Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Creator:
Economists' National Committee on Monetary Policy (U.S.)
Collector:
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Title:
Economists' National Committee on Monetary Policy Records
Repository:
Public Policy Papers
Permanent URL:
http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/gh93gz51g
Dates:
1925-1971 (mostly 1940-1970)
Size:
209 boxes
Storage Note:
ReCAP (rcpph): Box 1-209
Language:
English

Abstract

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.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Description:

The records document the Committee's work, as well as its organization and administration, and include correspondence, meeting minutes, and publications. The records also include the files of the Committee's last president, Donald L. Kemmerer, the correspondence files of Walter E. Spahr, and copies of Monetary Notes, the Committee's monthly publication.

Please see the series descriptions in the contents list for additional information about individual series.

Arrangement:

The Records have been arranged in four series:

Collection Creator Biography:

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 Economists' National Committee on Monetary Policy (hereafter "the Committee") was organized on November 17, 1933 by a group of monetary economists as an educational organization. Faced with what they perceived as the spread of inflationist sentiment and many aggressive political banking movements in the early 1930s, the Committee members dedicated themselves to educating the American public and government on what constituted sound monetary policy. The Committee also established itself as a watchdog of the currency system, opposing currency depreciation in all forms and seeking to return the United States to the gold standard. The organizers of the Committee recruited the nation's leading monetary and banking economists for the Committee's membership, drawn for the most part from college and university faculties, with the intention of establishing the Committee as a source of unbiased, scientific information on money and banking. The Committee was composed of eighty to ninety-five individuals and included many of the monetary economists of the United States who had experience in setting up or supervising currency systems, such as Edwin W. Kemmerer, Oliver M. W. Sprague, H. Parker Willis, Ernest L. Bogart, William W. Cumberland, and John Parke Young. The driving force behind the Committee was Walter E. Spahr of Columbia University. Spahr served as Secretary-Treasurer from 1933 to 1945 and as Executive Vice President and Treasurer from 1946 to 1970. Additionally, he was editor of the monthly publication Monetary Notes and its predecessor "Intra-Committee Communications," wrote numerous articles and addresses, and maintained correspondence with a large number of like-minded economists in the United States and abroad.

The Committee issued public statements on money and banking bills being considered by Congress, on Administration policies in those fields, and on monetary programs which had inspired considerable interest in the general public. All official pronouncements of the Committee included the names of the members who endorsed it, maintaining the independence of each member by not allowing anyone to speak for another. The Committee also published pamphlets and articles written by members that discussed the current issues and basic monetary principles in a way that was useful for the general public. Beginning in 1941, the Committee published a monthly "Intra-Committee Communication," first just for members and later for a wider audience, which was renamed Monetary Notes in 1944 and published until February 1970. The publication, which was written by Walter E. Spahr, discussed monetary and fiscal matters and analyzed important trends toward or away from sound monetary policies.

One of the chief goals of the Committee was to make their publications available as widely as possible, free of charge. Publications were sent to all members of Congress, important government officials, newspapers and magazines, radio commentators, Washington correspondents, libraries, contributors to the Committee's work, members of the Committee, a mailing list open to the public, and then to wider lists of educators, leaders, and students as their funds permitted. The Committee also sent publications to several other countries. In addition to their publication efforts, the Committee influenced monetary policies through the work of individual members. Members testified before House and Senate committees and provided information and advice to Congressmen and other government officials, and would provide public support for Congressmen who were advocating unpopular policies that the Committee judged to be sound. Members also gave radio addresses and spoke before banking, business, and civic groups.

Because so many of the Committee's efforts focused on influencing legislation, it was difficult for them to determine the exact effect of their labors. While they were active, it became more difficult for bills that the Committee opposed to be passed and several were defeated. The abilities of the President to devalue the gold dollar and to issue "greenbacks" were removed, and through their publications they exposed questionable practices of the Treasury and Federal Reserve that were subsequently stopped by Congress. However, the United States never returned to the gold standard that the Committee advocated as the sound currency system.

The Committee was supported through donations from the public, typically solicited through mailings or the efforts of individual members, which funded the maintenance of the Committee's office, the publication and distribution of the Committee's literature, and the expenses of members who traveled to Washington to testify before Congress or to attend meetings held by the Executive Committee. Because of their reliance on donations, the Committee often faced financial difficulties. In order to balance the budget, members donated significant amounts of money and Walter E. Spahr frequently worked while collecting less than half of his salary. The Committee also found it difficult to obtain donations from foundations because, due to their work to influence legislation, they were sometimes perceived as a special-interest lobbying group rather than the educational organization they sought to be. This difficulty increased when the Internal Revenue Service revoked the Committee's tax-exempt status as an educational organization in 1962, ruling that because their primary focus was to influence legislation, the Committee was an "action organization" and contributions to the Committee could no longer be used as tax deductions.

The Executive Committee met for a special session on January 31, 1970 to determine the fate of the Committee following the death of Walter E. Spahr a few days earlier, since Spahr had been the driving force behind the Committee for many years. With a 6 to 2 vote, the Executive Committee resolved to liquidate the Economists' National Committee on Monetary Policy by May 31, 1970 and immediately establish a successor committee with similar aims and a comparable membership. While the dissenting two felt that maintaining the name was important for the group's image, the majority felt that the financial difficulties of the Committee were better solved with a new organization which would have a tax-exempt status and a clean slate. They formed the Committee for Monetary Research and Education, with Donald L. Kemmerer as the first president, in 1971. As of 2007, the organization was still active.

There were six presidents of the Committee:

Ray B. Westerfield (1933-1935)

Edwin W. Kemmerer (1936-1945)

Leonard P. Ayres (1946)

Benjamin M. Anderson (1947-1949)

James Washington Bell (acting President 1949-1953, President 1953-1967)

Donald L. Kemmerer (1967-1970)

Collection History

Acquisition:

This collection was donated by the Economists' National Committee on Monetary Policy and its last president, Donald L. Kemmerer, in May 1970 , with additions in July 1975 and July 1992 .

Archival Appraisal Information:

Receipts, duplicate materials, and office equipment were separated from this collection. Publications were removed to be cataloged separately.

Sponsorship:

These records were processed with the generous support of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the John Foster and Janet Avery Dulles Fund.

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Adriane Hanson, Christopher Shannon, Debbie Blinder, Hannah Wilentz, and Melina Meneguin-Layerenza in 2006. Finding aid written by Adriane Hanson in February 2007.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions for Reproduction and Use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For those few instances beyond fair use, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from the Mudd Library to move forward with their use.

Credit this material:

Economists' National Committee on Monetary Policy Records; Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/gh93gz51g
Location:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345

Find More

Related Material:

This collection is part of a group of 28 Mudd Manuscript Library collections related to 20th century economic thought and development which were processed as part of a National Historical Publications and Records Commission funded project. Researchers wishing to access these collections should search for the subject "Economics--20th century" or related terms in the Princeton University Library Main Catalog. Collections at the Mudd Manuscript Library of particular relevance to the Economists' National Committee on Monetary Policy Records are the papers of three members of the Committee: Edwin W. Kemmerer, Walter E. Spahr, and John E. Rovensky.

Publication Note:

The following sources were consulted during the preparation of the organizational history: "Banking, Finance," by Scott Chase and Chapin Wright. The Washington Post. November 3, 1980. Materials from Series 1: Administrative; Economists' National Committee on Monetary Policy Records; Public Policy Papers, Special Collections, Princeton University Library. Website of the Committee for Monetary Research & Education (CMRE), http://www.cmre.org/ Accessed August 24, 2006.

Subject Terms:
Currency question -- United States.
Devaluation of currency.
Economics -- 20th century.
Economists -- United States.
Finance -- United States.
Gold standard -- United States.
Inflation (Finance) -- United States.
International finance.
Monetary Policy -- United States.
Genre Terms:
Bills (legislative records)
Correspondence.
Financial records.
Minutes.
Publications.
Names:
Economists' National Committee on Monetary Policy (U.S.)
Kemmerer, Donald Lorenzo
Spahr, Walter Earl, 1891-
Places:
United States -- Economic policy -- 20th century.