Baker Library – Historical Collections: Buy Now, Pay Later

Baker Library HistoricalÿCollections, Harvard Business Schoolÿannounces the opening of a new exhibition – “Buy Now, Pay Later: A History of Personal Credit.”ÿ The exhibit will run through June 3, 2011 in the North Lobby, Baker Library, Bloomberg Center, Harvard Business School.
There is a myth of a lost golden age of economic virtue. Once upon a time, the story goes, people lived within their means and borrowed only under the direst of circumstances. Debt was shameful, and credit financed only “productive” purchases like homes or farm machinery. Although nostalgia seldom makes good history, writers mourned this lost age through the Roaring Twenties, the rise of the credit card in the 1960s, and the home mortgage boom and bust of 2005-2008.

“Buy Now, Pay Later: A History of Personal Credit” demonstrates that while the instruments and institutions of twenty-first century credit-the installment plan, the credit card, and the home finance industry-are less than a century old, credit itself is as old as commerce. The exhibition draws from Baker Library’s Historical Collections materials to show how previous generations devised creative ways of lending and borrowing long before credit cards or mortgage backed securities.

Visit // to learn more about the history of personal credit, to find materials that could support further research, and to view some of the items featured in this exhibition.

Please contact Baker Library Historical Collections at if you would like to request a copy of the exhibition catalog.

For more information about Baker Library Historical Collections visit