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28 November 2010 @ 09:06 pm
1932: "Stop Crying, Start Buying"  
Yesterday was quite busy. Irene and I headed into D.C. for a matinee of Henry VIII at the Folger Theatre, taking off early enough to first visit the Smithsonian American Art Museum for an exhibit of Norman Rockwell paintings owned by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. (And leaving time for lunch in Chinatown, too, of course.)

In the evening, we swooped down on Rockville and had dinner with our son, after which we hung around in Maryland poring over family memorabilia. One particularly fascinating item was a coin which we assumed had belonged to my late mother-in-law's father, John Aloysius Brown. The coin, celebrating the end of the depression, had been produced in 1932 by Stewart-Warner, a company that in its earliest incarnation had produced the speedometers that were used in the Ford Model T.

On one side, we're exhorted to "Stop Crying, Start Buying," a sentiment I could imagine our government urging us to embrace today.

So far, that makes this an interesting curiosity, but nothing that verges on OMG or WTF territory. No, for that, you'd have to turn the coin over.

The reverse of the coin, which declares 1932 to be "The End of the Depression," features an eye (Masonic, I assume) in the center of a shamrock centered over a swastika covering a Star of David—not at all symbols I ever expected to see merged into one.

Does that image get you ready to open up your wallet and start spending? Maybe that's how a member of the 1932 public was meant to react, but as for me, I'm not so moved.

How about you?
coppervalecoppervale on November 29th, 2010 02:11 am (UTC)
I need pie. MMmmm, pie.
pats_quinade on November 29th, 2010 03:18 am (UTC)
If I mentioned this coin in a work of fiction, people would claim that I was an idiot for making it up.

karen_w_newtonkaren_w_newton on November 29th, 2010 03:40 am (UTC)
Well, in 1932 no one could have had a clue how the the swastika would become a symbol of hatred and genocide. I wonder if it was included on the coin as a ancient symbol of Eastern mysticism?
~twilight~_twilight_ on November 29th, 2010 07:46 am (UTC)
My thought as well.
rab62rab62 on November 29th, 2010 03:48 am (UTC)
The swastika isn't the most improbable thing about this coin. That distinction belongs to the Star of David appearing on a promotional item from a business with ties to Henry Ford, in an era when the "Protocols of Zion" were widely disseminated (thanks to Mr. Ford) and anti-Semitic rumormongering and persecution were rampant. The idea that Stewart-Warner handed out coins blazoned with a symbol of Judaism in 1932 without encountering some level of suspicion and hostility from bigots and racists boggles the mind.
~twilight~_twilight_ on November 29th, 2010 07:47 am (UTC)
Ah, okay.
scottedelmanscottedelman on November 29th, 2010 01:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the reminder. That hadn't occurred to me.
Target for Displaced Anger: communicator garage door openerdavidkevin on November 29th, 2010 06:33 am (UTC)

It's not a Nazi swastika, it was an ancient symbol for life and luck, including sometimes being a Sun Wheel, before it was corrupted by the Nazi movement. The people who minted this coin had entirely benign motives: those are all meant to be positive, "good luck" and prosperity symbols. This coin is the equivalent of singing "Happy Days are Here Again".

I know that today it serves as a reminder of the camps and Hitler and the subjugation of Europe, and I am sympathetic to anyone upset by seeing it -- but it didn't mean that in 1932, I assure you.
scottedelmanscottedelman on November 29th, 2010 01:38 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm aware that the swastika once had benign or even positive connotations, but the sight of one merged with a Star of David still appears odd to my eyes.
(Anonymous) on November 1st, 2012 11:18 am (UTC)
Maybe and maybe not. The national socialists adopted the swastika as their symbol in the 20's. 1933 is when they came to power.
It has also been suggested rise of the nazi's were planned decades earlier by Albert Pike.
rtbinc on November 29th, 2010 05:22 pm (UTC)
I get the focus on the Swastika and the Star of David, but why are the Shamrock and the Eye being ignored? There are four layered symbols The Eye is like a Hamsa to ward off the "Evil Eye", which is common though out the middle east and North Africa. There is an Irish Shamrock, then the Swastika then the Star of David. The Star of David is not usually a "Good Luck" Symbol. So what we, actually Scott, has is a Swastika and a Shamrock between *two* Semitic symbols. I would tend to think that all were chosen for their sizes rather then any meaning. An understanding of how the coin was made would help a lot.

The star on the front seems to be derived from the Eye of Providence symbol. They seem to be trying to get across a "rising star" idea.

I have to agree that this is a wonderful insight into the culture of the US in the 1930's. There was a lot more going on then what Steinbeck wrote about.
scottedelmanscottedelman on November 29th, 2010 05:51 pm (UTC)
I'd say the eye and the shamrock aren't being given as much attention because neither is as electrically charged—nor diametrically opposed—as the Star of David and swastika.

As for the eye—so you think they were intending Hamsa rather than Masonic?
rtbinc on November 30th, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC)
There are two modern eye symbols, one is the all seeing eye, and the other is protection from the evil eye. The Masonic eye is of the all seeing sort. The Hamsa is protective. Both derive from the Semitic symbols. I've always read that the two are the flip sides of the same symbol. (Another coin reference.)

My point isn't that they were intending Hamsa rather then a Masonic symbol. My point is that the Masonic symbol and a Hamsa are the same symbol.

As for the coin maker, I assume that they pulled a book of symbols off a shelf somewhere, looked up good luck symbols and picked four that they thought could be recognized and could be put together in some easy and pleasant way. I assume they are more or less random. It is chance and history that a swastika and a shamrock are sandwiched between two semitic symbols.
(Anonymous) on February 14th, 2011 02:40 am (UTC)
Other Swatika-Hexagram symbols

I have been collecting many usages of Swastika and Hexagram here:

(Anonymous) on May 31st, 2013 04:57 am (UTC)
Is the coin for sale?
scottedelmanscottedelman on May 31st, 2013 06:36 pm (UTC)
Sorry, no. My son has kept it as a momento.
(Anonymous) on August 12th, 2015 04:13 am (UTC)
Thats not a swastika.
That "swastika" was actually originally used as a symbol of peace amongst Indians (and no i dont mean native americans.)
Андрейpalmindesert on April 25th, 2018 10:41 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty curious too. Tried to find some info and stumbled upon your post.
No clear explanation by the way. Can't really get what it could mean (if no conspiracy involved :D)