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V12 2009 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 34, August 23, 2009, Article 19

MYSTERIOUS LEDGER SIX NINE FOUR: MONEY TO BURN

Tom Kays submitted an interesting series of submissions based on material found in an old ledger. Thanks! Here's part one, with more to follow in subsequent issues. -Editor

An old hundred page ledger was lent me by a friend who is a seeker after treasure hoards. Bound in coarse green burlap boards, a tiny office label written on the cover in fountain pen reads "694" and nothing more. Patented in 1882, Ledger 694 was filled with various columns of inked sums peeking through by the bound edge.

Recycled about the year 1900, each page was then scrapbooked with newspaper columns tipped in over the calculations. All are neatly composed, some sideways, to fill each legal size page. Columns are set off with corner flourishes as someone familiar with typesetting or layout skills might render. No newspaper banner is included, so I cannot give credit to the original publisher, but the stories seem centered about New York and Boston and depict events circa 1900 to 1902. None have turned up on the Internet using various old newspaper searches although some of the stories are classics, reprinted later such as an early clipping recalling the inscription in Abraham Lincoln’s pocket watch, which we know came true.

This is a time capsule of "fresh, forgotten" material not easy to find on the Web. My friend said the ledger came from a large collection of clippings mainly concerning gruesome "true crime," suitable for the penny-dreadful, but the theme of this ledger is about people unexpectedly coming into money, finding treasure and discovering rare coins, historic relics or pursuing curious and exotic hobbies. In resonance with Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not, Ledger 694 may have been a New England newspaperman’s reference file of stories of particular human interest from the turn of the twentieth century. The first clipping with illustration sets the "gold standard" and reads:

Mark Twain Wants Money to Burn instead of Coal

Sends Shaw an Order for Bonds, Greenbacks and Postal Currency for Kindling Washington D.C. October 22nd – The following letter was received at the treasury department yesterday morning:

"New York City, Oct. 3. The Honorable the Secretary of the Treasury, Washington D.C.

Sir – Prices for the customary kinds of winter fuel having reached an altitude that puts them out of reach of literary persons in straitened circumstances, I desire to place with you the following order: Forty-five tons best old dry government bonds, suitable for furnace, gold 7 per cents, 1864, preferred. Twelve tons early greenbacks, range size, suitable for cooking. Eight barrels seasoned 25 and 50 cent postal currency, vintage of 1866, eligible for kindlings. Please deliver with all convenient [dispatch]."

Mark Twain is smugly pictured beneath. His sentiments were shared by many "goldbugs" of that day who believed the only honest dollar was a gold dollar.

Wayne Homren, Editor

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