Great Depression Pay Warrants

Date: 1930's
South Carolina, USA

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Item Description:

 Issued by the city of Charleston, South Carolina at the height of the Great Depression, these pay warrants could be exchanged for goods at local shops; merchants would turn them in at set times during the year for cash. These have been "canceled," cut to make sure they would not be re-used. Each purchase includes a $1, $5, and a $10 pay warrant.

From October 29, 1929 until the beginning of the Second World War, the industrialized world suffered through the longest and deepest economic downturn in its history. The Great Depression was a perfect storm of speculative busts, bank failures, widespread deflation, mass unemployment, and overall financial hardship that lasted for almost exactly a decade. The global gross domestic product fell by a staggering 15 percent. Half the banks in the United States failed. Unemployment soared to record levels.

Municipalities were so strapped for cash that they issued pay warrants—quasi-currency that could be used in local markets and traded in at various times of the year for cash. Only the economic stimulus caused by war, which found jobs for the unemployed in factories or on battlefields, turned the tide.

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