Townsend Test Check, Brewster, WA 1937


This one dollar check from the First National Bank of Brewster, Washington, was paid to the order of “Prosperity” by Dorwin D. Holland, treasurer of Brewster’s Townsend Test Fund, on January 25, 1937. David Silva Sampson was chosen by Brewster’s Townsend Club to spend 200 dollars in checks to test Townsend’s Pension Plan. The check was spent like a dollar note; each merchant would pay a two cent tax to go toward the pension’s kitty. Each time the note was spent, the note was signed on the back by the seller. This note passed through twelve hands before stopping with Nettie Whitinger on February 8, 1937. While Townsend’s plan was never adopted, other tests were funded in Chelan, Washington, and Bergenfield, New Jersey. The tests were not favorable toward Townsend’s plan, as local news reports blamed souvenir seekers for taking the checks out of circulation, ending that note’s chance to be used and taxed.

The United States was in the middle of the Great Depression in the 1930s and many people saw a need for old-age pension plans to help the working elderly retire comfortably, which would then open up new jobs for younger workers. Francis Townsend, a Californian physician, proposed a plan that gave 200 dollars a month to every citizen sixty years and older, believing that would stimulate the economy and jolt America out of the Depression. Under the Townsend Plan, the pensioner must be retired and have a crime-free past in order to receive the money, which must be spent locally during the month it was issued. The pension would be funded by a 2% tax paid by the seller in transactions involving the pension money. While the plan could never fund its promised output, well-organized seniors exerted mounting political pressure for some sort of economic security, prompting President Franklin D. Roosevelt to urge the passing of the Social Security Act in 1935.

Date Made: 1937

Location: Currently not on view

Place Issued: United States: Washington, Brewster

See more items in: Work and Industry: National Numismatic Collection, American Enterprise, Coins, Currency and Medals


Exhibition Location:

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1979.1263.00002Accession Number: 1979.1263Catalog Number: 1979.1263.00002Serial Number: H41

Object Name: check

Physical Description: paper (overall material)Measurements: overall: 7.1 cm x 17.2 cm x .01 cm; 2 25/32 in x 6 25/32 in x in


Record Id: nmah_1456199

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.