Unless otherwise indicated, all OI books are distributed by The University of North Carolina Press.

A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise

Merchants and Economic Development in Revolutionary Philadelphia

Thomas Doerflinger

Paper: 978-0-8078-4946-0 ($39.95)

Copyright 1986
University of North Carolina Press

A Prize-Winning Book

  • Herbert Feis Award, American Historical Association (1986)
  • Bancroft Prize (1987)

A social, economic, and political study of Philadelphia merchants, this study presents both the spirit and statistics of merchant life. Doerflinger studies the Philadelphia merchant community from three perspectives: their commercial world, their confrontation with the Revolution and its aftermath, and their role in diversifying the local economy. The analysis of entrepreneurship dominates the study and challenges long-standing assumptions about American economic history.


A solid, well-written, and brilliantly perceptive study of the economic structure and behavior of the merchant class in Revolutionary Philadelphia.

--Richard Alan Ryerson

In a masterly study that should serve as a model not only for economic and business historians but also for students of the subtle interplay between economic development, values, change in social structure, and the tensions governing relationships between private and public life, Doerflinger has traced the changing contours of the Philadelphia mercantile community during the American revolutionary era—with penetrating glances both backward and forward in time.

--Stuart Bruchey