De Pere City Orders of 1933

Close up of the medallion that appears on the face of the City Orders issued by De Pere, Wisconsin in 1933.

As the Great Depression wore on into the early 1930s various schemes were developed to try to move the economy forward. High unemployment, failing banks and the stock market collapse ground the economy to a halt and money had become scarce. Commerce virtually ceased nationwide when President Roosevelt ordered all banks closed on March 6, 1933.

Local governments were squeezed by two factors. First, cash was tied up in closed banks. Second, tax collections dropped off as it became impossible for people and businesses to pay them. There were several types of municipal scrip including tax anticipation notes, certificates of indebtedness, payment orders and relief orders. Low denomination municipal bonds also were circulated.

Souvenir $1.00 De Pere City Order made from an unissued April 19, 1933 note. The backs on all the notes are blank.

The City of De Pere, Wisconsin was forced to issue payment orders to meet payroll and other city expenses because most of the City’s cash was held in accounts at banks that were closed by the moratorium.  In March 1933, the city had approximately $500.00 in cash available and immediate payables in excess of $3,000.00.  Over $70,000.00 of the city’s money was tied up in closed banks.

The first issue of scrip was authorized in March and issued on April 19, 1933.  This first issue totaled $20,000.00 and consisted of 12,000 $1.00 notes, 1,000 $5.00 notes and 300 $10.00 notes.  The second issue was dated May 20, 1933 and the final issue was dated June 14, 1933. A total of $55,000.00 was issued.

Souvenir $5.00 De Pere City Order. The City Orders were necessary because the municipal funds were held in banks that were closed.

The serial number break down is as follows:

DATE$1.00$5.0010.00
April 19, 19331 – 1200012001 – 1300013001 – 13300
May 20, 193313301 – 1730017301 – 1830018301 – 19300
June 14, 193319301 – 2330023301 – 2430024300 – 25000

City merchants initially balked at the idea of accepting the scrip. The merchants were concerned that it would not be accepted by their suppliers. They also demanded that the scrip bear interest.  The merchants’ concerns were allayed when the suppliers indicated a willingness to accept partial payments in scrip and the City agreed to the scrip bearing 4% interest. 

The scrip was payable by the City no later than March 15, 1934 and was accepted in payment of taxes and other obligations due the City. It was subject to being called in by the City if adequate funds were available for redemption prior to this date.  The issued scrip was redeemed on the call of the city.

Notice in the De Pere Journal-Democrat announcing the redemption of city orders. The serial numbers indicate all the April scrip and the $1.00 notes from May.

Scrip not turned in by the redemption date ceased earning interest as of that date.   Redemption began on May 18, 1933 when $3,000.00 was called in. Redemption calls were done by serial number prior to the final redemption on March 15, 1934 A total of $54,974.00 was redeemed through 1939.

Circulation of the scrip was explained in the April 13, 1933 edition of the De Pere Journal-Democrat:

                . . . All city officials, employees, teachers, laborers and business men who have money coming from the city will be given scrip in payment for their services and they, in turn, will pass it to whoever will take it.  As this new circulating medium draws 4 per cent interest it is believed it will be accepted gladly when it is known that it is backed by the city’s credit.  Practically all the scrip will be circulated in De Pere.

               Scrip will be returned in change by merchants except that for amounts under $1.00, silver change will be given customers.  The merchants have decided to have a sufficient amount of $1.00 scrip bills on hand to return scrip in change for scrip, and also currency for currency.  The scrip will have the same purchasing power as all other kinds of money or checks.  The name “De Pere” will be plainly printed upon the bills.

Sample scrip printed by the Todd Company touting their Protod-Greenbac line of safety documents.

The scrip was printed by the Todd Company of Rochester, New York who charged the City $162.27 for each issue printed.  The specifications for the printing of the scrip were discussed in an article in the April 20, 1933 edition of the De Pere Journal-Democrat:

                  Twenty thousand dollars worth of city order scrip, $12,000 in one dollar denomination, $5,000 in fives and $3,000 in tens, was delivered to city officials today by the Todd company of Rochester, N.Y.

                   Printed on what is called “Protod-Greenbac” safety paper, the scrip is gray and black on its face with green back.  On the left the city seal is incorporated in an intricate bank note design.  Large “counter” numeral of the denomination is worked into the bank note vignetted border in the upper righthand corner, and smaller corresponding numerals form part of the design above and below the city seal.  Lettered in the bank note border at the top are the words “Hold to the light—See Water-mark” and in the bottom border “Genuine only if watermarked Protod-Greenbac.”  It bears the signatures of Mayor Rudolph Rupiper; City Clerk R. O. Planert; and City Treasurer Lillian H. Dillon.

                 It will be easy for you to identify the genuineness of City of De Pere scrip.  Remember the gray intricate lacy dot pattern on the face, the green wavy design on the back.  And, most important, if on holding the scrip to the light, you find the water-mark Protod-Greenbac, you may be assured that you have genuine scrip.

                 The city treasurer, Miss Dillon, will be ready Monday to pay city bills in scrip.

                One other security feature of the scrip is found in the serial numbers.  Each number is preceded by a two letter prefix.  The first letter of the prefix is the same as the first letter of the month the scrip is dated – A(pril), M(ay) and J(une).  The second letter of the prefix corresponds to the first letter of the denomination – (O)ne, F(ive) and T(en).

Redeemed De Pere CIty Order dated May 20, 1933. The cancellation date is February 15, 1934.
Image courtesy Chet Krause.

Scrip that was redeemed by the city bears a perforated cancellation containing the date.  Specimens were made using unnumbered April 19, 1933 pieces by overprinting “SAMPLE – NOT VALID”.

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