After World War II, America Immediately Faced Challenges in China, Russia

Taiwan struck a gold 2000 Yuan Year 55 (1966) to commemorate the 80th birthday of Chaing Kai-shek.

By Jim O’Neal

Chaing Kai-shek joined the Chinese Nationalist Party in 1918, succeeding founder Sun Yat-sen as the leader. In 1925, he expelled Chinese Communists from the party and led a successful reunification of China. When the Allies declared war on Japan in 1941, China took its place among the Allied nations.

Chaing may have been an ally of the United States, but he presided over a corrupt society made ungovernable by China’s decade-long occupation at the hands of the Japanese and the growing strength of communist revolutionary Mao Zedong. Inflation was rampant, as was starvation, but Chiang’s police crushed opposition and no amount of American pressure could dissuade him.

In 1946, George Marshall made a valiant effort to consolidate power between Chiang and Mao, but it proved futile. As the Cold War advanced, Americans saw their own security at risk by supporting the anti-communists. Then, the Communist Revolution created an ardent hatred of all things American, followed by more bad news in September 1949. As the last of the Chinese Nationalists fled to Formosa (now Taiwan), a squadron of USAF B-29s detected traces of radioactive material while flying over the North Pole. This provided irrefutable evidence that the Soviet Union had successfully exploded their first atomic bomb.

Americans were disillusioned. This was not the way things were supposed to go. Right was supposed to triumph over wrong, freedom over oppression, God over the godless. Hadn’t the Allies just finished proving this on the beaches of Normandy and in the vast waters of the Pacific? And hadn’t the gods determined that Americans alone should possess the atomic secrets to keep the forces of evil in check?

Mao’s victory and Joseph Stalin’s bomb forced a reconsideration of plans for occupied Japan, for now the line between East and West had to be drawn even more firmly, and every American decision had to be viewed through the prism of the Cold War. The initial strategy, as it had been for occupied Germany, had been to halt Japan’s capacity for future aggression, to disarm the former enemy and slowly introduce democracy. But, just as the Russian actions in Eastern Europe had changed the pace of reeducation in West Germany, the victory of the Chinese Communists made it essential that Japan be immediately strengthened to resist the spread of the Red Tide in Asia.

General Douglas MacArthur, the supreme commander of occupied Japan, had personally written the new Japanese constitution, which banned “land, sea and air forces” and stated any war potential “will never be maintained – or the development of a military industry.” Just three years after the end of the war, that ban was lifted, creating a “self-defense force” of 75,000.

Today, as North Korean nuclear threats continue to grow, there are discussions about Japan assuming total responsibility for their own defense, including the possibility of a nuclear deterrence, something that many believe could be viable in a matter of months.

We seem to be incapable of eradicating or even mitigating war capabilities. Maybe there is just too much profit potential involved.

Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is president and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Clash of Democracy and Oligarchy Dates to Ancient Times

persia-under-alexander-mazaeus-as-satrap-of-babylon
This double-daric gold coin, provisionally dated to the years Alexander the Great was King of Persia, sold for $70,500 at a September 2013 Heritage auction.

“Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty.” – Plato

By Jim O’Neal

During the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.), Athens was ultimately defeated by the Spartans. Athenian democracy was twice suspended. In 411 and 404 B.C., Athenian oligarchs claimed that Athens’ weak position was due to democracy and led a counter-revolution to replace democratic rule with an extreme oligarchy. In both cases, democratic rule was restored within one year.

Democracy flourished for the next eight decades. However, after the Macedonian conquest of Athens under Phillip II and his son Alexander (later Alexander the Great) in 332 B.C., Athenian democracy was abolished. It was intermittently restored in the Hellenistic age in the 1st and 2nd centuries B.C., but the Roman conquest of Greece in 146 B.C. effectively killed it off.

Although democratic rule had been quashed, Athenian science and philosophy lived on. The renown and influence of Plato and Aristotle endured through the ages that followed and much of their work continues to influence Western thought to this day.

It is ironic that Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great at age 16 since throughout antiquity, Alexander was widely viewed as the most remarkable man who ever lived. When his father was assassinated in 336 B.C., he secured the Macedonian throne by destroying his rivals, forcing the Greek city/states to accept his authority in 334 B.C. and then marching into Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) at the head of an army of 43,000 foot soldiers and a cavalry of 5,500. At its heart lay the Macedonian phalanx, a well-drilled corps of 15,000 men armed with the sarissa, a double-pointed 23-foot pike. They were simply invincible.

He then defeated the Persian emperors, subdued Greece, drove his troops across mountains, deserts and rivers into Afghanistan, Central Asia and on to the Indian Punjab, ruthlessly crushing all resistance. Alexander was now king of a vast and ethnically diverse empire that included 70 newly founded cities. It is said that he sat down and cried when he ran out of new places to conquer. He died in 323 B.C., having been history’s most successful military commander.

Not bad for a 32-year-old.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is president and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Let’s Not Forget that America Remains a Unique Place

medal-struck-for-henry-clay
A U.S. Mint medal struck for presentation to Henry Clay in 1852 sold for $346,000 at a September 2016 auction.

 

By Jim O’Neal

The 1800 census reported 5.3 million people living in the United States – more than twice the number in the colonies at the beginning of the American Revolution. There were four cities with populations greater than 10,000 – Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia and New York. Half of all Americans were under 16 years old.

The men and women who were born between 1776 and 1800 would not have had any contact with the colonial era. They would have none of the sensibilities of having been subjects of the King of England. They were the inheritors of the revolution and took seriously that they had inherited a remarkable revolution. They intended to demonstrate to a world of monarchs what democracy, what a democratic society could truly be.

Thomas Jefferson’s influence was the most pervasive in this generation and was constantly the subject of discussion. The statesman Henry Clay loomed as a hero as did DeWitt Clinton, because of his leadership in building the Erie Canal. Jefferson was important because he so clearly articulated a different conception of what a republic could be and he had a unique vision of how human beings could participate in their society. He is a point of reference throughout this period.

Once the Revolutionary War was won, there was an outpouring of people into the western parts of New York, Virginia, Georgia and Pennsylvania. By 1820-1830, people primarily farmed since 85 percent lived in rural areas.

Then came the shift to commerce, manufacturing and the professions – medical, teaching, preaching, legal. This required an infrastructure of teachers as literacy spread almost everywhere. Railroads, canals, steamboats and roads were all enablers of this new society, allowing it to flourish and grow.

The military was small, other than the swelling for the War of 1812, but troops quickly demobilized from 70,000 back down to 14,000. West Point was teaching civil engineering, with military people participating in economic life via the railroads and canals. Each veteran received 160 acres of land and they pushed further west.

In the North, almost everyone was educated, including free blacks. In the South, fewer were educated, but there were lots of academics for planters’ children. When the British writers Frances Trollope and Charles Dickens toured America, they found a society that was intoxicatingly free and saw things they loved: the outpouring of human energy, voluntary association at will, the zeal of forming a society to determine America’s character.

To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin when asked what the founders had created: “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”

The first generation of Americans did a pretty fair job and we are still reaping the benefits of their efforts. I hope this generation does as well in keeping the flame of liberty burning brightly. America is still a unique place on Earth.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Chicago World’s Fair was More Than a Ferris Wheel, Buffalo Bill and Commemorative Coins

1893-worlds-columbian-exposition-admittance-ticket
A group of 18 World’s Columbian Exposition tickets, including this scarce Benjamin Franklin piece, realized $1,265 at a January 2011 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

In 2003, bestselling author Erik Larson wrote The Devil in The White City, a non-fiction narrative of a serial killer who murdered up to 200 people using the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (the Chicago World’s Fair) as a backdrop. Leonardo DiCaprio reportedly has the film rights and Martin Scorsese will direct.

There was a lot of competition for the fair between Chicago and New York City. NYC bolstered their bid when Cornelius Vanderbilt, William Waldorf Astor and J.P. Morgan pledged $15 million in support. But Chicago prevailed by matching the $15 million from Marshall Field, Philip Armour and Gustavus Swift (of meatpacking fame, who sold “Everything but the squeal,” a highly effective slogan highlighting how they used all animal parts to make other products and eliminate pollution).

However, what sealed the deal was a pledge by Lyman Gage, president of the powerful First National Bank of Chicago, to provide millions of dollars to help finance exhibitors. Gage would later serve as the 42nd Secretary of the Treasury under both William McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt.

Chicago was eager to host the event and demonstrate how much progress they had made after the disastrous Fire of 1871 involving Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. They painted so many stucco buildings white and had new electric lights illuminating so many streets that they earned the nickname “The White City.” They successfully conveyed the image of fresh, sanitary and new. There was also a major initiative called City Beautiful that included cleaning up trash in streets, empty lots and alleys.

A major mistake they made was denying William Frederick Cody (“Buffalo Bill”) permission to perform his famous Wild West Show. Ever the shrewd businessman, he simply set up shop outside the fairgrounds and siphoned off customers. However, the fair’s shaky finances received a big boost when Pittsburgh-based bridge maker George Ferris debuted his new invention – a 264-foot-tall Ferris Wheel. It could accommodate 2,160 people at a time and with a fare of 50 cents (double the cost of a fair ticket), it bailed out the fair and wiped out a big budget deficit.

The federal government also pitched in with the introduction of the country’s first postcards, a new commemorative stamp, and two new commemorative coins. One was a quarter featuring Queen Isabella – who financed the voyage of Columbus. It was the first time a U.S. coin honored a woman. The other was the 50-cent commemorative Columbus coin, both still popular with coin collectors today. The entire fair was an homage to Columbus, celebrating his voyage 400 years earlier, despite being one year late.

On July 12, American historian Frederick Jackson Turner skipped the Wild West Show and the docking of a replica from Norway of a Viking ship – just two of the hundreds of events that attracted up to 28 million spectators to the fair. Turner opted to put some finishing touches on his thesis before delivery at the Art Institute of Chicago that night.

More on his historic speech in my next post.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Canal a Vital Investment that Helped Open the West from Chicago

lockport-il-illinois-and-michigan-canal-at-branch-state-bank-at-chicago-100-post-note
Notes were issued by banks to help fund the Illinois and Michigan Canal Company. This Branch State Bank at Chicago $100 post note is dated Aug. 1, 1839.

By Jim O’Neal

Chicago had a big opportunity buried deep within a challenging situation.

In the early 19th century, trade goods from the Great Lakes region could be shipped on three routes. The Erie Canal got goods to New York, the Saint Lawrence River to the ports on the northern Atlantic, or goods went south on the Mississippi River to New Orleans into the Gulf of Mexico. The last option was best for goods grown or mined around Lake Michigan or Superior.

One issue was the lack of a physical connection to the Mississippi or any of its tributaries. There was a geographically infuriating obstacle in the way: a relatively low plateau with a wide expanse. It was this barrier, just a few dozen feet high, that separated the growing lakeside city of Chicago from the rivers of the west.

As early as 1673, French-Canadian explorer Louis Jolliet had remarked how easy it should be to cut a small canal across the hilltop marsh and make a direct link to the mighty river. Although Jolliet knew very little about artificial waterways, he was aware of a giant canal being built in France, the Canal du Midi, a 150-mile structure linking the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. It had started six years earlier and would take another eight years to complete. But, surely a small waterway here in America would be “trivial.”

Wrong!

Neither the French nor British had pursued a project during their occupation of this land and only when Illinois become a state in 1818 did any serious discussions begin. Finally, on Independence Day 1836, the Illinois and Michigan Canal Company broke ground and digging began.

The implications for Chicago were enormous. Connect to the Mississippi and trade commerce would explode. Immigrant laborers were attracted in large numbers. In the 12 years it took to finish the canal, the population grew to 20,000 and six years later it had tripled.

It took 12 long years because the scope of the canal was much larger than anticipated. It became a fully formed waterway; 60 feet wide at the top, 26 feet wide on the bottom and 6 feet deep. However, it was 96 miles long, had 17 locks, four aqueducts, and a giant pumping station with feeder springs. It allowed vessels to pass without interruption from the Lakes to the new city of LaSalle on the Illinois River.

When the steamer General Thornton arrived in the middle of Chicago on April 19, 1848 (bringing a load of sugar from New Orleans), a cascade of other events followed: Chicago got its first telegraph, the Board of Trade opened, the first steam-powered elevator started unloading on the docks, and the first railroad connection was started.

Suddenly, Chicago was a vital fulcrum for commerce and business – conveniently located between East and West. Journeys that had taken fur traders three weeks or farmers 10 days could now be accomplished in less than one day’s sailing! A torrent of goods flooded in: lumber, wheat, corn, stone, salt and livestock for the packinghouses to fill the nation’s dinner tables.

People quickly found travel into the American interior delightfully uncomplicated since the first half of the journey was easily waterborne. Chicago’s new Grand Canyon was much more than the trivial ditch Jolliet had envisioned, but when gold was discovered in California the following year, the mass migration started, filling in the middle of the country as they went.

This was one “Big Dig” that paid off … big time!

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

J.P. Morgan was Crucial to the Financial Development of the United States

5-brown-back-bears-signature-of-new-york-financier-j-pierpont-morgan-a
An 1882 $5 Brown Back, National Bank of Commerce in New York note, bearing the signature of J.P. Morgan as vice president (lower right), went to auction in September 2007.

By Jim O’Neal

John Pierpont “J.P.” Morgan may have been the preeminent U.S. banker in the last half of the 19th century. He was born in 1837, avoided serving in the Civil War by paying a substitute the traditional $300 to take his place, and started his banking career … first in London with his father and then in New York City. In addition to becoming a famous financier, he accumulated a world-class art and precious gem collection.

It is his role in helping finance the development of the United States that provides the most interest. In fact, throughout the entire span of his lengthy financial career, there was a chronic lack of capital in the United States to fund economic development. This was primarily due to the lack of a strong national bank or a system to monitor monetary policy and ensure adequate liquidity … without triggering runaway inflation.

This situation was exacerbated by a series of “financial panics” that seemed to occur with regularity every 15 to 20 years due to myriad factors (e.g. bank failures, speculative bubbles, asset-liability mismatches, over-leverage, economic recessions, depressions, etc.). The United States had several in the 19th and 20th centuries and we almost collapsed the entire financial system in 2007-08 after the bursting of the housing bubble and too much bank leverage using exotic products. Central bankers around the world are still struggling with economic development while sovereign governments abdicate their fiscal responsibility.

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J.P. Morgan

During Morgan’s career, there was also the issue associated with European investors being skittish about investments in America that were hard to monitor from 3,000 miles away. This was especially true for railroads that were enormously capital intensive. This void created a perfect role for Morgan in New York and his father in London. They could match up sound investments in the United States with eager foreign investors by taking “moral responsibility” (their term) for overseeing their clients’ investment through their bank.

If a railroad went bankrupt, J.P. would personally step in and take charge by managing the bankruptcy, replacing top management, restructuring the financing, installing a new board (often including himself) and staying until the company’s health was restored. This reorganization of railroads came to be called “Morganization.”

Once the essential railroad structure of America had been knitted together into a sound economic and geographic sector, he then turned his talent to industrial organizations. He put together the first billion-dollar corporation by combining several small steel companies with Carnegie Steel and creating U.S. Steel. Next was Edison Electric and Thomson-Houston to form General Electric, one of the original 12 Dow Jones companies.

He and his partners put together International Harvester, financed AT&T, bailed out the U.S. Treasury when they were about to run out of gold during the 1893 Panic, and almost single-handily stopped the Panic of 1907. In this case, he was a national hero, but within a short period many Americans were horrified that one private citizen had so much power. This led to a national monetary commission and eventually the Federal Reserve System of today.

When J.P. Morgan died in 1913 and billionaire John D. Rockefeller read in The New York Times that his estate was only worth $80 million, Rockefeller reportedly shook his head and said, “And to think, he wasn’t even a rich man!”

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Trade Has Created Economic Opportunities for More than 100 Years

1915-S Panama-Pacific Octagonal Fifty
To celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal, the U.S. Mint produced this 1915-S $50 Panama-Pacific Octagonal. This example, graded MS67 NGC, realized $282,000 at an April 2014 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

The ceremonial opening on Nov. 17, 1869, of the Suez Canal, linking the Mediterranean and Red seas, was an emphatic declaration of European – specifically French – technological and financial means. It was also a significant illustration of a rapidly emerging and increasingly global economy and, simultaneously, a further boost to Europe’s imperial ambitions.

The Suez Canal reduced the sailing time between London and Bombay by 41 percent and the route to Hong Kong by 26 percent. The impact on trade was obvious, as it greatly simplified the defense of India and its critical markets, Britain’s key imperial goal. Trade in the Indian Ocean was now protected by 21 Royal Naval bases, making it a virtual monopoly.

An even more challenging project was the construction, begun in 1881, of the Panama Canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It was a French initiative, but plagued by controversy and a consistently hostile climate that cost the lives of 22,000 laborers. The United States eventually completed the project in August 1914 after the French finally conceded defeat.

It was the largest and most expensive engineering project in the world.

It, too, dramatically reduced sailing times, shortening the Liverpool to San Francisco route by 42 percent and the San Francisco to New York time by 60 percent. The project assumption by the United States marked a crucial shift in attitudes in both trading and advancing U.S. interests in foreign affairs. This started in 1898 when the United States itself became a colonial power by taking over the Philippines from Spain.

It then accelerated under President Teddy Roosevelt (1901-09), when he actively advocated American military involvement, especially in Latin America, to ensure stability as a means of advancing American interests. A major consequence was the strengthening of the U.S. Navy and its “Great White Fleet,” which completed a circumnavigation of the globe between 1907 and 1909. This was followed by President William Howard Taft’s Dollar Diplomacy, by which American commercial interests – primarily in Latin America and East Asia – were secured by the backing of the U.S. government to encourage huge investments.

A hundred years later, we are still actively pursuing a variant of this strategy by advocating two-way investment with Brazil, China and India despite being on a short hiatus until the current political season ends. This is the only rational way to create the jobs we need and keep our trading partners’ markets open.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

World Trade Has Enriched Our World for Centuries

People's Republic Marco Polo gold Proof 500 Yuan 1993
The People’s Republic of China in 1993 celebrated Marco Polo’s contributions with a commemorative 500 Yuán coin. This gold Proof sold for $52,875 at a January 2014 auction.

By Jim O’Neal

As campaign rhetoric on trade continues to be a hot topic, it may be time to review some history.

Venetian merchant Marco Polo’s arrival in 1275 at Shangdu, the capital of the Great Kublai Khan, marked the end of a four-year journey. He had traveled from Italy to the Mongol capital along the length of the Silk Road. This was an ancient network of routes that carried precious goods between China and Europe for centuries.

The Silk Road had first become a conduit for trade when the Chinese Han Dynasty pushed into Central Asia in the late 2nd century. From then on, goods like jade and silk were carried west, passed from caravan to caravan by a series of merchants who met caravans of furs, gold and horses traveling in the opposite direction. Chinese inventions like gunpowder, paper and magnetic compasses were also brought west on this route, arriving at Constantinople and the Black Sea ports.

By the 13th century, sections of the Silk Road had become less safe. However, following the Mongol conquest, the Great Kublai Khan stabilized it so a merchant could travel from Khanbalik (Beijing) to Baghdad safely. Italian city-states such as Pisa, Genoa and Venice also pioneered maritime trade across the eastern Mediterranean, which enabled merchants to connect directly with sea routes that linked West Asia and Egypt to China via the Indian Ocean.

The profits for merchants taking advantage of Pax Mongolica (peace in Eurasia) could be enormous. The costs to ship might amount to 3,500 Florins, but the cargo sold could yield seven times that. By 1326, Genoese traders were a common sight in the principal Chinese port of Zaitun.

The Silk Road flourished for another century, but the 1335 collapse of the Mongols in Persia and overthrow of the Yuan in 1368 blocked European traders at the western end by the growth of the Muslim Ottoman Empire. But the taste of profits was too intense and that’s when Portuguese sailors took over, eager to trade directly with China via the sea alternative to the defunct Silk Road.

Marco Polo (1254-1324) stayed in China for 17 years, traveling extensively in the Khan’s service, before returning to Venice, where he lived the rest of his life. Few people from this era are familiar to modern society, but last night I saw a TV commercial with a group of kids in a swimming pool playing with Marco.

It is sometimes humorous to listen to various people debating trade, but they are victims of the WTO/NAFTA/TPP/currency manipulation myths and generally unaware of the rich history of world trade and just how sophisticated our trading partners really are.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Pocahontas Played Role in Earliest Days of British Empire

Excessively Rare Original Series $20 Territorial
A “Baptism of Pocahontas” vignette appeared on $20 National Bank Notes circulated from the 1860s to 1880s. This example sold at Heritage Auctions for $89,125 in September 2008.

 

By Jim O’Neal

After a relatively long period of obscurity, Pocahontas is back in the news. She was one of the many daughters of Chief Powhatan, the Indian chief who tangled with English settlers at Jamestown, Va., in 1607.

Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas and was led by English colonist Captain John Smith. Legend has it that Smith was captured while exploring on the Chickahominy River in December 1607 and Pocahontas prevailed on her father to spare his life.

Serious historians credit Jamestown with being the “beginning of the British Empire.” During the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries, Spain and Portugal pioneered European exploration of the globe and England became quite envious of the treasures they brought home after numerous voyages. France and the Netherlands were also competing targets.

England and Scotland joined forces to create Great Britain, and after they defeated France and the Netherlands in the 17th and 18th centuries in wars largely waged to secure trade routes, the British Empire became the largest empire in history, despite losing the American colonies.

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Close-up of vignette used for the National Bank Note.

The British Empire was a vast network of dominions, colonies and protectorates ruled or administrated by the United Kingdom. The British domination was so pervasive that the period from 1815 to 1914 was known as Pax Britannia (British Peace). The Royal Navy was omnipotent, maintaining 458 million people (one-fifth of the world) and 13 million square miles – 25 percent of Earth’s land area.

Pocahontas, after being captured and held for ransom in 1613, converted to Christianity, changed her name to Rebecca and married tobacco planter John Rolfe.

The Rolfes traveled to London, where Rebecca became a celebrity and attended galas at Whitehall Palace. Alas, on their return voyage to Virginia, Rebecca died and was buried in an unmarked grave. She has received lasting fame through art, literature and film. Some of her more diverse descendants include Percival Lowell (who discovered Pluto), Glenn Strange (Sam the bartender on Gunsmoke) and two First Ladies … Edith Wilson and Nancy Reagan.

Sadly, Pocahontas never officially earned the title of Princess.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Thomas Hendricks’ Views on Race Cast a Shadow Over His Entire Career

Fr. 293 $10 1886 Silver Certificate Choice About New
Thomas A. Hendricks is featured on the 1886 $10 Silver Certificate. This example realized $6,325 at a September 2006 auction.

By Jim O’Neal

In the annals of American vice presidents, no occupant had a more tortuous path than Democrat Thomas A. Hendricks of Indiana. In the course of that journey, he acquired a controversial reputation with views on race that cast a shadow over his entire career.

A law practice in Indiana led him to a political career in 1848 where he first revealed his anti-black bias. He helped to enact the infamous “Black Laws” – ensuring racial segregation and strict limitations on immigrations of free blacks into the entire state. In 1850, he was elected to the U.S. Congress, where he was a strong supporter of popular sovereignty and expansion of slavery to the West.

He then pushed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise and led directly to the Civil War. His speeches were some of the most vitriolic on record concerning the black race. He fought against reconstruction after the war and was rejected as a VP running mate for Samuel Tilden in 1876.

This was the only election in which a candidate (Tilden) received more than 50 percent of the popular vote but was not elected by the Electoral College. (In 1824, 1888 and 2000, the candidate who received the most votes did not win, but none of them had more than 50 percent).

Then eight years later, Grover Cleveland and Hendricks became the first Democrats to win a presidential election since 1856. This was the longest losing streak for any major party in American political history … six consecutive losing presidential elections!

Hendricks’ long wait was over, but he had little time to savor victory. Eight months later, he was dead. For the fifth time, the vice presidency was vacant as the result of the death of the occupant and in 10 of the first 18 presidencies, there was no sitting VP. But by now the office was so lightly regarded, few seemed to care.

That is until someone realized that the offices of both the president pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House were also vacant. With Republicans in control of the Senate, the next successor would be of the opposing party!

So in 1886, Congress passed a law removing Congressional leaders from the line of succession and replaced them with members of the president’s Cabinet … starting with State and then Treasury, War, etc. That lasted until 1947 and then changed again in 1967 with the passage of the 25th Amendment … today’s law.

So old racist Thomas Hendricks’ service was only memorable for the actions taken by others after he died.

Not much of a legacy.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].