Before its collapse, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. — infamous for being the only company to declare bankruptcy during the 2008 financial crisis — had touched almost every sector of the American economy.
Looking at its primary business records, the majority of which are at the Baker Library of Harvard Business School (HBS), it’s easy to trace the firm’s influence on a wide array of industries in its 150-year history, from retail and film to aviation and technology. The documents show everything from Lehman’s business transactions to its stock certificates, and make clear just how broad a reach the company had in national and global business.
Many of these documents are on display in a new exhibit at the library, “Lehman Brothers: A History, 1850–2008,” that looks at firm’s wide reach as it went from small and family-run to the fourth-largest investment bank in the U.S.
The materials, on display in the library’s north lobby until July 12, are part of a treasure trove of historical collections focusing on the evolution of business. The library holds one of the world’s most extensive collections of business and economic history; it spans eight centuries and contains more than 180,000 rare books, 186,000 annual reports, 48,000 linear feet of archives and manuscripts, and 200,000 photographs. Together, these documents help shine a light on theories, organizations, and individuals that shaped the business world while also supporting research in a number of nonbusiness fields, including social history, science, and technology.