Jersey Reflections: Author and MusePosted:
By Vince Farinaccio
A Columnist for the Grapevine
Thomas H. Proctor, a follower of the Greenback Movement, wrote an account of the disaster he believed would follow the adoption of a gold standard.
Of all the early Vineland authors highlighted by Frank D. Andrews in the Vineland Historical Magazine, Thomas H. Proctor is the only one to have been driven to a writing career by a political fervor.
Little is known about Proctor except that he was a shoe manufacturer and a devoted follower of the Greenback Movement that proved to be his muse and the key to success. What Andrews calls the “Greenback craze” gave birth to the Greenback Party, which took its name from the term for the paper money issued by the North during the Civil War that was not backed by the gold standard. Greenbacks lasted for some time after the war until the passage of the Resumption Act that returned things to a gold-backed currency.
According to online sources, the Greenback Party saw a problem with the gold standard because it was controlled by banks and not the federal government, thereby giving an advantage to the wealthy industrialists over the common laborers. Those workers included farmers who helped establish the movement in 1873 when they helped create an independent party in their pursuit of reform.
The Greenback Party succeeded in placing 21 members in Congress, including one from New Jersey. But, according to Elizabeth Sanders’s Roots of Reform: Farmers, Workers, and the American State, 1877-1917, “the year 1878 proved to be the electoral high point for the Greenback Movement…” Sources indicate that it was not until the late 1880s that the party actually dissolved, but its efforts were unproductive during its final decade.
There is no evidence of Proctor’s political activities in the heyday of the Greenback Party, but Andrews reports that “when the free coinage of silver was an issue, Mr. Proctor was thoroughly aroused and with pen in hand wrote a romantic account of the disaster to the country that, as he believed, would follow the adoption of a gold standard. This book he called The Banker’s Dream, an Argument for the Free Coinage of Silver.”
This 1894 book contains a preface by the author that lashes out at the “men who have doubled their wealth during the last two years, with a corresponding result of poverty among the masses, and who are ambitious to pose before the world as individual owners of a thousand million dollars…To the possessors of wealth who are not inordinately rich, who love a republic more than a thousand million dollars, and humanity more than gold, this book appeals…”
The Banker’s Dream met with national success and two years later, readers anxiously awaited the sequel. The August 5, 1896 edition of the Times-Picayune of New Orleans announced that “Mr. Thomas H. Proctor…informs us that his new book, The Banker Hypnotized…will be out this month. In this book, Mr. Proctor shows the banker, through an old philosopher who is a professional hypnotist, a picture of a great and glorious republic of 100,000,000 people, living under a correct system of finance, and who are the most happy and prosperous people on earth. The banker becomes converted to this new order of things and gives his $300,000,000 to overthrow the present financial system, to establish the system under which he sees these happy people living. Those who have read The Banker's Dream will be glad to see how Mr. Proctor can change the terribly dark picture he painted, which resulted from a gold standard, to one of an ideal republic, with prosperity and happiness on every side, and all this resulting from correcting our financial system.”
The Medical World went a step further in its appraisal of the books: “Mr. Thomas H. Proctor, of Vineland, N. J. now presents a sequel entitled The Banker Hypnotized. I regret that I have not had time to read these books, but I know the author and his reputation well enough to say that if anyone will send the price to Mr. Proctor for either or both of these books (25 cents each), and after reading conclude that it was a bad investment, I will make it good on receipt of the book.”
But Andrews’ summation might be the most accurate: “The books were read by those interested [in them] as a prophecy of coming events, but are now forgotten, sharing the fate of so many transitory works.”
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