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Funny Money: 1939

Funny Money: 1939

September 1939. "Closed bank. Haverhill, Iowa." Medium format negative by Arthur Rothstein for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

 

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Cole Bros. Circus, some posters


The urban legend about this bank

This archetypal photo appears in many history books, always in the chapter about the failures of small-town and rural banks during the Great Depression. However, thanks to a sticky-fingered clerk named H.M. St. John, the Farmers Savings Bank of Haverhill failed well before the Depression. In April 1924, Mr St. John was arrested after examiners noticed a deficit of over $25,000, which was over twice the size of the bank's capital. News articles said he had admitted taking and spending $13,000 of it. The bank failed as a result, and never reopened. Under pre-FDIC state laws, the state paid annual sums to the bank's depositors until 1927. It was one of 273 Iowa banks that failed between 1921 and 1926 (a figure that would pale by comparison to the number that would fail in the next decade).

I cannot quarrel

with the identification. That is definitely a closed bank.

Not Tom's younger brother

When I saw Art Mix on that poster I joked to my wife that he must be Tom Mix's younger brother. Turns out there was no relation, except for the fact that they were both cowboy movie stars. Art appeared in a couple hundred horse operas, just like Tom, but never reached Tom's level of stardom. They ended up in the same place, though. Both are buried in the famous Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale, CA.

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