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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Filthy Lucre

In 1905 A.T. Glaze of Fond du Lac published a history of business in the city from "early times to the present." In it he issued a scathing attack on an economic problem that he claimed was a burden to "all who handle money."

His problem? The smell of cash, which he argued was "suggestive of nastiness in the highest degree."

"Picking up a bill of the paper money of the country," he began, "imagine, if you can, where that bill may have been, into what sort of places and into the possession of what class of people, since it was issued new and crisp." Glaze admitted that "you are willing to pocket a package if you can, but you will not bring it to your nose more than once by free consent." He went on to say that the smell of a one-dollar bill was "suggestive of leprosy, smallpox, itch or other disease."

He proposed a solution. "Notes of the Bank of England are never passed out a second time," he observed. "A note issued this morning and coming in during the day's business, is not allowed further circulation, no matter how crisp and new. They are destroyed and newly numbered ones take their places, therefore a Bank of England note is not likely to carry or breed disease.

"Why has not our government put into practice some form of relief from the outrageously dirty and bad smelling paper money issued here? Not only bank tellers but all who handle money ask for relief."

What do you think? Was Glaze obsessive, of has the smell of money improved over the last century? Has the health risk diminished? I have to confess that, back in the 1950s, my mother would have agreed with him. She always made me wash my hands after handling cash.

[Source: "Paper Money Smells Bad." Incidents and Anecdotes of Early Days and History of Business in the City and County of Fond du Lac from Early Times to the Present, pages 285-286]

:: Posted in Curiosities on June 2, 2011
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