13 September 2018

Depression-Era Local Currency With That Silvertonian Flair

When I was but a neat thing, and a kid in then-bucolic Silverton, Oregon, I remember there was a sporting goods shop on North Water Street between Main and Oak, on the west side of the street, called Chuck's Sport Shop.

The building is still there, of course. There's some sort of bistro or cafe there now. Lovely place. Lots of wood.

I remember going in there with my dad, I think he was after some sort of fishing gear, and I remember seeing, under the glass top of the front counter, these things that looked like money. Silverton Scrip, they were called. And I kinda fell in love with them. They were nicely designed; centering on a portrait oval of Silver Creek's South Falls, which is kind of an iconic thing to Silverton, they're still the most attractive currency I ever saw.

Latterly, on FB, a similarly-historically-inclined friend, Michael Long I think, put up an example of Depression-era 'scrip' from Multnomah County. I'm not 100% clear on the concept, but I have the basics; since you couldn't depend on your bank to be open or to even exist in the near-term, but commerce still had to happen, localities would issue their own temporary currency, or 'scrip', backed by some local source of credit. In Multnomah County, it was backed by the County Treasury. In Silverton, it was backed by what were called "Marion County School Warrants".

But I digress. Dig these.

Like I said, isn't that lovely? Thanks be to the Oregon State Library online, who knows how to do the historical job. It was issued by the local American Legion Post, which was apparently seen as a trustworthy authority, and had a limited duration of effectiveness.

This, indeed, is a 25-cent bill. While everyone could find a printer, minting coin was apparently something not everyone could do. There were other denominations ... I believe I saw a $1 scrip once.

The obverse side is a real treat:

... because you can have scrip and you can have scrip (up in Wallowa County they stamped 'em out on buckskin, I've found) but your scrip isn't really Oregonized unless you can have a Homer Davenport cartoon on it.

That's Silvertonian flair. And if we ever have to have a local currency, I say, go with this design. Silver Falls is the crown jewel of the Oregon State Park system. You could easily do worse!

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