Conrad R. Guth was born on November 24, 1873 in Forestville, Door County, Wisconsin. His parents, Charles Guth and Albertina Kay, were immigrants from Germany. His father built the first frame house in the Forestville area.
Guth worked on a farm in Sawyer, Wisconsin (now part of Sturgeon Bay) and then in Menominee, Michigan. In 1893, he built a cheese factory on land his father had purchased in Kolberg, Wisconsin. Kolberg is a small, unincorporated community in the Town of Brussels, Door County, Wisconsin.
He opened a general store in Kolberg which was described as having the largest stock of any general store in the county. In 1903, the store was expanded. He also continued to operate the cheese factory and a creamery.
He remained in business in Kolberg until 1918 when he sold his enterprises and moved to Oneida County. There he purchased the Lakeview Inn on Pelican Lake.
In 1893, he married Theresa Grundemann of the Village of Ahnapee in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin. They had five children. He died in 1950 and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Algoma, Wisconsin.
James E. Plummer was born on October 4, 1921 in upstate New York to Clarence and Bessie Plummer. Shortly after he was born, the family moved to Kansas. He was their only child. He enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps on December 7, 1939 as an airplane mechanic. His intention was to learn aviation and work for an airline after his service was completed.
His military service began at Ft. Riley, Kansas where he trained as a mechanic and a tail gunner on B-17s. In the summer of 1941 he transferred to the 19th Bomb Group at Clark Field, the Philippines and was assigned to the Headquarters Squadron. He was at Clark Field when it was attacked by the Japanese on December 8, 1941. He remained at Clark Field until December 29 when the squadron boarded a steamer for Mindanao arriving there on January 1, 1942.
The squadron operated out of Del Monte airfield on Mindanao as part of the Visayas-Mindanao Force. Plummer was assigned to the quartermaster depot at Del Monte. In April 1942, he was transferred to an air corps unit responsible for beach defense. On May 7, 1942, the unit removed to Maramig airfield and surrendered to the Japanese. Five days later, Plummer and his comrades were trucked to Malaybalay Prison. He remained there until September 14, 1942 when he was moved to Bilibid Prison at Manila en route to Karenko Prison on the island of Formosa.
On September 20, 1942, Plummer and approximately 1,000 other POWs were crammed onto the Buenos Aires Maru, an ocean liner that had been converted to a hospital ship to start a seven day journey to Formosa. In addition to its cargo of prisoners, the ship was carrying Japanese soldiers, ammunition and military equipment. The next day, off the coast of Luzon, it was attacked by an American submarine. The Japanese placed armed sentries at the hatch to fire upon any prisoners who tried to flee in the chaos of the attack. They were not provided life jackets. Thankfully, the ship emerged unscathed. (The Buenos Aires Maru was later sunk by American aircraft while transporting Japanese wounded and medical personnel).
Plummer arrived at Karenko on September 27, 1942. He remained there until moved to Shirakowa, Formosa in June 1943. He was at Shirakowa longer than any other facility leaving there in October 1944. While on Formosa, he reported that he was paid five yen per month in camp scrip that could be spent on goods at a poorly stocked camp store.
On October 9, 1944, he and over a thousand other POWs were crammed into the holds of the hellship, Oryoku Maru. They were packed tight and could only sit or stand. The ship had last hauled cattle and the holds were not cleaned. It was infested with rats and cockroaches.
Before the ship could leave Formosa it was attacked twice in two days by American Navy planes. The presence of American ships nearby prevented the Oryoku Maru from leaving port until October 22. It arrived at Moji, Kyushu in the Japanese home islands on October 27. The prisoners remained in the holds for those eighteen days. They were let out onto the dock twice during the entire time to where they were hosed down. What little food they were given was passed down from above and not evenly dispensed. Many of the men died or went mad.
(In December 1944, the Oryoku Maru was sunk by planes from the USS Hornet in the Philippines. There were over 3,500 prisoners on board of which 285 were killed in the attack along with over 500 Japanese military and civilians.)
The prisoners were transported from Fusan to a camp in Chiengchia Tun in southern Manchuria. Plummer remained there until May 21, 1945 when he was transferred to the Hoten camp at Mukden in northern Manchuria. Hoten was liberated by the Red Army on August 20, 1945 thus ending 1,285 days of captivity for Sergeant Plummer.
Plummer reported that the best treatment he received as a prisoner was at the camps in the Philippines which were run by the front line Japanese Army units. Camp conditions and treatment of the prisoners by their captors worsened as time went on and he was moved from camp to camp. He did orderly room work for the Allied officers while in the camps on Formosa. He worked in the kitchens of the camps in Manchuria.
He tended to gardens on Formosa and in Manchuria. The prisoners grew sweet potatoes and cabbage which was intended for their use but was frequently confiscated by the Japanese and Korean guards. The diet consisted almost exclusively of rice and poor quality vegetables. They had meat occasionally early on but it was served less and less frequently until it disappeared altogether. They were able to fish small minnows out of a pond at Mukden.
Discipline in the camps was harsh. The Japanese punished minor infractions by face-slapping. More serious offenses resulted in beatings. Solitary confinement was not used in the camps he was in. Instead, the Japanese instituted punishment by tens. Each prisoner was part of a group of ten and the same punishment was meted out to all in the group. If a prisoner escaped, the other members of his group were executed. Plummer reported only being punished on one occasion. He and two others captured and slaughtered a chicken that had flown into camp at Mukden. This was a violation of camp rules and a guard caught them while it was being cooked. All three men were in separate punishment groups so thirty men served ten days in the punishment pen for this infraction.
Plummer frequently contracted dysentery and had many bouts of malaria. He had one tooth pulled without anesthetic while in the camps. After liberation, he had another tooth pulled and twenty fillings put in. He lost thirty pounds during captivity. He suffered from nervousness and his eyes were failing. He was evacuated to the 204th General Hospital on Guam where he remained for recuperation until early 1946. He was eventually discharged on May 27, 1946.
He returned to Kansas after the war. While he did not see his dream of working in aviation realized, he became a construction project manager for a company that did work all around the world. Ironically, two of the places he worked were Mindanao and Manchuria. He died in Kansas in 1996.
The source for this information was James Plummer himself. He answered a questionnaire about his imprisonment in 1946. He also gave an interview to a sixth grade neighbor in 1985 for a class project. I am indebted to Craig Coleman for providing me copies of these documents as well as other records kept by Sgt. Plummer.
This Bill of Exchange was made out in May 1925 on the USS Preble when it was with the Asiatic Fleet. It was made payable to Captain George B. Landenberger. Capt. Landenberger was commander of the Asiatic Fleet’s Destroyer Squadron. His command ship was the USS Black Hawk.
He received the Navy Cross in WWI for his service as commander of the USS Indiana. He was in charge of the Receiving Station at San Francisco before and after his service in China. He later served as Governor of American Samoa. He died in 1936.
USS Preble was a Clemson class destroyer launched in 1920. It was named for Commodore Edward Preble. It served in the Caribbean and Atlantic until 1921 when it joined the Asiatic Fleet at Chefoo, China. It spent the next several years patrolling from Manchuria to Burma. It participated in escort and patrolling duty on the Yangtze from 1927 to 1929 when it returned to the US and operated out of San Diego and Mare Island. It served in the Pacific during WWII and earned eight battle stars. It was scrapped in 1946.
The Bill of Exchange was commercially printed and not made by the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing. It was printed in the 1910s but still in use in 1925. The vignette is lithographed and is based on one of the Florida class battleships, either the USS Florida or USS Utah.
The Bill of Exchange was written for 945 dollars in Amoy currency. The port of Amoy is now the city of Xiamen, China. It lies on the Chinese coast between Shanghai and Hong Kong directly across from Taiwan.
Amoy currency was not a physical coin but a unit of account. It was based on the Spanish Milled Dollar and its value was determined by the Amoy branch of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. All foreign trade in China was done in silver. Foreign trade dollars including the Spanish Milled Dollar, Mexican Peso, US Trade Dollar and British Trade Dollar were used. All of these were of different fineness and composition. Chinese dollars and subsidiary coinage was introduced in the early 20th Century. The coinage system was very complicated and resorting to Amoy currency as the exchange medium brought stability to commercial transactions.
Shortly after his inauguration, President Biden announced that the US government would re-start the process of replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20.00 bill with Harriet Tubman. The announcement re-kindled a debate as to whether the change was appropriate. I am not going to re-hash the arguments here.
My position is that I do not really care (within reason) what images grace the money of the United States. I do, however, feel that US paper money is in dire need of an overhaul. The images are stale and have not really been changed in almost 100 years. (I do not count the recent changes as being significant).
A nation’s currency should be a reflection of the nation itself. It should showcase the country’s history, culture, geography, arts, sciences, etc. One of the unfortunate effects of the introduction in the euro or the adoption of the US dollar in Ecuador is that paper money no longer serves as a mirror for the values of the countries in which it is used.
To advance my position, I am going to show examples of images of notes from other countries to illustrate what US paper money could look like.
Philippines 100 Piso
The current Philippine 100 piso note has a myriad of images on its face. While the predominant feature is a portrait of former president Manuel Roxas, the background images include the facade of the Central Bank of the Philippines and a street scene from Manila from celebration of Philippine independence on July 4, 1946.
The back of the note is dominated by a landscape showing the Mount Mayon volcano. Also depicted is whale shark leaping from the water.
Sweden 100 Kronor
The Swedish central bank, the Riksbank, recently changed the designs of their notes. While the 1000 kronor note depicts a government official, former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammerskjold. the depictions on the other notes are all associated with the arts and include authors, musicians and motion pictures.
The central image on the face of the 100 kronor note is actress Greta Garbo. (Ingmar Bergman is on the 200 kronor note.) The back of the 100 kronor note shows a view of the city of Stockholm. It was chosen because Garbo was from Stockholm.
Comoros 1000 Francs
The Comoros are an island nation in the Indian Ocean lying northwest of Madagascar and east of Mozambique and Tanzania. The 1000 franc notes depicts a fisherman in an outrigger on the face. On the back is an image of a coelacanth.
The coelacanth is a lobe finned fish that is only found in the Indian Ocean. It was thought to have been extinct for 65 million years based on fossils found in the 19th century. It was re-discovered in 1938 when one turned up in the catch of a fisherman in South Africa.
Rwanda 500 Francs
In 2019, the National Bank of Rwanda issued a new 500 franc note. The previous note depicted diary cows on the face. (Holsteins, in fact). The new image on the face is the Muregeya suspension bridge. The bridge was completed in 2015 and links two sides of the Muregeya River giving the inhabitants of the neighboring districts greater access to markets and resources.
The back of the note depicts Rwandan schoolchildren working on XO laptops. The government of Rwanda invested heavily in the XO computer beginning in 2008 with a goal of providing a laptop for every child in the country. The country recently changed to a different provider, Positivo, which has opened a factory in the country.
Brazil 10000 Cruzeiros
In 1991 the Central Bank of Brazil introduced a 10,000 cruzeiro note. The country was in the grips of rapid inflation. The cruzeiro was introduced in 1990 and was replaced in 1993.
The face of the 10,000 cruzeiros note depicts Brazilian scientist, Vital Brazil. Brazil was world-renowned for his development of antidotes for snake venom. In addition to the portrait of Brazil, the face of the note has an image of a snake being milked for its venom. A security feature on the note is a face to back registration of an image of the head of a snake with the venom glands highlighted.
Herpetology continues on the back of the note with a depiction of a snake devouring another.
These are just a few examples of how other countries highlight their history and culture on their banknotes. Surely, the United States can do better.
Rock Springs, Wisconsin is a small village in Sauk County in the south, central part of the state. It comprises all of 1.5 square miles and has a population of about 350. The original name of the community was Ableman, being named for its founder Stephen Van Rensselaer Ableman.
The 1880 History of Sauk County describes the area in glowing terms: “The place is beautifully situated at the base of the famous Baraboo quartzite range, in full view of the romantic and wonderful spot known as the Upper Narrows. The surroundings are cheerful and grandly picturesque.”
Ableman moved to western Wisconsin from New York in 1851. He mapped out the community in 1853. He chose the location based on topography, recognizing that it would be the most probable location for a railroad.
Ableman served as the area’s first postmaster. The post office was established in 1871.
In 1875, the community changed its name to Rock Springs. The name is a reflection of the hundreds of natural springs that emerge from the rock formations nearby. In 1879, the village went back to being called Ableman.
In 1946, the local Chamber of Commerce began a drive to change the name once again to Rock Springs. Over 95% of the community supported the change. Final approval for the name change came from the United States Post Office and on July 2, 1947, it was Rock Springs once again.
Mid afternoon on December 11, 1951, an Alaska Airlines DC-4 nicknamed “The Polar Express” took off from Fairbanks and returned some 16 hours later accomplishing something no other commercial airliner had accomplished before — flying over the North Pole.
The flight was a publicity stunt, but one with the very important purpose of placing a literal pole at the North Pole. The scheme was the brainchild of Stanley Garson, an oil worker in Point Barrow. He constructed a nine foot long, red and white striped pole to be placed on the top of the world. Garson enlisted the help of Alaskan radio personality Audree Vance whose broadcast name was North Pole Nellie. Nellie suggested that the flight also carry children’s letters to Santa.
The original hope was that the US Air Force would deliver the pole and the letters. The Air Force frequently made flights from Ladd Air Force Base over the pole. The nine foot pole was too large for the Air Force to transport so it was cut down to six feet. The plan, however, was ultimately rejected by the Air Force.
Nellie pitched the idea to Alaska Airlines who jumped at the chance. By mid-November 1951, the Civil Aeronautics Board approved the flight which was planned for Thanksgiving. Delays pushed it into December.
In the meantime, Nellie turned up the PR campaign. She was even able to get Hollywood to help. The film industry was beginning a publicity campaign of its own called “Movietime USA” and were eager to help. A young actress named Carolina Cotton (the Yodeling Blonde Bombshell) was sent as their contribution to the event.
The date of the flight was moved to December 10. A parade from the post office to the airport was held sponsored by the Alaskan Dog Mushers Association. The plane, however, was in Seattle and delayed by maintenance. It arrived the next day.
The letter writing campaign met with overwhelming success. The original plan was to put the letters inside the pole. More than 5,000 letters were received which exceeded the poles capacity. The others were placed in a bag and tied to the pole.
Shortly after noon on December 11, the plane left the Fairbanks airport to great fanfare and good luck kisses for the crew from Ms. Cotton. They re-fueled at an Air Force installation at Point Barrow and headed for the Pole. As they approached the target, a new problem surfaced. The pole was too large to fit through the side door of the plane. With some last minute modifications, everything was set.
With the ice caps in sight, the pilot reduced speed to 120 mph. The side doors were opened and the pole and the bag of letters were deployed. Its chute opened and the pole drifted slowly downward lit by a flashlight tied to it as a beacon. At 12:58 am on December 12, 1951, there really was a pole at the North Pole.
This past week marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The day was first observed by UN Resolution on November 25, 1999. The date marks the martyrdom of the Mirabal sisters — Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa — at the hands of the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic. This year marked the 60th anniversary of their deaths.
The women, along with a fourth sister, Dede, were the children of Enrique Mirabal Fernández and Mercedes Reyes Camil. They were raised on the family farm in the central part of the Dominican Republic.
Minerva became involved in the political movement against the Trujillo regime while she was in college. Trujillo and his minions ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 until 1961.
Maria Theresa and Patria joined in their sister’s anti-government activities. They joined a group known as the Movement of the Fourteenth of June. They distributed leaflets about the abuses of the Trujillo regime. They also sought weapons to defend themselves against the military and for open revolt.
Minerva’s code name with the Movement was “butterfly” (mariposa in Spanish). After Patria and Maria Teresa joined, they were collectively known as “Las Mariposas”.
Minerva and María Teresa were arrested and imprisoned along with their husbands and Patria’s husband. The women were freed in 1960 but their husbands remained incarcerated.
On 25 November 1960, Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa were visiting Maria Teresa and Minerva’s husbands in prison. On the way home, they were captured by government operatives. The sisters and their driver were strangled and beaten to death. The bodies were placed in a Jeep and run off a mountain road to appear as an accident.
Their nemesis, Rafael Trujillo, met a similar fate when he was assassinated on March 30, 1961.
The surviving sister, Dede, raised her nieces and nephews and spent the rest of her life preserving the memories of her sisters. She lived in their parent’s house until her death in 1988.
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.
You would think that being named for two kings (his grandfather Edward VII and great-grandfather Christian IX of Denmark), the Prince Consort, and the patron saints of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales would have destined Edward for a long and successful reign, but it was not to be. The King with the absurdly long given name would have the shortest reign of any modern English monarch.
Edward ascended to the throne on January 20, 1936 upon the death of his father, George V. He would abdicate before the end of the year, brought down by his love for an American divorcee.
With a short reign came a small numismatic footprint. No portrait coinage was issued prior to the abdication but coinage for a few colonies made it into circulation. Portrait trial specimens were made. Fantasy crowns were made in the 1980s.
No banknotes were issued during the reign of Edward VIII with his image. In addition to the watermark image on the Australian pound note pictured above, he appeared on banknotes of the Dominion of Canada in 1923 and Bank of Canada in 1935 as Prince of Wales.
Veteran’s Day is later this week and I thought I would highlight the $10.00 Series E United States Savings Bond, also known as the Soldier’s Bond.
The $10.00 Savings Bond was introduced in mid-1944. The War Department asked the Treasury Department for this lower denomination bond to be issued to allow more service members to participate in the savings bond program. Treasury inquired whether the Department of the Navy had any interest in providing the lower denomination bond to its personnel but the Navy declined.
Series E Savings Bonds were purchased at 75% of their face value. Prior to the introduction of the $10.00 bond, a soldier’s allotment for savings bonds was $6.25 per month resulting in the purchase of a $25.00 bond every three months. The purchase of a $10.00 bond required a monthly allotment of $7.50 with a new bond being issued every month.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing began production of the $10.00 bond in June 1944. The bond features a profile portrait of Benjamin Franklin, the only wartime Series E bond to eature a non-president. In keeping with the BEP’s convention of using Roman numeral equivalents for the serial number prefix, the prefix on the $10.00 bond is the letter X.
The BEP produced 32 face plates for bonds with the signature of Henry Morgenthau, Jr. as Secretary of the Treasury. In August 1945, Fred Vinson replaced Morgenthau as Treasury Secretary and 13 plates were used to print bonds with Vinson’s signature. An additional 20 plates were made when John Snyder replaced Vinson in August 1946.
There are some anomalies in the production of the $10.00 bonds. BEP records indicate that a little more than 19,000,000 $10.00 War Savings Bonds were printed. The War Bond legend was supposed to be removed from the bond when the change in the signature of the Treasury Secretary changed in August 1945. However, bonds with the War Bond legend and Secretary Vinson’s signature have been observed in the 21,000,000 and 23,000,000 range.
Odder still is the existence of bonds numbered in the 6,000,000 and 7,000,000 range that bear both the War Bond Legend and Secretary Vinson’s signature. That serial number range is well within the range that should have been printed with Secretary Morgenthau’s signature. The issue dates on the observed examples are in 1947 and 1948. It is surmised that for some reason the BEP re-printed this serial number range after the war using the post-war Vinson plates but also with the War Bond legend.
Although $10.00 bonds with Secretary Snyder’s signature were produced, none have been observed.
The Army stopped offering the $10.00 bond in 1950.
The relatively small print run of the $10.00 bond and its limited availability to only Army personnel make it the scarcest of the low denomination bonds.