Dakota Datebook

Will You Finish the Job?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

 

The sale of Liberty Bonds raised over $21 billion during World War I, thanks to banks and financial groups that bought the bonds for financial rather than patriotic reasons.  The program did not catch on with the public.  People were uncomfortable entrusting their money to what they saw as an uncertain investment.

The Victory Loan program was different.  World War I ended in 1918, with the Victory Loans established the following year.  The cost of the war had been enormous, and it still had to be paid for.  Treasury Secretary William McAdoo conceived of the program as a way to pay the bills.  Congress authorized the Treasury Department to sell to sell bonds ranging in denominations from $50 to $100,000.

The United States was not the only country to resort to selling bonds.  Canada, Great Britain, France, and Germany all had their versions of war bonds.

On this date in 1919, the Grand Forks Herald ran an ad for Liberty Bonds titled “Will You Finish the Job?”  The drawing for the ad featured a one-legged soldier leaning on a crutch and holding out bonds.  The ad clearly played on emotions.  Americans were all too aware of soldiers straggling home, many of them severely wounded.  Ads for the bonds appealed to the American patriotism.

At a return rate of 3.5%, the bonds were too low to interest the market, and were slow to sell.  The government engaged in a massive sales campaign.  Celebrity endorsements, air shows, and band concerts were designed to get the public excited about buying bonds.  Low-income individuals could buy twenty-five cent stamps that were put into a booklet.  Once filled, the books were exchanged for five-dollar savings certificates, the lowest denomination offered.

The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts were instrumental in selling the Victory Bonds.  They actively participated in rallies.  Carrying American flags, they roamed through the crowds encouraging people to buy bonds.  Rallies attracted thousands of people, and the movement helped people see that buying bonds was a way to do their bit for the country.  As always, North Dakota responded to the country’s need, buying over $65 million in Liberty and Victory bonds.

 

Dakota Datebook Written by Carole Butcher.

Sources:

Grand Forks Herald. “Will You Finish the Job?” 22 March, 1919.

Encyclopedia.com.  “Victory Loan of 1919.” http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/victory-loan-1919 Accessed 21 February, 2017.

Museum of Finance. “Liberty Bonds.” http://www.moaf.org/exhibits/checks_balances/woodrow-wilson/liberty-bond Accessed 21 February, 2017.

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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