Financial History Issue 131 (Fall 2019) - Page 16

country asking for samples of their scrip, paying in some cases with postage stamps. One case was particularly interesting. Upton Sinclair, the great muckraker and author of The Jungle, ran for governor of California in 1934 as a socialist, his slogan, “End Poverty in California.” Red-baiting enemies circulated fake scrip called “Sin- cLIAR dollars,” which were “Good Only in California and Russia.” What lessons might be drawn from the Crash of 1929 with its scrip? One might be the protective role of government. We live in a cynical time of disdain for public service. But Gulick symbolized faith in enlightened leadership, and the knowl- edge required to turn theory into effective public policy. In a foreword to a lauded 1936 Rockefeller study of liquor reform, “After Repeal,” Gulick wrote: For Depression-era consumers short of cash to pay fractional sales taxes, some states issued tokens like these bottle-cap cardboards in values as small as one-tenth of a cent. for its prompt use. And some government entities issued square or round tokens of tin, aluminum or cardboard, in denomi- nations as small as one mill, one-tenth of a cent, to pay sales tax on very small purchases. The Treasury later ruled these fractional coins illegal. As for scrip, as long as issuers didn’t claim to be minting legal tender, Wash- ington was willing to look away. Given the dire circumstances, scrip was legal enough. Some was exchanged at a utopian exper- iment called the Natural Development Association of Salt Lake City, an influen- tial cooperative with its own newspaper and, according to authors Weishaar and Parish, more power than 50 trainloads of Communists. It was limited, however, to members who subscribed to Christianity. Fascinatingly, one of the earliest advo- cates of self-liquidating scrip, and a harsh critic of the monetary system, was Charles A. Lindbergh Sr., father of the aviator, who served in Congress from Minnesota from 1907 to 1917 and opposed Ameri- can involvement in World War I, an isolationist like his son. I didn’t know much about scrip until finding it in archives I was working on in Baruch College’s Newman Library after leaving The Times. I had started a blog on an especially historic collection, the papers of the Institute of Public Administration and its longtime director, Luther Halsey Gulick III (1892–1993). With the gener- ous help of Carnegie Corporation of New York, we got the donated collection of 700 overstuffed cartons out of storage and into Baruch for processing and digitiza- tion. One of the surprises we found was Gulick’s collection of scrip. Gulick, it turned out, was not just a leading theorist of government manage- ment, a counselor to Presidents Wood- row Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman, and New York’s first City Administrator, under Mayor Robert F. Wagner. He was also an obsessive collec- tor of posters, charts, maps—and scrip. Starting in April 1934, Gulick, fascinated with all the workings of government, sent letters to municipal officials around the 14    FINANCIAL HISTORY  |  Fall 2019  | The real work of government is not to be found behind the Greek columns of public buildings. It is rather on the land, among the people. It is the post- man delivering mail, the policeman walking his beat, the teacher hearing Johnny read, the whitewing sweeping the street, the inspectors—dairy, food, health, tenement, factory, on the farm, in the laboratory, the slaughterhouse, the slum, the mill; it is the playground full of children; the library with its readers; the reservoirs of pure water flowing to the cities; it is street lights at night; it is thousands and thousands of miles of pavements and sidewalks; it is the nurse beside the free bed; the doctor administering serum; and the food, raiment and shelter given those who have nothing; it is the standard of weight and measure and value in every hamlet. All this is government and not what men call ‘government’ in great buildings at capitols; and its symbol is found not in the great flag flown from the dome of the capitol but in the twenty-five million flags in the homes of the people.  Ralph Blumenthal, a Distinguished Lec- turer at Baruch College and reporter for The New York Times from 1964 to 2009, gave a lunchtime talk at the Museum of American Finance on October 29, 2019, for the 90th anniversary of Black Tues- day, 1929. This article is adapted from his presentation.