial and Business Conditions Since 1885 (St. Louis: Brookmire, 1913).

Brookmire’s Barometer Chart

Here, Brookmire combined his barometer with a chart of values over time for general business (a black line), average stocks (in shaded line), and banking (in sold red).

Source: The Brookmire Economic Chart Company, A Graphic Record of Fundamental, Financial and Business Conditions Since 1885 (St. Louis: Brookmire, 1913).

Harvard Economic Service Chart

Harvard Economic Service Chart, like Brookmire’s Barometer, was a leading indicator model. Persons believed that Group A (representing stocks) forecast Group B (representing business activity); in turn Group B forecasted Group C (representing banking). In this way, the three indexes together created a view of overall business conditions and, in Person’s words, “future tendencies.” The graph above showed historical values from 1903 to 1908.

Source: Warren M. Persons, “The Index: A Statement of Results,” Review of Economic Statistics 1:2 (April 1919): 112.

Karl Karsten’s “Map of Business Conditions”

Economist Karl Karsten showed American states in relative proportion to their population and shaded according to condition of “business activity,” with the darkest states (New Hampshire and Vermont) representing poor levels. The chart revealed the relative geographic distribution of business activity and population—still very weighted toward New England, Pennsylvania (with the rise of the steel industry in Pittsburgh), and Illinois (with the growth of Chicago and its meatpacking plants and grain industry).

Source: Karl Karsten Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Brookmire’s Cycle Chart of Business and Banking

This chart shows how the ups and downs of business activity tended to deplete and then free up banking resources. As business activity ran from “normal” to “prostrate,” banking resources climbed from “normal” to “abundant” and even “plethoric.” When business activity subsequently climbed to “feverish” and “hazardous,” at the peak of the cycle, banking resources fell to “overextended” and even “critical.”

Source: The Brookmire Economic Chart Company, A Graphic Record of Fundamental, Financial and Business Conditions Since 1885 (St. Louis: Brookmire, 1913).

Malcolm Rorty’s depiction of the business cycle

In this graph, capitalist economies had four discernible phases: revival, prosperity, liquidation, and depression. Above each of these four, Rorty included a list of economic conditions common to each to help readers determine the end of one phase and the start of the next. Note that the chart showed an especially sharp drop of business activity during times of liquidation or crisis.

Source Rorty, Some Problems in Current Economics (1922).

Babson’s Map of the United States for Merchants and Bankers, 1911

The map showed regions where failures were increasing (shown in squares) and business declining (shown in circles).

Brookmire’s survey of business conditions in the United States

Regions were color-coded to indicate whether crop production was good, fair, or poor. Cities were marked with stars if they were numerous business failures, with diamonds if they held dull opportunities for salesmen, and ampersands if the opportunities for salesmen were improving.

Source: The Brookmire Economic Chart Company, A Graphic Record of Fundamental, Financial and Business Conditions Since 1885 (St. Louis, Mo., 1912).

Fortune Tellers 2 thumbnail
Fortune Tellers 1 thumbnail
1 The Babson Compositplot, 1921 thumbnail
2 Irving Fisher's Diagram of the Equation of Exchange, 1912 thumbnail
3 Irving Fisher's Diagram of the Equation of Exchange, 1912 thumbnail
4 John Moody's View of the Economy, 1904 thumbnail
5 James H Brookmire's Barometer, 1907 thumbnail
6 Brookmire's Barometer Chart thumbnail
7 Harvard Economic Service Chart thumbnail
Karl Karsten's Map of Business Conditions thumbnail
9 Brookmire's Cycle Chart of Business and Banking thumbnail
10 Malcolm Rorty's Depiction of the Business Cycle thumbnail
11 Babson's Map of the United States for Merchants and Bankers, 1911 thumbnail
12 Brookmire's survey of business conditions in the United States thumbnail

 

 

BOOK FACT FRIDAY – The Federal Reserve & Ben S. Bernanke

k9928“The Federal Reserve was founded 1914, and concerns about both macroeconomic stability and financial stability motivated the decision of Congress and President Woodrow Wilson to create it. After the Civil War and into the early 1900s, there was no central bank, so any kind of financial stability functions that could not be performed by the Treasury had to be done privately.” -Ben S. Bernanke, from chapter one of The Federal Reserve and the Financial Crisis

In 2012, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, gave a series of lectures about the Federal Reserve and the 2008 financial crisis, as part of a course at George Washington University on the role of the Federal Reserve in the economy. In this unusual event, Bernanke revealed important background and insights into the central bank’s crucial actions during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Taken directly from these historic talks, The Federal Reserve and the Financial Crisis offers insight into the guiding principles behind the Fed’s activities and the lessons to be learned from its handling of recent economic challenges.

Ben S. Bernanke is chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve. He has served as chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors and as a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. Before his time in public service he was a professor of economics at Princeton University. His many books include Essays on the Great Depression and Inflation Targeting (both Princeton).

The Federal Reserve and the Financial Crisis
by Ben S. Bernanke

We invite you to read chapter one online at: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s9928.pdf

BOOK FACT FRIDAY

FACT: With the introduction of the income tax in 1913, tariffs were no longer a major source of government revenue.  As a result, Congress began to use tariffs mainly to protect domestic industries from imports.

Peddling Protectionism:
Smoot-Hawley and the Great Depression

By Douglas A. Irwin

The Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1930, which raised U.S. duties on hundreds of imported goods to record levels, is America’s most infamous trade law. It is often associated with–and sometimes blamed for–the onset of the Great Depression, the collapse of world trade, and the global spread of protectionism in the 1930s. Even today, the ghosts of congressmen Reed Smoot and Willis Hawley haunt anyone arguing for higher trade barriers; almost single-handedly, they made protectionism an insult rather than a compliment. In Peddling Protectionism, Douglas Irwin provides the first comprehensive history of the causes and effects of this notorious measure, explaining why it largely deserves its reputation for combining bad politics and bad economics and harming the U.S. and world economies during the Depression.  Peddling Protectionism tells a fascinating story filled with valuable lessons for trade policy today.

We invite you to read the introduction online at:
http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9430.pdf

Douglas A. Irwin is the Robert E. Maxwell ’23 Professor of Arts and Sciences in the Department of Economics at Dartmouth College. He is the author of Against the Tide: An Intellectual History of Free Trade and Free Trade under Fire.