Eccles #3 - The Child
A fun look at four short experiences from the childhood of Marriner Eccles.
This is Alexander Bagehot, and you’re listening to The Bankster Podcast, the only podcast dedicated to the fascinating and ever more consequential world of central banking.
This is the third part of The Bankster Podcast’s ongoing research into the life and work of Marriner Stoddard Eccles. So without delay, let’s dive in! On today’s episode I’m going to read a few fun experiences from Eccles’s childhood. Some of which come from Eccles’s own autobiography and others come from the biography of Eccles written by Sidney Hyman. There are four stories told from the ages of 6, 8, 12, and 14. Eccles was born into a very large yet very affluent family. However, he was taught to work hard at a young age. Lots of the stories Eccles tells of himself and the stories others tell of his childhood revolve around work. But in many aspects he was a regular kid, indistinguishable from other kids in his time and ours. I hope you enjoy these short anecdotes of The Child Marriner Eccles.
The Nickname - Biography
“In 1896, at the age of six, Marriner was enrolled in a school in Baker City. In that same year he acquired a nickname, “Nickel-face,” a byproduct of mis-pronouncing the word “first.” On a summertime visit to his grandmother in Logan, his uncle Robert Anderson saw the child holding a beautiful apple, and offered to buy it for a nickel. Young Marriner was cautious. “You give me the nickel face,” said he to his uncle. The exchange between the two went the rounds of the family, and the nickname bom of it stuck.”
When I became a capitalist - Autobiography
“It was in Logan that I learned how to walk and talk. This mastered, at the stout age of three I was moved back to Oregon, where a new home was in readiness for my mother at Baker City. Five years later I began my education in the lumber business.
Though my father was a millionaire by then, he felt the age of eight was a suitable one for his children to go to work. He wanted none of us to grow up in idleness or acquire a taste for easy living. Though his plan in this respect was fulfilled only in part by his twenty-one children, in my own case there was my mother to oversee its execution. She, too, agreed that time spent in idleness was not good for a boy. And so, in that summer when I was eight, I was sent to the box factory that was part of the Oregon Lumber Company and was told to carry my weight in boxes. The rate of pay was five cents an hour for ten hours’ work.
When I held in my hands the first fifty cents for a day’s labor, my father offered a plan whereby I could be taught to follow in his footsteps and become a capitalist by curtailing the consumption of my current income. At the outset of that first summer he said that if I saved my money until I had one hundred dollars, he would sell me one share of Oregon Lumber Company stock at its par value.
It’s worth much more than that,” he explained with great care, “and if you come to own a share you will be a capitalist.”
For the sake of being a capitalist I saved twenty-seven dollars and a half that first time around. The next summer my daily earnings were raised from fifty to seventy-five cents. And by the end of the third summer the combined savings totaled one hundred dollars. I was sold the share of stock as promised and became a capitalist at the age of eleven. The feat won a treasured compliment from my father, which was multiplied many times over in the compliments I paid myself. I’ve never ceased being a capitalist since then.”
A Mother’s driving influence - biography
“Any signs of backsliding from his dedication to work were dealt with in summary fashion by his mother. When he was about twelve, he was put in charge of an old dump cart, pulled by a sway back horse named Old Bleuch. His job was to collect sawdust from the sawmill and dump it into a separate field to be used as additional fuel for a nearby power plant. It was boring work, and Marriner sought diversions. Squirrels abounded in the area, and one day he set a trap on one of his trips from the mill to the dump, finding on his return that he had bagged a squirrel. He continued the process for some days until he had caught several live squirrels. But to enjoy his dominion all by himself struck him as selfish, and he thought that his captives would make an imperial gift to his mother. At the presentation ceremony, however, there was no word of thanks. Ellen pursed her lips, opened the door of the cage and released the squirrels. Her motive was not kindness to animals, but to punish Marriner for allowing himself to be distracted by the antics of squirrels when all his thoughts should have been focused on increasing the number of loads he hauled from the mill to the dump yard.”
Frog Legs, Biography
“There was a far more serious breach of discipline. The summer Marriner was nearing fourteen, he and one of his classmates worked together in the lumber yard, stacking boxwood. One day they were seized by the idea that if they put a roof of wood across an aisle formed by the piles of stacked wood, they would have a little house of their own. Having done that, they realized they had a craving for frogs’ legs, and there were swarms of frogs in a nearby creek. Each morning when Marriner left for work, he managed to conceal in his lunch pail some flour, salt, pepper and kitchen oil. His coconspirator brought to work a BB gun and some tapioca. Tapioca fired at the frogs stunned them. The two boys then rushed in, cut the legs off, skinned them, and retreated to the little house they had made. They built a fire inside and Marriner fried the legs to a turn. The slaughter continued for several weeks to the delight of the boy’s stomachs and to their pride in their shrewdness.
There came a day, however, when a plume of smoke rising from the boxwood caught the eye of the“yard foreman who was highly sensitive to the ever present danger of fire in the area. He rushed to the peril point, discovered the two boys at their meal of frogs’ legs, raked them fore and aft for their criminal negligence, and threatened them with exposure to a punishing world. After the foreman’s wrath blew itself out, the crime was buried in the secret archives of his memory. No report of the deed was conveyed to David Eccles, or to the latter’s proconsul, Ellen. Marriner and his classmate, trembling in every limb from their brush with disaster, were transferred to another job.”
Today’s episode was written, edited, and produced by me, Alexander Bagehot. Reach out with your feedback, comments, and questions on twitter or via my website www.thebanksterpodcast.com. Leave a rating and share the podcast with your coworkers and classmates. Thanks to all of you for listening, and I’ll see you next time on The Bankster Podcast!