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Eric Hilt (Wellesley College)

This paper analyses the ownership of public companies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Beginning in the 1880s, the number of publicly traded corporations in the United States began to expand significantly, first with the addition of new railroads, and later with industrial corporations. As securities markets expanded, the ownership of the largest public companies became much more dispersed. At the same time, the composition of corporate boards changed significantly.  Between 1880 and 1910, there was a substantial increase in the number of individuals holding five or more directorships, who were typically either financiers, prominent lawyers, or capitalists.  As corporate ownership became more dispersed, the control of corporate boards became more concentrated.  

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