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…as ruthless as a board meeting smelling out embezzlement, as suspicious as a secret agent riding the Orient Express, as cold-eyed as a pawnbroker viewing a leaky concertina… Paul Murray Kendall

Proof of lantern slide that illustrates lyrics to the song Yonkle, the Cow-Boy Jew by Will J. Harris (composer lyricist) and Harry I. Robinson (composer) shows Yonkle Finkelstein's wife and daughter outside his pawnshop.

Proof of lantern slide that illustrates lyrics to the song Yonkle, the Cow-Boy Jew by Will J. Harris (composer lyricist) and Harry I. Robinson (composer) shows Yonkle Finkelstein’s wife and daughter outside his pawnshop.

In hock : pawning in America from independence through the Great Depression  Wendy A. Woloson  Chicago ; London : The University of Chicago Press, 2009  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xiii, 233 p. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 195-222) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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The definitive history of pawnbroking in the United States from the nation’s founding through the Great Depression, In Hock demonstrates that the pawnshop was essential to the rise of capitalism. The class of working poor created by this economic tide could make ends meet only, Woloson argues, by regularly pawning household objects to supplement inadequate wages.

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Nonetheless, businessmen, reformers, and cultural critics claimed that pawnshops promoted vice, and employed anti-Semitic stereotypes to cast their proprietors as greedy and cold-hearted. Using personal correspondence, business records, and other archival sources to uncover the truth behind the rhetoric, Woloson brings to life a diverse cast of characters and shows that pawnbrokers were in fact shrewd businessmen, often from humble origins, who possessed sophisticated knowledge of a wide range of goods in various resale markets.

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A much-needed new look at a misunderstood institution, In Hock is both a first-rate academic study of a largely ignored facet of the economy and a resonant portrait of the economic struggles of generations of Americans.

Print shows a large police officer turning the crank on a large press labeled "Blackmail", squeezing money out of a variety of merchants labeled "Boot Black, Gin Mill Keeper, Dive Keeper, Merchant, Green Goods, Contractor, Gambler, [and] Pawnbroker

Print shows a large police officer turning the crank on a large press labeled “Blackmail”, squeezing money out of a variety of merchants labeled “Boot Black, Gin Mill Keeper, Dive Keeper, Merchant, Green Goods, Contractor, Gambler, [and] Pawnbroker

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