Koleman Strumpf, an economics professor at the University of Kansas, says these markets have been around since the beginning of our democracy and were especially popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.I wonder if this was an international phenomena.
"There was a period in the early part of the 20th century when this market literally existed right outside Wall Street," Strumpf says. It was outdoors, right on the curb, so it became known as the "curb market." "People would actively bet on all sorts of elections," he says. "And for sure, in the period right about now in October, there [were] huge amounts of betting activity."
Political betting was also an important tool for newspapers before the era of public opinion polling. Outlets would report on the action to get a sense of which candidate was winning.
A journalist reporting on the market "would list not only what the prices were, to give you an idea who was leading," Strumpf says, but "would also list who was making these investments or bets."
That meant that readers would know if the bets were being placed by specific traders — or by politicos from the New York Democratic political machine Tammany Hall, Strumpf says.
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