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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 49, December 3, 2006, Article 20

LABOR EXCHANGE NOTES

Part 9 of the Herb & Martha Schingoethe Obsolete Currency collection
(Smythe sale #268, New York, December 12-13, 2006) offers a large
number of Labor Exchange notes, an alternate currency developed in
the latter part of the 18th century used in numerous regions
around the United States (see lots 2661-2688).  An Internet search
turned up some additional information:

"Beginning with severe agricultural reversals on the Great Plains
and throughout the South during the late 1880's, a business panic
in 1893 turned what bad been a "traditional" economic downswing into
the nation's first full-fledged industrial depression. Hard times
produced armies of unemployed workers, crippling strikes, and the
shrill demands of the Farmers' Alliance, the Knights of Labor, and
the People's party for relief and reform. One response to depression
was the sudden expansion of a cooperative organization, the Labor
Exchange.

"The founder of the Labor Exchange was a sensitive, articulate
Italian immigrant, G. B. De Bernardi, who farmed near Kansas City, Mo."

"Exchange Number One" tangibly expressed his plan for uplifting the
downtrodden. The experiment's operation revolved around De Bernardi's
pet monetary scheme, the use of a unique form of circulating medium
known as "labor checks." According to the De Bernardi formula, members
deposited products of their labor (clothes, shoes, food stuffs, etc.)
in the exchange warehouse or "depository" and in return they received
certificates (labor checks) which equaled the wholesale value of the
goods. These certificates, issued in various denominations, circulated
among the local membership and the community as well. Holders of labor
checks, whether members or non-members, could present them at the
warehouse for any desired commodities."
Full Story

To view an image of one of the Labor Notes see:
Labor Notes

[De Bernardi's system wasn't the first Labor Exchange - a similar
note-issuing organization was the brainchild of Robert Owen in
England in 1825. -Editor]

"Labor notes, a unique monetary experiment in early nineteenth-century
England, bore a face value equivalent to a certain number of hours
of work. The notes were the brainchild of (17711858), a successful
textile manufacturer in England who rose to fame as a utopian socialist
reformer at the beginning of the Industrial Age. He is famous in the
United States for involvement with New Harmony, Indiana. In 1825 Owen
purchased 30,000 acres of land in Indiana and launched New Harmony as
a cooperative society, a project that would cost him 80 percent of
his fortune before he abandoned it.

In 1832 Owen was publishing a penny journal, The Crisis, in which he
publicized his plan to form an association for the exchange of all
commodities upon the principle of the numbers of hours of labor
embodied in each commodity All commodities that required the same
amount of labor to produce were to be traded evenly, and other
commodities were to be exchanged at ratios ruled by the number of
hours of labor required to produce each one..."

"Exchanges opened in different regions, and one of the largest was
in Birmingham, where two series of labor notes were issued in
denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 50, and 80 labor-hours."
Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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