During World War I and World War II, thousands of business and industry executives went to work for the US government serving on various boards or as advisors. They were known as dollar-a-year men due to their salary which was literally $1.00 per year.
Bernard Baruch is credited with being the first dollar-a-year man. Baruch was a Wall Street financier who agreed to serve to become an advisor to President Wilson. He served on the National Council of Defense and the War Industries Board in WWI.
During WWII most dollar-a-year men were affiliated with the War Production Board. The WPB was chaired by Donald M. Nelson. It coordinated the allocation of resources for the war effort in the United States.
The token payment was made by US government check. Those who did not serve a full year received a pro-rated payment. The nominal amounts of the checks meant that many went uncashed and were held as souvenirs.