Biography and History

Edwin W. Kemmerer (1875-1945), internationally known as "The Money Doctor," was an economist and government advisor with expertise in finance and currency. Kemmerer served as a financial advisor to many governments, mostly in Latin America, and spent the majority of his academic career at Princeton University. He advocated for the gold standard throughout his career.

Edwin Walter Kemmerer was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on June 29, 1875, the eldest of six children of Lorenzo Dow and Martha H. (Courtright) Kemmerer. He attended Keystone Academy preparatory school, where he first became interested in becoming a professor of economics. Kemmerer then attended Wesleyan University, studying under Professor Willard Clarke Fisher. Kemmerer graduated in 1899 with an A.B. with special distinction in economics and then attended Cornell University to pursue his doctorate in economics, studying with Professor Jeremiah W. Jenks. He was a fellow in economics and finance at Cornell University from 1899 to 1901, and then an instructor in economics and history at Purdue University from 1901 to 1903. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1903. Kemmerer married Rachel Dickele on December 24, 1901. They had a son, Donald Lorenzo Kemmerer, and a daughter, Ruth K. (Dorf).

Kemmerer's dissertation, Money and Credit Instruments in Their Relation to General Prices, established him as a rising authority in the field of money and led to his appointment as Financial Advisor to the United States Philippine Commission in 1903 by then Governor of the Philippines William Howard Taft. From 1904 to 1906, Kemmerer served as chief of the division of the currency. While in the Philippines, Kemmerer developed the plan that placed their monetary system on the gold standard and drafted laws to organize a postal savings system and the Agricultural Bank of the Islands. On his return trip to the United States in 1906, Kemmerer studied and wrote a report on the currency situation in the Straits Settlements and conducted a study of the Agricultural Bank of Egypt.

Kemmerer returned to the United States in 1906 and accepted the position of assistant professor at Cornell University, teaching on money and banking, elementary economics, and the financial history of the United States. Kemmerer became a full professor of Economics and Finance in 1909. In 1912, Kemmerer left Cornell University to become professor of economics and finance at Princeton University, where he remained for the duration of his academic career. Kemmerer became the Walker Chair in International Finance and the director of the newly established International Finance Section of Princeton University in 1928, positions he held until he retired professor emeritus in 1943.

During his career at Princeton University, Kemmerer took frequent leaves of absence to serve as a financial advisor to the governments of other countries, earning him the appellation of "The Money Doctor." Kemmerer served as an advisor to the government of Mexico in 1917 and to the government of Guatemala in 1919. After that time, Kemmerer generally worked as the head of a commission of experts, rather than working individually, to ensure the advisors could address the range of issues associated with currency reforms, including public budgets and debt, systems of banking, taxes, and trade. The commission would analyze the situation in the country and advise the government on solutions, including providing a draft of the legislation needed to implement their recommendations. It was then left to the government to determine what to implement and how they would do so. Kemmerer was the chair of commissions of financial advisers to Colombia (1923 and 1930), Chile (1925), Poland (1926), Ecuador (1926-1927), Bolivia (1927), China (1929), and Peru (1931). In 1934, Kemmerer was co-chairman of the Hines-Kemmerer Commission established to conduct an economic survey of Turkey.

In addition to his advisory work with commissions, Kemmerer continued to serve on occasion as an individual expert. In 1922, Kemmerer served as the United States Trade Commissioner in South America. Kemmerer also traveled to Europe with the Dawes Committee from 1924 to 1925, serving as the expert on currency and banking to the Committee. In this capacity, he drafted substantial portions of the plans for the reorganization of the German Reichsbank and for the stabilization of German currency. And, also from 1924 to 1925, Kemmerer worked with Dr. Gerard Vissering to advise the government of South Africa on the feasibility of returning to the gold standard independent of the currency policy in Great Britain.

Kemmerer was also a prolific author throughout his career, writing articles and pamphlets in support of the gold standard, opposing the Bretton Woods Plan and the New Deal, and publishing reports produced as part of his advisory work. Kemmerer was also the author of fourteen books, including The ABC of the Federal Reserve System (1918), Kemmerer on Money (1934), Money: The Principles of Money and Their Exemplification in Outstanding Chapters of Monetary History (1935), The ABC of Inflation (1942), and Gold and the Gold Standard (1944). He was best known for his writings in defense of the gold standard system; even after retirement, Kemmerer continued to be active as an advocate for the gold standard.

Kemmerer became a member of the American Economic Association in 1903. He served as Managing Editor of the Economic Bulletin (the predecessor of the American Economic Review) from 1907 to 1910, on the Board of Editors of the American Economic Review from 1911 to 1913, and was president of the Association in 1926. From 1936 to 1945, Kemmerer was president of the Economists' National Committee on Monetary Policy, an organization founded to advocate for the United States to return to the gold standard. Kemmerer was a fellow, and vice president, of the American Statistical Association, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the American Philosophical Society and the Council on Foreign Relations. Kemmerer also served as a trustee of Wesleyan University, Scranton-Keyston Junior College, and Robert College, in Turkey, and was director of several corporations.

Kemmerer received honorary degrees from Oglethorpe University (1933), Rutgers University (1933), Wesleyan University (1926), Occidental College (1928), Columbia University (1935), the Central University of Ecuador (1927), and all the universities of Bolivia acting together (1927). Kemmerer was only the second individual to receive an honorary Doctor degree from the Central University of Ecuador. He also received honors from several governments for his advisory work, including Colombia (1923), Poland (1926), Ecuador (1927), and Belgium (1937). Kemmerer passed away on December 16, 1945, at the age of 70.

Source: From the finding aid for MC146

  • Lecture Notes Collection. 1772-1990 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC052

    This collection contains over 600 sets of student notes taken from lectures given by members of Princeton's faculty. They represent the broad range of courses taught at Princeton University (known as the College of New Jersey prior to 1896) and include the works of numerous famous faculty and students.

  • Edwin W. Kemmerer Papers. 1875-1945 (inclusive), 1920-1945 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC146

    Edwin W. Kemmerer (1875-1945), internationally known as "The Money Doctor," was an economist and government advisor with expertise in finance and currency. Kemmerer served as a financial advisor to many governments, mostly in Latin America, and spent the majority of his academic career at Princeton University. Kemmerer's papers document his advisory and scholarly career and include his professional correspondence, writings, and files from his financial advisory work.

  • Edwin W. Kemmerer Papers. 1875-1945 (inclusive), 1920-1945 (bulk).

    Call Number: MC146

    Edwin W. Kemmerer (1875-1945), internationally known as "The Money Doctor," was an economist and government advisor with expertise in finance and currency. Kemmerer served as a financial advisor to many governments, mostly in Latin America, and spent the majority of his academic career at Princeton University. Kemmerer's papers document his advisory and scholarly career and include his professional correspondence, writings, and files from his financial advisory work.