General Benjamin O. Davis

Pay check dated June 30, 1903 for Second Lieutenant Benjamin O. Davis of the 10th Cavalry Regiment.

Benjamin O. Davis was the first African-American to hold the rank of general officer in the United States Army.

He was born and raised in Washington, D.C where he attended high school and was enrolled at Howard University.

First Lieutenant Davis’ entry in the Index of Spanish-American War service records.

He entered military service in July 1898 as a temporary first lieutenant in the 8th United States Volunteer Infantry, an African-American unit, for the Spanish-American War. He served stateside during the war and was mustered out on March 6, 1899. In June 1899, he enlisted as a private in the 9th Cavalry Regiment. He served as the clerk for I Troop and later as squadron sergeant major.

He was encouraged to apply for a commission by Lieutenant Charles Young, the only serving African-American officer. Young encouraged Davis’s ambition to become an officer. He sat for and passed the exams in early 1901. On February 2, 1901, he was commissioned a second lieutenant of Cavalry in the Regular Army.

The entry for Second Lieutenant Benjamin O. Davis in the June 1903 Return of Troop F, 10th Cavalry.

In the spring of 1901, he went overseas with I Troop to the Philippines. In August 1901, he was assigned to Troop F, 10th Cavalry, which was also in the Philippines. Troop F returned to the US in August 1902 and was posted to Fort Washakie, Wyoming.

In September 1905, he went to Wilberforce University as a Professor of Military Science and Tactics. He remained there until 1909 when he was appointed military attache in Monrovia, Liberia. He returned to the United States in 1911 and was again assigned to Troop I of the 9th Cavalry.

In February 1915, he returned to Wilberforce University. From 1917 to 1920, he was back with the 9th Cavalry in the Philippines. He was then assigned to Tuskegee Institute as the professor of military science and tactics from 1920 to 1924. Between 1925 and 1937, he rotated through instructor positions at Wilberforce, Tuskegee and with the Ohio National Guard.

He was assigned to the 369th Regiment of the New York National Guard in 1938 and became its commander shortly thereafter. He was promoted to brigadier general on October 25, 1940.

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Brigadier General Benjamin O. Davis in France in 1944.

He was made commanding general of 4th Brigade, 2nd Cavalry Division in January 1941. He then served as an advisor on Negro Troop Policies in the Office of Inspector General. From 1941 to 1944, he made inspection tours of African-American units in the US and Europe.

In November 1944, he was assigned as special assistant to the commanding general, Communications Zone, European Theater of Operations. He then served with the Inspector General’s Office in the European Theater of Operation.

He returned to Washington, D.C. in 1947 as assistant to the inspector general and was then assigned as a special assistant to the Secretary of the Army. On July 20, 1948, he retired in a public ceremony six days prior to President Truman ordering full integration of the armed forces.

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General Davis’ marker at Arlington.

He died on November 26, 1970 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company.

The main office of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company on Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C.

It is Black History Month in the United States so over the next couple weeks I will highlight numismatic items with connections to the history of African-Americans. This first installment concerns the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company.

On March 3, 1865, Congress created the Freedman’s Bureau to provide financial and other assistance to newly freed slaves and other African-Americans. The Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company (otherwise known as the Freedman’s Savings Bank) was chartered by Congress at the same time as a depository institution for African-Americans. The bank was intended to serve two purposes: (1) be a safe place for African-Americans to park their money, and (2) provide employment and training opportunities for African-Americans in the world of finance.

Liquidation check from the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company made payable to William Carpenter. His family was originally from Stamford, CT. He was 13 years old in 1872 when he opened his account at the Savings Bank. The bank records show that his father lived in Elizabeth, NJ and his mother at a different address from him in New York City. The records also indicate that a teacher helped him open the account.

The Freedman’s Bureau promoted the Savings Bank heavily and within months of opening the Savings Bank had thousands of customers and millions of dollars on deposit. A total of thirty-five branches in seventeen states were opened. This initial success was short-lived, however.

The Panic of 1873 reduced yields on government bonds, the primary investment vehicle used for the Savings Bank’s assets. Because the bank was chartered directly by Congress, there was no oversight by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). Inexperience, mismanagement, speculative investments and outright fraud by some of the Savings Bank’s directors further damaged the Savings Bank’s already precarious position.

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The Treasury Annex stands on the site of the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company. The building was re-named in 2106 as the Freedman’s Bank Building to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Savings Bank.

Congress finally took action in late 1873 and brought in the OCC to examine the Savings Bank’s affairs. It was too little, too late. The board of directors gave control of the Savings Bank to Frederick Douglass in March 1874 but not even a person of his stature could turn it around. The Savings Bank and all its branches closed on June 29, 1874.

Final liquidation check issued to Harry Fauntleroy of Richmond, VA
in 1883. His records are discussed in more detail below.

The liquidation of the bank did not proceed very quickly. Liquidating distributions to the depositors began in 1875 but the final dividends were not paid out until 1883. Depositors received no more than $.62 per $1.00. Many received nothing at all because they could not be found or could not adequately assert their claims.

The Freedman’s Savings Bank may not have succeeded as a financial institution, but its records are a treasure trove of genealogical information from a period when documentation of African-Americans is spotty at best.

The Savings Bank records for Harry and Albert Fauntleroy of Richmond, VA shown above identify the genealogical information found in the records. The information includes the place of birth, place raised, current residence, occupation and family information. Harry’s entry only has Albert listed as a brother but Albert’s entry shows a sister named Mary and four brothers who had been sold prior to 1861.

The records of the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company are held by the National Archives in Washington, DC. They can be found in Records Group 101 among the records of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. A limited number of the Savings Bank’s records are available on ancestry,com.

Numismatics and Football

It is Super Bowl Sunday. Unfortunately, aside from privately made medals there is no numismatic recognition of American football. Instead, I will do a survey of the numismatics of real football which will be addressed by its American name, soccer.

Despite the fact that it is the most popular sport in the world, soccer does not have a large numismatic footprint. Many countries, particularly the host nations, have issued commemoratives for the World Cup or the Olympics but there are few general circulation pieces that depict the game.

I have been a referee for many years and have traditionally used a soccer themed flipping coin. (The exception to this was 2018 when I used the medallion from a British WWI Merchant Marine Service Medal). I have given many of them away and have only two coins left.

One is this commemorative fifty cent piece for the 1994 World Cup held in the United States. I was unable to attend any of the matches that summer as I had just started a new job and work demands kept me home. Four year later and 6,500 miles away I attended my first full international when I saw Australia v. Saudi Arabia and Brazil v. Mexico in the King’s Cup in Riyadh. (This was an interesting experience on many fronts not the least of which was the absence of two things we take for granted at sporting events in the United States — alcohol and women.)

The other coin is this English fifty pence commemorative marking the 2012 London Olympics. It is my favorite soccer related numismatic item. While most sports related coins depict an action shot, the English chose a graphic depiction of the offside rule for the reverse of the coin. Illustrations of the offside rule take up more pages in the rule book than any other the laws of the game. The Royal Mint could have issued an entire series of coins depicting the many different permutations of the rule.

There are a few banknotes depicting soccer. The above two notes are from Congo and Kenya and depict the national stadiums in each of those countries.

The Ulster Bank depicted Irish footballer George Best on this 5 pound note from 2006. Best is regarded as one of the greatest to have ever played the game. He died in 2005 from complications from a liver transplant.

The Bank of Russia issued a commemorative 100 ruble note marking the 2018 Men’s World Cup. While I despise its vertical format, it was one of the most striking notes issued that year. The face of the note depicts Soviet-era goalkeeper Lev Yashin. The note is one of the first banknotes to feature a QR code. Scanning the code leads to a website that explains the security features of the note.

The final piece is a hand engraved medal depicting a footballer in action on one side. The other side contains the inscription “Tjimahi ’42”. Tjimahi was the site of a Japanese run internment camp in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) during WWII. The significance of the medal is unknown.

Marking My Birthday

My birthday (and that of my older brother Tim) was earlier this week. I have been collecting paper money for over thirty years and despite having encountered thousands of different notes, I have only found one series of notes dated on our birthday, January 22. They are German 10 and 20 reichsmark notes with an original issue date of January 22, 1929. We will look at the 10 RM note.

There are two dates on the notes. August 30, 1924 is the date of the law that authorized the Reichsbank to issue notes. January 22, 1929 is the date the notes were first issued. The notes continued to be issued until the German Currency Reform of 1948.

The face of the note bears the portrait of Albrecht Daniel Thaer, a German physician and agriculturalist. He attended medical school at the University of Gottingen and returned to his native Celle in Hanover to carry on his profession. There his gardening hobby turned into a passion. He was one of the first in the western world to apply scientific principals to agriculture. He received an appointment to the court of Frederick William III of Prussia. He founded the first German agricultural academy in 1804.

Close up of the central image on the back of the 1929 10 RM note.

The central figure on the back of the note is a medallion featuring a figure representing agriculture. A legend on the bottom of the back warns that counterfeiting is punishable by not less than two years in prison.

Close up of the embossed seal at lower left.

The note was printed by the Reichsdruckerei, the German state printer. It has fairly intricate anti-counterfeiting features for its time. A watermark portrait of Thaer appears in the white space at left. There is an embossed seal next to the counter in the lower, left corner. There is a complex series of undrerprints in differing tones of green and red.

A red serial number that includes a block letter appears in two places on the face and back. There is also a series letter in the lower center of the face.

Face of the 1941 variety of the 10 RM note. The change from the previous variety is so
subtle that it can only be confirmed by the series and block letter combination.

World War II produced three varieties of the note. The first change was made in 1941 when the cross-iris underprint (Kreuz-Iris Druck) was removed from the face. The change is subtle and is not readily discernible. Thankfully, the printing records survived the war and this variety can be identified by series and block letter. This variety exists on the following series and block letters:

EA, B, C, D, E, F (serial number greater than 36970001 on all blocks)
EG, H, J, K , L, M
KG, H, J, K, L, M

The second change was made in January 1945. War-time requirements necessitated making the printing process simpler. The watermark was changed to a tulip. The embossed seal and series letter were removed from the face. One of the face underprints was changed to consist of the word ZEHN (ten) instead of the numerals 10. The serial number was removed from the back and only printed on face.

The final version of the note was printed during the last days of the war. Under an emergency order, the Reichsbank branches were authorized to locally print money if unable to get adequate supplies of the usual materials used. The Reichsbank offices in Graz, Linz and Salzburg (all now in Austria) printed emergency 10, 50 and 100 RM notes.

The emergency notes were photo-mechanical copies of genuine 1945 type notes. They do not have unique serial numbers instead they all bear the copied serial number of the original note that was imaged. The paper is not banknote paper but the paper that was used to print food ration cards and has a heart-shaped watermark. The counterfeiting legend that appears on the lower back of the note is repeated on the face on the white portion where the watermark previously had been.

When the Allied Military Government became aware of the emergency notes they believed them to be counterfeit. A brief investigation was conducted by AMG personnel prompted by two German sisters. The sisters were members of an anti-aircraft battery who were paid in the emergency notes. When the legitimacy of the notes was verified by bank officials in Linz, AMG prohibited them to circulate further and demanded their recall.

One final version of the 10 RM note exists from WWII. On February 19, 1942, the Greater Winnipeg Victory Loan Committee organized “If Day”, a mock invasion of the city by the German army. A copied 10 RM note was used to print “Occupation Reichsmarks” which was distributed as a propaganda piece.

Food Stamps Part 1 – 1939-43

Blue food stamps being inspected at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in 1939.

The first food stamp program was introduced in 1939 by the Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation (FSCC) established by the Department of Agriculture. Advances in agricultural production during the 1920s created a surplus of foodstuffs to the point that prices became dangerously depressed. The price collapse was worsened by the Great Depression of the 1930s. During that decade the federal government tried various methods to prop up the agricultural sectors of the economy including the destruction of crops and livestock.

The FSCC was charged with dealing with the agricultural surplus. The food stamp program was the last program initiated by the FSCC. Its purpose was to aid in relief by making surplus commodities available to those in need.

There were two types of food stamps — orange and blue — both of which came in a single $.25 denomination. Participants paid face value for orange stamps and received one-half of that amount in blue stamps. Orange stamps could be used to pay for any food. Blue stamps could only be used to pay for surplus foods. The Department of Agriculture regularly published lists of what food could be purchased with blue stamps.

A $3.00 booklet of food stamps. The stamps were printed four to a page so there would have been three pages of orange stamps and two pages of blue stamps. The second page of the blue stamps consisted of two stamps and two fillers without value.

The stamps were initially sold in booklets in values of $2.00, $4.00 and $10.00 in orange stamps. Booklets with orange stamp values of $1.00, $3.00, $5.00, $6.00, $8.00 and $12.00 were added.

USDA flyer from 1942 identifying what foods could be purchased
with the blue surplus food stamps.

In 1940 the Department of Agriculture was re-organized and the issuing agency name on the food stamps was changed from FSCC to the USDA.

Two examples of food stamp change scrip. The upper piece was printed by a trade association for use by its members. The bottom piece was used in Safeway Stores in Little Rock, AR.

Merchants were prohibited from providing money as change for food stamp purchases. Instead, they produced their own tokens, scrip, due bills and other similar items as change. This permitted small purchases with food stamps but then required the customer to return to the same store to spend the food stamp change. The change returned by the merchant was specific to the type of stamp used so the tokens and other instruments used are identified as either orange or blue.

While merchants produced their own change, some grocery trade organizations made uniform scrip that could be used by individual stores by writing or stamping the name of the store on the scrip.

Additional examples of orange and blue food stamp change. This type was printed by a trade organization in New York state. The name of the issuing merchant was applied to the back.

Because they were locally produced, there are hundreds of different types of food stamp change. Paper scrip is the more common type but metal and pressboard tokens were also produced. Most types are fairly scarce although hoards of some varieties have made their way into the marketplace.

Orange and blue food stamp change tokens issued by H.C. Prange of Sheboygan, WI.

World War II brought an end to this phase of the federal food stamp program in 1943.

Stimulating the Economy in 1924 – One Cent at a Time

Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon on a 3-cent postage stamp.

In 1921, President Warren G. Harding appointed financier Andrew Mellon to the post of Secretary of the Treasury. One of Mellon’s most immediate goals was to reduce the large national debt that was incurred during World War I. His plan was to reduce tax rates to stimulate spending and to encourage tax payments.

When the federal income tax was created in 1913, the top rate was 7%. By the time World War I was over in 1918, the top rate was 77%. Under Mellon’s plan, the marginal rates were reduced throughout the 1920s so that by 1929 the top rate was 24%.

Secretary Mellon’s signature as it appears on US currency

The Revenue Act of 1924 lowered the top marginal rate to 40%, included a 25% earned income credit and retroactively gave a 25% rebate of income taxes paid in 1924 for income earned in 1923. The lowest bracket – for income less than $4,000.00 – was reduced from 4% to 2%.

In 1923, Mildred A. Demling of Buffalo was 18 years old and worked for the NY Telephone Company. She apparently had taxable income in 1923 of $1.00 and paid $.04 in income taxes. As a result of the Revenue Act of 1924, she received the 25% rebate on her 1923 taxes in the form of the check that appears above for $.01.

For reasons known only to her, she failed to cash the check and so it remains as a numismatic relic from an earlier time.

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things (Part II) – Elmer W. Heindl

Captain Elmer W. Heindl while in service in the Philippines in 1945.

Elmer Heindl was born in Rochester, NY on June 14, 1910. Despite being in a line of work that would have made him exempt from military service, he enlisted in the US Army in March 1942 and was assigned to the 37th Infantry Division. The 37th Division was an Ohio National Guard Unit that served in the Pacific.

He was a most unlikely hero yet was awarded three of the four medals for bravery during the war.

Captain Heindl was awarded the Bronze Star Medal w/ V device for his actions in the Solomon Islands in 1943 and 1944. In July 1943 he was assisting a graves detail in completing their task of burying the dead when they came under attack by Japanese snipers. Their only refuge was the open graves they had dug. Although not a combat arms officer, Captain Heindl maintained control of the situation and was able to calmly and diligently lead the men to safety.

He was awarded the Silver Star for his actions during the campaign for Baguio in the Philippines. Upon receiving word that the regimental commander was overdue, Captain Heindl volunteered to accompany the men who went to look for him. They were rounding a hairpin turn in the mountains when they unexpectedly came upon two Japanese tanks traveling toward them. In the chaos of the ensuing firefight, Captain Heindl fell down the side of the mountain and improbably came to rest near the overturned jeep of the regimental commander. He rendered first aid to the unconscious man and was able to get him to safety.

Captain Heindl received the Distinguished Service Cross for action in February 1945 in the Philippines. During the liberation of Bilibid Prison in Manila, he and a medic came to the aid of two men who became trapped in a guard tower. The men had climbed into the tower to use it as an observation post to direct the American effort. Upon discovering the men in the tower, the Japanese concentrated their weapons on it. Despite the withering enemy fire, Captain Heindl and the medic twice entered the tower to retrieve both men although one of them would eventually succumb to his wounds.

Two days later, he left the protection of his foxhole to pull a wounded officer to safety while mortar shells and rockets rained down upon them. Three days after that, he dragged several wounded men to safety during a firefight that killed nine others.

Japanese Military 10 peso note from the Philippines turned into a VJ Day souvenir.
Elmer Heindl’s signature appears in the lower right corner.

What makes Elmer Heindl’s exploits so remarkable was that he carried them out without firing a single shot. In fact, Elmer Heindl did not carry a weapon. Elmer Heindl was a Roman Catholic Priest.

Fr. Elmer Heindl at his ordination in 1936.

After the war, Fr. Heindl continued service in the Army Reserve. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1990. He died in 2006. The Armed Forces Reserve Center at Ft. Benning, GA was named for him in 2012.

LTC Elmer Heindl at a Veterans Day ceremony in upstate NY shortly before his death in 2006.