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Tech History Department to host lecture by Newcastle University professor

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At 6 p.m. this evening, Bruce Baker, a lecturer in American History at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, will give a lecture, “How To Own All the Cotton In the World: William P. Brown and Cotton Futures Trading in New Orleans at the Turn of the Century” at the Lincoln Parish Library Events Center.

“Bruce Baker as he explains how brokers in New Orleans managed to buy all the cotton in the world and set its price far beyond what it had been,” according to an article in the “Between the Lines,” a newsletter created by the LPL staff.

“In the 1890s, the price that farmers earned for their cotton was determined by the cotton futures contracts traded on the New Orleans Cotton Exchange and the New York Cotton Exchange.”

The market didn’t work well because of bad information and deliberate manipulation, keeping prices artificially low, the article read.

“A group of cotton brokers in New Orleans led by William P. Brown — once a resident of Ruston — managed to corner the world supply of cotton in 1903, earning millions of dollars and doubling the price of cotton.”

This talk, is drawn from Baker and Barbara Hahn’s new book “The Cotton Kings: Capitalism and Corruption in Turn-of-the-Century New York and New Orleans,” said David Anderson, an associate professor in the Department of History at Louisiana Tech University.

“He partnered with Barbara Hahn to write this book on a particular segment of the cotton industry at the turn of the century,” he said.

“It is about commodity trading, and it is similar to what happened in 2008 with the Great Recession.

In 1903, William Brown tried to corner the market on cotton, Anderson said, causing the price of cotton to soar, which resulted in Brown making millions of dollars.

Brown was once a resident of Ruston, he said.

“This character lived in Ruston for a time, so he is a local in a sense, who affected world commodity markets,” he said.

Baker is on a tour for this book, and after his lecture this evening, he will make his way to Dallas to give other lectures on his work.

In the introduction of his book, Baker wrote that his work would feature “dramatic commercial confrontations where millions of dollars are made and lost in a day.

“It contains corruption intrigue and abuse of power at the highest levels of government. It is a story of men and their wives, of the social ties that link people together and the networks they create. It is also a story of conflict … It is an economic drama enacted on stages from cotton fields and country stores to the cotton exchanges of New Orleans, New York and Liverpool and the boardrooms of banks.”

For those wishing to purchase his book, it is available for purchase online.

The event is free and open to the public.

For more information about the event, or future events contact Sarah Creekmore, administrative assistant at 251-5030 or email her at screekmore@mylpl.org.

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