Stories indexed with the term ‘local currency’

In the Archives: Paper Pennies of Ypsi’s Past

Editor’s note: As a feasibility study on local currency gets underway in Ann Arbor, local history columnist Laura Bien takes a look at how local currencies were used in the past. Bien’s new book on local history, “Tales from the Ypsilanti Archives (MI): Tripe-Mongers, Parker’s Hair Balsam, The Underwear Club & More (American Chronicles)” can be ordered through Amazon.

Local currencies are nothing new to either Ypsilanti or Ann Arbor. In addition to 19th-century municipal banks, both cities created local currencies about 80 years ago. They weren’t created to boost local spending or civic pride. Ypsilanti created her local currency, called scrip, in the fall of 1931 because the city had no other money to pay municipal employees.

Ypsilanti Scrip Money

Ypsilanti "Time Scrip Money" was used to pay for municipal work. (Image links to higher resolution file.)

The currency included paper pennies.

“It was really just an IOU,” recalled Paul Ungrodt, in an April 15, 1975 Ypsilanti Press article, one of a Great Depression retrospective series. “[T]here was no money; hardly anyone could afford to pay taxes, so we made do with the scrip.” In the summer of 1929, Ungrodt was proud to have secured the prestigious job of Ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce secretary. A few months later, the stock market crashed. [Full Story]

Local Currency for Washtenaw County?

At the October 2009 meeting of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board, Sandi Smith reported out from the partnerships committee that a $6,000 grant had been awarded to Think Local First. The grant was awarded in regular U.S. dollars. But it’s a local currency that those federal dollars are helping to explore – by paying for a study to see if a local currency is feasible in Washtenaw County.

Think Local First local currency meeting

Backround trio from left to right: Kathy Ciesinski with Think Local First; Andrew Cluley, who was covering the event for WEMU radio; and Bob Van Bemmelen, proponent of the Unity model. Foreground trio: Ingrid Ault, executive director of Think Local First; Samantha Nielsen Misiak and Krissa Rumsey, both facilitators for TLF. (Photos by the writer.)

On Tuesday evening at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library’s lower level multipurpose room, Think Local First held the first of three meetings designed to gauge interest and support for the idea of a local currency. Ingrid Ault, Think Local First’s executive director, said she was hoping that more than the 10 people who dropped by would attend.

But there’ll be two additional meetings with the same content, both from 6-8 p.m.: Thurs., Feb. 25 at the Ypsilanti Senior Center; and Wed., March 3 at Vitosha Guest Haus Inn.

One couple, Larry An and Eileen Ho, dropped by the Tuesday event, even though that wasn’t the reason they were visiting the library. They’d come with their fourth- and six-grade kids, who were looking for their artwork – the lower level of the library is regularly updated with exhibits of art created by students in Ann Arbor’s local schools. [Full Story]