From the Archives: During Great Depression bank holiday, 'Prince' issued its own currency
Following President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's declaration of a four-day nationwide bank holiday during the Great Depression, The Daily Princetonian issued its own currency in denominations of 25 cents. The currency first appeared on March 7, 1933, in the form of scrip, as seen in a March 18, 1933, picture in the ‘Prince.’
The Editorial Board of the ‘Prince’ was quoted in an article on the day of the scrip issuance, stating, "It is our earnest hope that the scrip will provide a needed medium of exchange in facilitating the ordinary trading of the community during the next few days."
According to an article in the ‘Prince’ published on March 8, 1933 — the day after the scrip issuance — the ‘Prince’ printed a total of $500 worth of scrip, and each student could buy a maximum of $5 worth of it with personal checks. Due to the popularity among undergraduates, the ‘Prince’ ran out of supplies of their new currency the same day that it was introduced. From 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., 713 pieces of scrip were bought, and the entire supply of 2,000 pieces was gone by 5:30 p.m.
Even though the demand for the scrip still existed, the ‘Prince’ announced in the March 8 article that it would not distribute any more scrip. The decision was made in consideration of the fact that the bank holiday was to be lifted soon in New Jersey and that the amount being circulated at the time "should be sufficient to provide an adequate temporary medium of exchange."
As the Depression deepened during the 1930s, many Princeton students struggled to pay their tuitions, according to a ‘Prince’ article published March 14, 1933.
"The mere fact that about half of the total enrollment of Princeton is receiving financial aid from the University, either through tuition loans or student employment, should indicate the state of the undergraduate purse," the article said.
Despite the decline in students’ financial capacities, the ‘Prince’ printed its own currency as a sign of confidence in student checks, according to the article published on the day of the issuance of the ‘Prince’ scrip.
The article quotes the Editorial Board explaining, "In taking this step, the Princetonian intends to show its confidence in the banks and in the checks of undergraduates. [T]here is no cause for excitement and every reason for confidence in local institutions and in the financial structure of the country."
Within the first day of its issuance, ‘Prince’ scrip became accepted in small purchases with many local businesses. An advertisement in the March 7, 1933, issue of the ‘Prince’ stated, "The following business concerns wish to announce the fact that they will accept scrip as issued by the Daily Princetonian" and lists 17 businesses in Princeton, including the Princeton Garden Theatre, Nassau Barber Shop, the U-Store and all student agencies.
The March 8 follow-up said Western Union and Postal Telegraph Companies — which had not notified the ‘Prince ’ of their decision the day before — were also accepting the scrip.
Also on the day that the ‘Prince’ issued its currency, some leading bankers of New Jersey met in Trenton to elect three men who would lead an association to plan how the state could issue scrip, according to the March 8 article.
On the same night, New Jersey Governor A. Harry Moore made a statement expressing "hearty confidence" in businesses' return to their normal operational levels. According to a notice in the March 27, 1933, issue of the ‘Prince,’ students could redeem the scrip at the Business Office until April 15. The ‘Prince’ in turn was able to redeem all of its scrip at the end of the bank holiday.