Financing war starts at home
ISHPEMING — Just like every other war the United States has fought, the government had to pay for the First World War somehow. One of the ways they chose to finance the conflict was through Liberty Loan bonds. Bonds could be purchased for $50 each ($1016.72 today), paid 4% interest and matured in 30 years, although the government could redeem them sooner.
When the first Liberty Loan drive produced disappointing results, the government decided to go all out with the second drive. They used several strategies, including full page ads in many newspapers. They also used four-minute men.
“Four-minute talks are to be given from the local theatre and other places where the public visits, this to impress on the people the full importance of doing something for the furtherance of the war movement.” (Iron Ore, Sept.1, 1917) E. J. Townsend, secretary of the YMCA, was appointed chairmen of the committee assigned the responsibility of the Ishpeming talks. Fred Berg, C.H. Moss, Ed J. Butler, Thomas Clancey and W.T. Potter also served on the committee. There would be one or more talks a week at both the Ishpeming and Butler theaters, with the same speaker at both theaters.
“A new theme, “Onward to Victory,” has been assigned the four-minute men for their addresses in the Ishpeming and Butler theaters Saturday evenings.” “The committee in charge of this matter has received from the committee on public information of the war department at Washington the material for the four-minute addresses to be delivered from Sept 24 until further notice.” “All four-minute men are requested to carefully read the pamphlets enclosed herewith, and limit their addresses strictly to the subject matter assigned to each of them.” (Mining Journal, Sept. 28, 1917)
Monday, Oct. 15th was designated as “Liberty Loan Buying Day” by the mayors of Ishpeming, Negaunee and Marquette. “It is likely that those who meet in conference Monday noon will decide to have a four-minute speech at the theaters every evening next week. The federal committee directing the work of the four-minute speakers has requested that this be done.”
In his proclamation Mayor Wahlman said: “Money is the most powerful element that can be brought to bear in the support of our soldiery; now beginning to move towards the battle fronts, and it is imperative that there be enough of it to give to our troops the maximum of support.” Mayor Wahlman, it should be noted, had a son, John Winfred Wahlman in the navy.
“Let us show the world that we are larger, better and more efficient than any German autocracy. We must all help, so do your part. If you can’t give your arms, give, at least, your dollars, and subscribe to the second Liberty Loan.” (Mining Journal, Oct. 15, 2927) This was part of the plea given by Thomas Clancey on the 13th of October. While both the Iron Ore and the Mining Journal covered the talks, the Mining Journal did a much better job of covering the speeches and often printed part or all of the speech.
On Oct. 22, 1917, local businessman, Stephen H. Collick delivered his address. “He spoke first at the Butler theater, going from there to the Ishpeming theater, and at both houses he was given an ovation of applause at the conclusion of his talks” “He appealed to his audiences to let their patriotism and their loyalty move them to support the government with the loan of their money, in order that the nation’s fighting forces may return victorious.” (Mining Journal, October 22, 1917)
“Mr. Collick said, “Your country needs you; your president needs you; the thousands of men, whom you have seen on the trains passing through our city in the uniform of the United States need you, and the men you saw leave this city just a short time ago for Battle Creek need you.“”(Mining Journal, Oct. 22, 1917)
“Speaking at the Butler and Ishpeming theaters Tuesday night (October 23rd) , William H. Norman reminded Ishpeming citizens of their duty to the many young men who have left their community and who are now in the various branches of the nation’s armed forces, as well as the duty they owe to their country.”” “Ishpeming is tied up to this war just as close as the bigger cities of the country.” Mr. Norman asserted, “in spite of the fact that this city is far removed from all the hustle of war preparations, which in the big railroad and commercial centers served to remind the people that the United States is engaged in the greatest war the world has ever known.“” (Mining Journal, Oct. 25, 1917)
By the end of October, it was apparent that the four-minute speeches were successful. “Ishpeming citizens exceeded the city’s quota in the sale of second Liberty Loan bonds, which was brought to a close Saturday, by a considerable margin, the total sales aggregating $479,100.” “There were `1,901 subscribers for bonds in the city and the adjacent mining locations. This is an average of nearly one bond for every family in the city.” “The bond sales received a tremendous boost Saturday, when Superintendent Frank E. Keese of the Oliver Iron Mining company announced that his company had sent a check for $100,00 worth of the bonds to be credited to Ishpeming, and M.M. Duncan, general manager and vice president of the Cleveland Cliffs Iron company, announced that his corporation was coming in with a check for $125,00 worth of the bonds.” (Mining Journal, Oct. 29, 1917)
In 1917 $479,100 was an impressive total, with inflation that same amount would equate to $9,742,199 today.