Grossman Speaks on the Wealth of 18th Century Middletown Residents

Richard Grossman

Richard Grossman

As part of the “A Vanished Port” series, Richard Grossman, professor of economics, presented a lecture titled, “How Rich Was Rich,” at the Russell Library in Middletown, Conn. on Nov. 9.

The lecture came as part of a newly opened exhibit at the Middlesex County Historical Society. “A Vanished Port: Middletown and the Caribbean, 1750-1824,” takes objects and documents from the time period to illustrate the “culture of prosperity that grew from Middletown’s trade relationships with the slave-worked sugar plantations of the English Caribbean.”

Using Middletown merchant, Richard Alsop, who died in 1776 with a huge estate that included property, possessions, and human beings, all valued at 52,000 pounds as an example, Grossman attempted to answer the question, “Were Alsop and his fellow Middletown businessmen rich by modern standards?” In this vein, Grossman examined the colonial currency of early Connecticut, its buying power, the monetary standards of the time, and the difficulty of understanding a very different form of money in today’s standard. Simply put, he discussed “the complexity of comprehending economies from long-ago in the present day,” according to an Oct. 5 article published in the Hartford Courant.

More information on the exhibit “A Vanished Port” is posted to the historical society’s website.