"During the Great Depression, Midwestern residents were provided with "bingles" that would act as their currency in the rugged territory of Alaska."
The Great Depression was an extremely difficult time for any American to have endured. Work was, in essence, impossible to find and landlords were less than forgiving to tenants who could not make rent. Many were left starving on the streets of every major city and town. This unfortunate phenomenon extended on into the countryside, resulting in the formation of shantytowns that would become known as, "Hoovervilles" after President Hoover who had been in office during the onset of The Depression in 1929.
By 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had come into office and developed a steady allotment of plans to help stabilize the economy. One of which was the Matanuska Valley Colonization Project, designed to help Northern Midwesterners who, at the time, had taken the hardest hit from the crumbled economy. The project would take the applicants and relocate them to a rural area in Alaska in an effort to populate the Alaskan Territory just outside of Anchorage. Only those from Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota were considered for relocation due to them already being well acclimated to harsh winter conditions.
Upon arrival, the transplants were awarded 40 acres of land to farm and flourish in an unknown, foreign terrain. Having no banks, nor real surrounding towns and kinsman to trade, barter or sell goods with, the government helped establish a currency that would only be accepted by the limited available stores in Alaska, a single series of coins that would become known as "bingles."
Issued in one, five, ten, twenty-five and fifty-cent pieces, along with one dollar in aluminum and five and ten dollars in brass, bingles were redeemable solely at ARRC stores in the rugged terrain. So while the new farmers were essentially "rich" by bingles standards, they were still very much victims of the buckled economy back home.
The coins, only used for the duration of six months, were quite simple in design. Both sides declared the same denomination and simple design that meant so much to a colony to which, in the end, had so little. Amounts issued varied per family based on the number of dependents. After the six-month mark in 1936, the coins were then returned for regular US currency and afterwards destroyed. However, a small lot of them were held onto and now collectibles.
Pieces like bingles are items we are fortunate to still have in existence. They remind us of how far we have come as a society and the efforts exuded to pull us through a trying time when so many had very little hope.
Did you like this? Read Thomas Jefferson's Lasting Legacy.
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