Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2000
  • Online publication date: March 2008

Bibliographic Essays



Notable contemporary efforts to measure the scale and performance of the U.S. economy were made in the nineteenth century. (See Robert E. Gallman, “Estimates of American National Product Made Before the Civil ar,” in Economic Development and Cultural Change, 9 [1961, supplement 397–412]). The best of this work was by Ezra Champion Seaman, Essays on the Progress of Nations (New York, 1846, Supplement I, 1847, Supplement II, 1848, 2nd ed. 1852, 3rd ed. 1865); see also, The American System of Government (New York, 1870). Seamen invented a conceptual system very like modern national accounts and made excellent estimates for 1840, 1850, 1860, and 1869. He also derived the size distribution of income in the late 1860s, on the basis of income tax data.

In the early twentieth century Willford Isbell King and Robert F. Martin (the latter on behalf of the National Industrial Conference Board) prepared national product figures for various dates in the nineteenth century: King, The Wealth and Income of the People of the United States (New York, 1919) and Martin, National Income in the United States, 1799–1938 (New York, 1939). The Martin estimates for the antebellum years were subject to a devastating critique by Simon Kuznets (“Long-Term Changes in the National Income of the United States of America since 1870,” in Simon Kuznets [ed.] Income and Wealth in the United States, Trends and Structure, Income and Wealth, Series II [Cambridge, 1952], 221–41, and “National Income Estimates for the United States prior to 1870,” Journal of Economic History, 12 [1952], 115–30).