Biography and History

Walter E. Spahr (1891-1970) was a professor of economics at New York University who was a strong supporter of the gold standard. Spahr was a founding member and officer of the Economists' National Committee for Monetary Policy, which advocated for sound monetary policies for the United States. He also served as a consultant to industry, banks, organizations, and members of Congress.

Walter Earl Spahr was born on June 27, 1891 in Centerville, Indiana to Isaac and Thursa Spahr. He married Beulah Evelyn Lowry from Washington, Pennsylvania on August 25, 1920. They had three children: Carol (Bogdassarian), Kenneth, and Jean (Segatto). Spahr earned his A.B. in history from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana in 1914 and then taught as an instructor in history at Pacific College in Newberg, Oregon from 1914 to 1915. He studied at the University of California, Berkeley in the summer of 1915 before taking a job as instructor of economic history at Manual Training High School in Indianapolis from 1915 to 1916. He enrolled in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, while also working as assistant instructor in political science, from 1916 to 1917. He received his M.A. in government in 1917 and then was drafted into the United States army. Spahr served from 1917 to 1918 at Camp Taylor, Kentucky in a training battalion as battalion clerk and instructor in charge of army paper work at the division school. Spahr was discharged with the rank of sergeant.

Following his military service, Spahr returned to teaching. He was professor of political science and history, and head of the Department of History and Government, at Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio from 1918 to 1919. In the summer of 1919, he pursued graduate study in the field of economics at Columbia before becoming an instructor of economics at Dartmouth from 1919 to 1920. He returned to Columbia in 1920, where he was instructor of economics from 1920 to 1923 while studying for his Ph.D. in economics, which he received in 1925. Spahr also began teaching on the faculty of the New York City Chapter of the American Institute of Banking in 1920 as an instructor in economics, money, and banking. He continued teaching there until 1928.

Spahr began his career at New York University as assistant professor of economics in 1923 and was promoted to associate professor of economics in 1926. In 1927, he became associate professor of money and banking and acting chairman of the Department of Economics. He also taught for a semester at Princeton University that year as a visiting associate professor of public finance. He became a full professor of economics and chairman of the Department of Economics at New York University in 1928, holding both positions until he retired professor emeritus in 1956.

In addition to his academic career, Spahr was a founder of the Economists' National Committee on Monetary Policy (hereafter "the Committee") in 1933 and remained the driving force behind the Committee for the rest of his life. The Committee was formed in opposition to the United States government's New Deal monetary policies and campaigned for a return to the gold standard and limits on inflation. The Committee sought to educate the public and United States government on the monetary issues facing the country and members frequently testified before Congress. Spahr served as Secretary-Treasurer (1933-1945) and as Executive Vice President and Treasurer (1946-1970) of the Committee. Spahr was also the editor and author of Monetary Notes (1940-1970), the Committee's monthly newsletter that was sent to Congress, leading Federal administrators, and major newspapers and radio commentators. The Committee continued its work until 1970, when it was dissolved after Spahr's death.

Spahr also served as a consultant and conducted research studies on economics issues for industry, banks, organizations, and members of Congress. He represented state chambers of commerce before Congress, conducted studies for the munitions industry, and consulted for members of both political parties of both houses of Congress. He was director and economist for the New York Air Brake Company, trustee of the Tax Foundation of New York, and director of the Citizen's National Committee.

Spahr was a prolific author and speaker, with the Economists' National Committee on Monetary Policy publishing many of his works. He was also published in academic journals and utilized newspapers and radio to reach the American people. He criticized the New Deal, advocated for the gold standard, and argued for policies that minimized government interference in business. Spahr was a member of the Stable Money Association, the Money and Banking Committee of the Commerce and Industry Association in New York, the American Economics Association, the American Academy of Political and Social Science, and the American Statistics Association. He was awarded the Alvin T. Simonds Economic Prize from the Simonds Saw & Steel Company in 1929, the Master Prophecy Award from Newsweek magazine in 1939, and the Freedom Foundation award in 1949. Spahr died on January 19, 1970.

Source: From the finding aid for MC121

  • Economists' National Committee on Monetary Policy Records. 1925-1971 (inclusive), 1940-1970 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC022

    The Economists' National Committee on Monetary Policy, active from November 1933 to 1970, was composed of economists and other financial experts who sought to educate the public and United States government on sound monetary policy. The Committee advocated for a return to the gold standard and sought to combat what they saw as dangerous inflationist sentiment and aggressive monetary policies of the time through public addresses, publishing articles and pamphlets, and testifying before Congress. The records document the Committee's work, as well as its organization and administration, and include correspondence, meeting minutes, and publications.

  • Walter E. Spahr Papers. 1923-1966 (inclusive), 1930-1950 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC121

    Walter E. Spahr (1891-1970) was a professor of economics at New York University who was a strong supporter of the gold standard. Spahr was a founding member and officer of the Economists' National Committee for Monetary Policy, which advocated for sound monetary policies for the United States. Spahr's papers document his scholarship and include his writings and related correspondence.

  • Walter E. Spahr Papers. 1923-1966 (inclusive), 1930-1950 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC121

    Walter E. Spahr (1891-1970) was a professor of economics at New York University who was a strong supporter of the gold standard. Spahr was a founding member and officer of the Economists' National Committee for Monetary Policy, which advocated for sound monetary policies for the United States. Spahr's papers document his scholarship and include his writings and related correspondence.