The Numismatic Legacy of the SMS Emden

Fifty pfennig notgeld depicting the SMS Emden issued by her namesake city in 1918.

The SMS Emden was a cruiser in the German Imperial Navy. Her keel was laid in 1906 and the ship launched in 1908. After shakedown, she was commissioned in 1909. Her first and only posting was to the East Asia Squadron whose home port was the German concession in China at Tsingtao. She arrived on station in July 1910 meeting the rest of the fleet in German Samoa.

SMS Emden in the port of Tsingtao in early 1914.

For the next four years, Emden took part in operations in the Pacific protecting German interests. She participated in Yangtze patrols and helped suppress rebellion in the Carolines. In August 1913 she thwarted an attack on her by Chinese revolutionaries while at Nanjing.

Korvettenkapitan Karl von Muller.

In May 1913, Lt. Commander Karl von Muller took over command of the Emden. He had spent his early career as a signal officer on ironclads and spent time in German East Africa on the SMS Schwalbe. He served on the staff of Admiral Prince Heinrich of Prussia and then with the Imperial Navy Office in Berlin. In that service he caught the attention of Admiral von Tirpitz who rewarded him with command of the Emden.

With the winds of war blowing throughout the summer of 1914, von Muller took Emden out to see at the end of July. Germany declared war on Russia on August 2 and Emden recorded her first victory by capturing a Russian vessel that had yet to hear the news that war had been declared.

Admiral von Spee determined that the East Asia Squadron was to return to Germany to assist in the European conflict by sailing around South America. (Most of it would be destroyed at the Battle of the Falklands). Von Muller suggested that one cruiser remain to keep a threat in the area. Emden was the fastest of the German ships so she headed for the Indian Ocean while the remainder of the fleet went southeast across the Pacific.

Emden’s route through the Indian Ocean.

Emden wreaked havoc in the eastern Indian Ocean as a commerce raider. Between August and November she sank 30 Allied vessels and attacked Madras and Penang. Shipping traffic dropped by over 60% in the region as a result. She was partly aided by deception and the slow pace of communications. The Germans installed a dummy smoke stack to disguise Emden as a British vessel and when she put into Diego Garcia for maintenance the British garrison had still not received word that the war had begun over a month earlier!

On November 9, von Muller turned the ship’s attention to the wireless station on Cocos Island. Arriving early in the morning and seeing no Allied vessels in the region, von Muller put a landing party on shore to take care of the transmitter. Emden was spotted and when she failed to identify herself the wireless station broadcast that an unidentified vessel was approaching.

HMAS Sydney

Answering the call was HMAS Sydney. von Muller believed Sydney was 200 miles furtjer away than she was and thought there was enough time for the landing party to complete its mission. At 0900 lookouts on Emden spotted smoke in the distance and identified it as a warship. Knowing that he was probably outgunned and definitely outnumbered, von Muller knew it was time to escape. There was no time to retrieve the shore party.

Sydney closed to 9,500 yards and began to shadow Emden’s moves. von Muller knew his only chance was to come within Sydney’s range and fire all he could at the Australian vessel and hope to inflict as much damage as possible before Sydney could find her range. The German volleys had little effect. von Muller tried four times to approach to within torpedo distance but Sydney backed away every time.

The wreck of the SMS Emden off Keeling and Cocos Islands.

It did not take long for Sydney’s guns to zero in on Emden and by 1045 Emden was no longer able to return fire. von Muller ran the remains of his ship onto the reef off Cocos Island to prevent its sinking and to save the crew. Emden’s weapons were disabled and the code books burned. The German casualties were heavy — 134 dead, 69 wounded. Most of the survivors were taken prisoner.

German shore party departing Direction Island in the Keeling and Cocos Group. The three masted schooner in the background is the Ayesha.

The landing party observed the naval battle and knew there would be no rescue. They commandeered the three masted schooner Ayesha and headed for the Dutch East Indies (the Netherlands was still neutral). The landing party eventually made its way to the Ottoman controlled Arabian Peninsula and back to Germany.

It would not be until November 11 before the Sydney and her crew could board the remains of the Emden. Although the weapons and code books were destroyed, the Australians did find one thing of use still on the ship. Emden’s payroll consisting of some 3,000 Mexican silver dollars were seized. The Australian Admiralty turned some of these into souvenirs by affixing a commemorative broach and presented them to senior officials.

Mexican one peso coin from 1884 that survived the sinking of the SMS Emden off the Keeling and Cocos Islands in 1914.

At least one German also made a souvenir out of a Mexican Peso inscribing the piece shown above with the legend “Von Bord S.M.S. Emden 9 Novbr 1914 Riff Nord Keeling”.

Canteen tokens used on SMS Emden. The denominations are 10 pfennig, 50 pfennig, 1 mark and 2 marks.

German naval vessels issued tokens for use in their canteens. The above set of tokens were from the SMS Emden. Most of the SMS Emden tokens in the collector’s market were looted from the ship by the crew of the HMAS Sydney.

The Collapse of the McCartney National Bank of Green Bay

$10.00 Second Charter note from the McCartney National Bank of Green Bay, charter number 4783.

George A. Richardson began working as a messenger for the McCartney National Bank of Green Bay at the age of fourteen in 1891. He worked his way up the ladder to cashier and was made president of the bank in January 1931 succeeding his brother-in-law J.H. Tayler. On May 21, 1931, Richardson arrived at the bank in the morning and met briefly with Tayler, cashier T.G. Bailey and assistant cashier Bernard Olejniczak. He retrieved a pistol from the cashier’s cage, walked into the bathroom and shot himself — precipitating the beginning of the end of the bank.

The McCartney Exchange Bank was founded as a state bank in 1882 by David McCartney in Fort Howard, Wisconsin (presently the west side of Green Bay). It was incorporated as a national bank in 1892 as the McCartney National Bank of Fort Howard receiving charter number 4783. Three years later when the borough of Fort Howard was married to the city of Green Bay the bank changed its name. McCartney was lured to Wisconsin from Ohio by the lumber industry and operated two saw mills near Green Bay before investing in pine lands in Georgia.

$10.00 Third Charter Date Back note from the McCartney National Bank from 1912. Note
the stamped signatures of G.A. Richardson as Cashier and J. H. Tayler as president.

Tayler succeeded McCartney as the bank president in 1892. The bank prospered in the early part of the twentieth century under his direction. It was key to financing much of the development on the near west side of the Fox River. Among the banks largest customers were the Larsen Company canning operation and the Green Bay Sugar Company. Tayler served on the board of directors of these two companies as well as two state banks located in New Franken and Wrightstown, Wisconsin. This incestuous business and banking relationship would be a contributing factor in the bank’s demise.

$10.00 1929 Type 1 note from the McCartney National Bank.

The Fox River Valley area of Wisconsin weathered the Great Depression better than most parts of the country. The paper and tissue mills that lined the river remained viable although production decreased. The same could not be said for the local agricultural industries. Falling farm prices in the mid-to-late 1920s were caused by an overabundance of crops. The stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing economic depression reduced the demand for agricultural products.

Stock certificate for Northern Bond & Mortgage, one of J. H. Tayler’s operations.

Tayler and Richardson were heavily invested in agricultural businesses in Northeast Wisconsin using their positions with the McCartney National Bank to finance the ventures. As the agricultural economy ground to a slow crawl, their house of cards began to unravel. Tayler and Richardson had borrowed heavily from the bank.

George A. Richardson, the final president of the McCartney National Bank of Green Bay.
(Picture from the Green Bay Press-Gazette).

As news of Richardson’s suicide began to spread, panic descended on the financial institutions in Green Bay. By the end of the day $25,000.00 in deposits had been withdrawn from the bank. At a special shareholders meeting held that evening it was decided not to open the next day. In order to try to quell the fear in the community, J. H. Tayler announced that Richardson’s books had been examined and everything was found to be in order. Tayler’s announcement regarding the state of the accounts was technically correct, but he failed to disclose that the books only balanced because of notes owed to the bank by he and Richardson and other investors.

An uneasy calm settled over Green Bay for the next week. The operation of the McCartney National Bank was placed in the hands of a receiver. The crisis flared back up on June 2, 1931 when the Brown County State Bank closed its doors for examination and it was revealed that that institution was heavily intertwined with the McCartney National Bank. Pandemonium ensued as worried depositors streamed into the other Green Bay banks that morning.

$20.00 1929 Type 1 note from the Kellogg-Citizens National Bank of Green Bay. The signature on the right is that of bank president John Rose who was instrumental in calming bank depositors during the 1931 panic in Green Bay.

John Rose, president of the Kellogg-Citizens National Bank, and other local leaders tried to soothe the mob. In a very public exhibition, Rose had prominent men enter the banks and ostentatiously make large deposits. The Kellogg-Citizens National Bank remained open after hours to allow depositors to make withdrawals – a sign that was intended to inspire confidence in the bank’s stability. A half million dollars in cash was trucked in from banks in Milwaukee and Chicago and when the Green Bay banks opened on June 3, it was displayed in large bundles on their counters. Sanity returned and the crisis was averted.

Stock certificate for ten shares of the McCartney National Bank of Green Bay.

But things would not go so well for the principals of the McCartney National Bank. C. C. Phelps, Tayler and Richardson’s brother-in-law and an investor in the bank and several of Tayler’s other businesses committed suicide as did Austin Larsen, president of the Larsen Canning Company, due to financial losses brought on by the collapse of the bank.

J. H. Tayler was arrested for embezzlement in September 1931 and filed bankruptcy in December of that year. He was essentially kiting checks among six different banks. He defended his actions as being acceptable banking practice. He was convicted in December 1932, the trial having been delayed due to poor health — despite this he managed to live another 28 years and passed away in 1959 at 100!

Check for $.02 representing the final liquidating distribution to a
depositor of the McCartney National Bank of Green Bay

Things went better for the bank’s depositors. The receiver sold off the bank’s assets and called in a 100% assessment against the stockholders. It took several years but the depositors received most of their money back in a series of liquidating distributions. The Kellogg-Citizens National Bank took over the redemption of the still circulating National Bank Notes issued by the bank.

Paying WWII Prisoners of War – United States

US Army map showing the locations of the major POW camps in June 1944

The United States took it first prisoner of war in WWII on December 7, 1941 when a midget sub piloted by Kazuo Sakamaki beached on the shores of Oahu. By the end of the war, over 425,000 POWs were housed in the US.

Back of a POW ID card for an Italian Prisoner of War in Charleston, SC.

The Geneva Conventions allowed for POWs to be put to work by their captors who were supposed to compensate the prisoners for their labor. The United States paid POWs who worked $.80 per day — the same amount earned by a private in the US Army. Prisoners worked in a variety of industries including agriculture, lumber and light manufacturing. The business owners paid the US government for the prisoners’ labor.

POW canteen chits issued at Billy Mitchell Field in Milwaukee. Prisoners worked at a number
of local industries including battery and spark plug assembly and food packing plants.

Prisoners were not paid in cash. The amounts they earned were credited to them on account. In many camps there were canteens or exchanges where the prisoners could purchase personal care items, stationary, hobby supplies and even food. Chit booklets were distributed to facilitate purchases. The amount of the chit booklet was deducted from a prisoner’s account balance.

The starting eleven of the German POW soccer team from the camp at Roswell, NM.

Prisoners could accumulate a significant amount of money during their captivity. Upon repatriation they received a check in the amount of the balance of their account. Although the checks were denominated in US dollars, they could only be cashed by US military disbursing officers overseas. This was done for two reasons.

Face of payment order for a German POW.

First, it prevented a prisoner from obtaining US dollars while still in the United States which could aid in escaping. Second, the military disbursing officers paid out Allied Military Currency denominated in the currency of a prisoner’s home country. AMC was issued by the Allies as occupation currency which resulted in the vanquished country paying the expenses of the occupation. Rather than being a liability of the United States, the balance in a POWs account became a liability of his home country.

For more information on the use of POW labor see History of Prisoner of War Labor by the United States Army 1776-1945 by LTC George P. Lewis. I also recommend the new book by my colleagues David Frank and David Seelye, The Complete Book of World War II USA POW and Internment Camp Chits.

Women in the Military

In recognition of International Women’s Day I thought it appropriate to highlight a few items in the collection pertaining to women in the military.

This first item is a short snorter on a Central Bank of China 10 customs gold units note. The first signature on the note is Geraldine P(ratt) May, Major, A(ir) C(orps).

Colonel Geraldine Pratt May

Colonel May was born in 1895 in Albany, NY. She died in 1997 at the age of 102. Before the war she was a social worker and an executive with the Camp Fire Girls. She joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in July 1942. Upon completion of officer candidate school she was assigned to the Army Air Corps where she served as director of WACs in the Air Transport Command. After the war she was appointed Director of Women in the newly created United States Air Force. She was promoted to full colonel and was the first woman in the Air Force to hold that rank. She left active service in 1951.

This next piece is also a short snorter with the signatures of four different women. The underlying note is an Australian made counterfeit of the one pound note issued by the Japanese for their occupation of Oceania. Three of the four signatures are positively identified.

Cathey (Catherine) Coffey was a WAC from Butte, Montana. She enlisted in May 1943. (Jean) Tommy Thomson was a nurse in Hastings, Nebraska when she joined the Army Nursing Corps in 1943. She served in Australia, New Guinea and the Philippines. Pearl Hays also joined the WACs in 1943. Her civilian job was a keypunch operator and the Army put her to work in cryptology in New Guinea and the Philippines. The identity of Helen Edwards, the remaining signature, cannot be verified. There were at least three different women with that name who served in the WACs.

This last piece is a $10.00 War Bond made payable to Mrs. Josephine Dannegger. The $10.00 bond was referred to as the Soldier’s Bond as they could only be purchased by US Army personnel.

Josephine Dannegger’s marker
at Arlington National Cemetery

Ms. Dannegger immigrated to the United States from Germany with her husband in 1923. They lived in New Rochelle, NY. They were separated when her husband enlisted in the Army in 1942. They divorced in Florida in 1945. That same year, Josephine enlisted in the WACs at the age of 49! She made the Army her career and retired in 1965 having also served in the Korean War. She appeared on the White House guest list for Thanksgiving Dinner in 1969 as a guest of President Nixon. She died in 1983 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

La Ĉeko Estas en Poŝto

Herbert F. Hoveler

The Cekbanko Esperantista was a bank established in London in 1907 by Herbert F. Hoveler. Hoveler was a German industrial chemist and a proponent of Esperanto. The bank name translates as Esperantist Checking Bank.

Rene de Saussure

The unit of currency used by the Cekbanko was the spesmilo. The spesmilo was developed as a universal currency by Rene de Saussure, a Swiss mathematician and linguist. One spesmilo was made up of 1,000 speso. Its value was pegged at 0.8 grams of 22 karat gold. It was the equivalent of approximately fifty US cents or two shillings. One and two spesmilo tokens were minted in 1912.

File:Spesmilo sign.svg
The symbol for the spesmilo.

Esperantists adopted the spesmilo for transactional use and Esperanto publications quoted prices in the currency. At its height, the Cekbanko had 730 accounts in 320 cities in 43 countries. WWI and Hoveler’s death in 1917 brought an end to the Cekbanko.

This check was printed for use by La Cekbanko Esperantista. It carries a one penny English revenue stamp dated April 12, 1913 which was required on all checks in use in England. The main text is entirely in Esperanto with English explanatory notes at the bottom. The amount of the check was to be written in both spesmilo and l/s/d in order to clear through the English banking system.

It was printed by Waterlow & Sons of London, a noted banknote printer.

Brother, Can You Sketch a Dime?

If you want to see what a national emergency looks like, take a trip back eighty-six years to the beginning of 1933.  The country was in the midst of the Great Depression and FDR was taking the helm.

One of his first acts as president was to declare an emergency in the financial system and order all the banks in the United States closed.  The economic downturn had caused many banks to fail and there were runs on the deposits of the banks that remained.  The entire system was on the verge of collapse. 

Depositors lined up outside a closed bank in March 1933. National Archives.

Many state governors had ordered their banks closed prior to FDR’s order.  The closing of banks in Michigan at the end of February 1933 led to a drain on the banks in northern Ohio as the Michigan banks withdrew deposits from their correspondent banks in Ohio.  On February 28, 1933, George White, the Governor of Ohio, closed banks in the Buckeye State.

The closing of the banks did not put an end to commerce in the country.  But it did put a halt to deposits and withdrawals at banks as well as check cashing and clearing.  Government and business scrambled to find a way to keep the economy moving despite its weakness.  Taxes, rents, wages and other debts had to be paid but there was limited cash available.

Many communities took to issuing scrip as a cash substitute to keep business moving.   The scrip was local currency that was intended to circulate as long as necessary and would be redeemed at a later date.

Wisconsin was the only state to have state-wide scrip issued during the 1933 Bank Holiday.  Over $3,000,000.00 in scrip was issued to Wisconsin state chartered banks between March and June 1933.

March 4, 1933 was a Friday and with many banks already closed, scrip was necessary to make the payroll.  In Bryan, OH, the businesses that could not make their payroll had a uniform style scrip printed that carried the name of each issuing business.

One of those businesses that had difficulty making its payroll in Bryan, OH on March 4, 1933 was the Ohio Art Company.  Then (and now) the company specialized in metal lithography.  A generation later millions of children would know the Ohio Art Company as the producer of the Etch-a-Sketch.

Banking in Door County Pt. 1

The Bank of Sturgeon Bay

[Midwestern readers can skip to the paragraph below the encased cent.]

Door County is the thumb of Wisconsin. It juts into Lake Michigan and forms the east side of the bay of Green Bay. It sits atop a dolomite structure known as the Niagara escarpment, the geological formation that is responsible for Niagara Falls. The county takes it name from Death’s Door, the strait that lies between the northern end of the peninsula and Washington Island. The waterway was given this name by the French (Porte des Morts) due to its treacherous currents.

The largest city and county seat is Sturgeon Bay. The county’s position on Lake Michigan gave it a long maritime tradition. Lighthouses dot the shoreline. Shipbuilding, fishing and agriculture were the most significant early industries. While all these still exist in the county, tourism has become the primary economic engine. The county’s population is about 27,000 but swells to a quarter million during the summer tourist season.

Encased cent produced for the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. Encased cents were common advertising pieces in the early 1900s. The date on the cent is 1926. Leyse Aluminum in Kewaunee, Wisconsin was a large producer of encased cents.

There have been a handful of banks in the county. Commerce in the area was not advanced enough for there to have been any banks during the obsolete note era (1850-60s). There were no national banks in the county during the national bank issuing period (1863-1935).

Baylake Bank was the last bank based in the county when it was taken over by Nicolet National Bank in 2016. It was also the oldest bank in the county. It was founded as a private institution in 1889 as the Bank of Sturgeon Bay and received its state charter in 1891. It changed its name to Baylake Bank in 1994 when it merged with the Bank of Kewaunee.

There are a handful of numismatic mementos of the Bank of Sturgeon Bay that span most of its history.

The earliest piece I have is this check written in 1900 on the account of Bo L. Andersen. It was printed by J.J. Pinney, a printer in Sturgeon Bay. It features a two cent documentary revenue stamp. A two cent tax was imposed on checks in 1898 to help pay for the Spanish-American War.

Andersen operated a general store on Washington Island off the northern end of the peninsula. The check has identifies his location as Detroit Harbor, Wisconsin which is the site of the island dock for the Washington Island Ferry. The payee is Falk & Buchan, a seed seller in Sturgeon Bay.

This check for $18.00 was written in 1924 by the Door County Treasurer and payable at the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. The multiple endorsements on the back shows the practice of passing negotiable instruments from holder to holder to pay debts. The check was written on August 1 and cleared the Bank of Sturgeon Bay on August 11 (shown by the perforated date). During that time it passed through five different hands.

This next check was written in 1930 by the North Bay Fish Company. North Bay is located in the Town of Baileys Harbor about half way up the peninsula on the Lake Michigan side. The bank building is featured in the vignette at left. The building still stands although the clock tower was removed in the 1930s for safety reasons. The current bank location is two blocks away.

This piece is an uncashed travellers cheque issued by the First National Bank of Chicago through the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. Information on the back indicates it dates from the early 1960s. I was unable to verify the holders name.

Paper money collectors will recognize this facsimile of a $1,000.00 post note issued by the Bank of the United States in 1840 with serial number 8894. It was an often duplicated piece used for advertising as it was here by the Bank in 1967.

Door County celebrated its centennial in 1948. This wooden nickel is one of a series of three that were issued to mark the occasion. The others being worth two nickels and five nickels. It is redeemable at the Bank of Sturgeon Bay. Wooden nickels were popular souvenirs in the 1930s-50s. A not very accurate map of the county appears on the face.

This final piece is not mine but belongs to a colleague. It is a counterfeit 1928B $20.00 Federal Reserve Note from the Cleveland Fed. The notation on the back indicates it was found at the Bank of Sturgeon Bay on July 22, 1936 and received by the Federal Reserve Bank (probably Chicago as Sturgeon Bay is located in the Chicago Federal Reserve District) the next day. The paper is not close to being correct and the aging of the note was artificial. The counterfeiters made a glaring mistake when they printed this note. The Federal Reserve Bank seal on the left side of Series 1928 and Series 1928A $20.00 notes had large numerals in them as this note does. But the design was changed for Series 1928B so that the corresponding capital letter appears in the seal (in this case D for the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank).