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.
There are a few ways that philately and numismatics intersect: postal savings instruments, post office checks, stamp money, postal notes and postal money orders. Of these instruments, people are most familiar with the postal money order.
In the financial realm, a money order is a type of payment order directing a third party to pay a named payee a defined amount. Money orders were first developed in the UK. The United States Post Office adopted the money order system in the 1860s as a way to limit the amount of cash and coin carried across the country.
US Postal Money Orders were initially only payable at the post office named on the order in order to discourage theft in transit. They could also only be transferred by endorsement once or they would be deemed invalid. As the US postal money order system matured and the threat of theft in transit was reduced, money orders became could be paid at any money order post office and eventually were negotiable through banking channels.
By the 1930s, US Postal Money Orders caught the attention of philatelists. Stamp collectors who concentrated on cancellations, sought out money orders by requesting them in nominal amounts. Money orders issued by US military post offices became popular.
The money order shown above was issued aboard the cruiser USS Quincy in 1937. The payee is Alleen (misspelled Allen) O. Whipple of Alexandria, Indiana. Ms, Whipple was an avid stamp collector who made her own cachets for first day covers.
The remitter of the money order is Coxswain Oscar Lee Lott who was stationed on the Quincy. Lott transferred to the USS California in 1939 and was aboard the California in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He survived the Japanese attack.
USS Quincy, however, would not survive the war. Quincy was commissioned in 1935 and saw its first service on refugee patrols during the Spanish Civil War. She spent time with both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets prior to the war. Quincy began her wartime service in the north Atlantic before transiting the Panama Canal for the Pacific.
Quincy provided support to the US Marine invasion of Guadalcanal. In the early morning of August 9, 1942, Quincy was on patrol between Florida and Savo Islands in the Solomons. Quincy and her companions, USS Astoria and USS Vincennes, were suddenly illuminated by the search lights from a column of Japanese ships. The initial Japanese salvos did considerable damage. Within an hour of first contact, Quincy sunk bow first losing 370 men. It was the first ship sunk in Iron Bottom Bay.
Bills of exchange are one of the more obscure paper collectibles. A bill of exchange is a form of promissory note requiring a person to make payment to a named payee. There are three parties to a bill of exchange. The payee is the person to receive the money, the drawee pays the money and the drawer is the party requiring the payment to be made.
Bills of exchange were written in duplicate or triplicate. The different versions were referred to First of Exchange, Second of Exchange and Third of Exchange. The three bills were forwarded to the drawer by different means in the event of delay or calamity. The first bill to reach the drawee was paid. The others would be canceled upon receipt by the drawee.
Bills of exchange were common in the 19th century and most often used for international transactions. They were most often used to pay for goods to be imported. The importer was usually the drawer who directed payment to the merchant he was purchasing from. The drawee was typically a banking house in the same country as the merchant who held money belonging to the importer.
Bills of exchange were negotiable instruments and could be transferred by endorsement. Subsequent holders were holders in due course and had the ability to collect the amount due from the drawee or any previous endorser.
The bill of exchange illustrated here is a Second of Exchange. It was written by William Benton Hogg, a purser in the United States Navy. (Hogg would become Paymaster of the Navy shortly before his retirement in 1871). It directs the Secretary of the Navy, James C. Dobbin, to pay $10,000.00 to Commander Cadwalader Ringgold. It is dated November 3, 1853 at Simon’s Bay, a naval facility at Cape Town now known as Simons Town on False Bay in South Africa. It was for payment of expenses for the North Pacific Exploring and Survey Expedition of 1853. Commander Ringgold was in charge of the expedition. His flagship, the USS Vincennes, is noted on the bill.
Ringgold endorsed the bill on the back to Gideon S. Holmes, United States Consul at Cape Town. Holmes, in turn, negotiated it to an indecipherable banking house in Boston. It is probable that Ringgold received payment in Mexican silver pesos rather than US coinage. The Mexican peso coin was the most widely recognized silver coin in the world at this time and was the preferred medium of exchange in East Asia. The Cape Colony was the last stop for the Vincennes before arriving in the Pacific via the Indian Ocean.
The Expedition spent the summer of 1854 charting the islands and rivers in southeast Asia and China from the port of Hong Kong. The flotilla continued north into the Bering Sea before working its way along the Alaskan and Canadian coasts. Ringgold was relieved of command of the Expedition in July 1854 due to a deteriorating mental state caused by a bout of malaria. He was replaced by Lt. John Rodgers. The expedition provided significant data and mapping of the northern Pacific which was used as late as World War II.
The City of Superior issued Depression Scrip for the longest period of any issuing authority in Wisconsin. The city issued its first scrip in August 1933 and last in April 1939. During that time, over $2,000,000.00 in scrip was issued in denominations from $.25 to $10.00.
Like many municipalities around the country, the city´s finances were crippled by two effects of the Great Depression: a dramatic increase in defaults on property taxes and the city´s money being tied up in banks that were closed. The city´s cash position was also hurt by the fact that it was required to accept scrip issued by Douglas County but could not pay it back out.
In October 1934 the Superior City Clerk noticed something peculiar about certain scrip that was being turned in for redemption. Some of the notes bore serial numbers that had already been redeemed. Since the city cancelled redeemed notes and did not re-issue them, the Clerk knew there was a problem.
Upon closer inspection, some of the $5.00 notes with duplicate serial numbers had a spelling error. Someone had counterfeited the city’s scrip.
The Superior police investigated the matter and they quickly focused their attention on Ed Lurye, a Superior liquor salesman. He confessed to paying $700.00 in cash for $2,000.00 in bogus scrip to his brother Albert Lurye, a Minneapolis furniture salesman.
Albert Lurye was the mastermind of the operation who employed the assistance of two employees of a print shop in Duluth to make the copies with supplies acquired by Albert Lurye in the Twin Cities.
The Superior scrip had no security devices making it easier to duplicate. Although the scrip was printed on safety paper, the paper was commercially available.
The printers made $30,000.00 in counterfeit $5.00 and $10.00 scrip. The first printing consisted of $10,000.00 of each denomination. A spelling error was noticed and a second printing of $5,000.00 of each denomination was made. They intended to destroy the notes with the error but $3,000.00 in $5.00 notes with the error remained. They reportedly circulated only $2,000.00 in the counterfeit notes before being caught.
The conspirators were charged with counterfeiting and found guilty after a jury trial. They appealed the conviction. The appeal alleged that the city of Superior did not have authority to issue the scrip as money and that since it was not money, they could not be convicted of counterfeiting. The Wisconsin Supreme Court did not think much of the argument and the conviction was upheld. They were each sentenced to a year in prison.
No examples of the counterfeit scrip have been observed.
Apparently there is a shortage of coins in the United States. At least there is a shortage of circulating coinage. I am not even certain coins really circulate any more. It seems to me that the use of coins in everyday commerce is one way. Those consumers who still use cash receive coins in change which then get thrown into a jar, desk drawer, coffee can, automobile console, couch cushions, etc. It has been a long time since I have seen someone digging through their pocket or coin purse for change for a purchase.
The current coin shortage can be traced to two effects of the corona virus pandemic. First, social distancing rules slowed down production of coins at the U.S. Mint. Secondly, the number of people turning their change jars into banks has dramatically decreased also.
Coin shortages have happened before but most of those events were limited to shortages of a single type of coin – the cent. This time, the shortage affects all denominations of coins.
During WWI, Congress instituted a number of small taxes on goods. For example, there was a four cent tax on the wholesale price of a case of chewing gum. These taxes resulted in purchases that were no longer in increments of five cents and required more one cent coins to be paid out by merchants to customers. Communities and merchants around the country produced their own one cent scrip pieces to combat the shortages.
There was only one reported cent shortage during WWII. That was in Boise, Idaho. The shortage was so acute that the Boise Retail Merchant’s Bureau had cardboard one cent pieces printed. They went so far as to obtain the opinion of the local United States Attorney as to the legality of the scrip.
The last cent shortage occurred in 1974. Rising copper prices led speculators to hoard one cent coins who were banking on the value of the copper in a one cent coin exceeding it face value. The situation was serious enough that the US Mint experimented with alternate metal composition for the one cent coin. It would eventually change in 1982. Once again, merchants issued one cent scrip pieces to alleviate the cent shortage.
Will the current shortage result in similar scrip or tokens? It seems unlikely. The shortage appears to be affecting only banks and the retailers who routinely order large amounts of coins. While the shortage should seemingly trickle down to the consumer, electronic payment options that were not available during any of the previous coin shortages should allow most consumers to avoid the problem. Despite this, Tenino, WA, a small community with a rich tradition of issuing wooden scrip has already issued tokens in 2020.