Monday, November 25

Prosperity is Always Just a Few Greenbacks Away

By Art Cashin

On this day in 1876, a group of influential, yet irate, Americans met in Indianapolis. Their primary purpose was to send a message to Washington on how to get the economy moving again.

America at the time was going through a difficult and unusual period. Several months earlier, the stock market had begun to plunge violently. Soon there were layoffs and business closings and the economy was having a tough time getting back in gear. And for months now, strange things were happening, the money supply seemed not to be growing, real estate values were stagnant to slipping, and commodity prices were heading lower. (How unusual.)

So this group decided that what was needed was re-inflation (put more money in everyone's hands, you see). The method they proposed was to issue more and more money. Cynics called them "The Greenback Party." And on this day, the Greenbacks challenged Washington by running an independent for President of the United States. His name was Peter Cooper. He lost but several associate whackos were elected to Congress.

To celebrate stop by the "Printing Press Lounge." (It's down the block from the Fed.) Tell the bartender to open the tap and just keep pouring it out till you say stop. Reassure the guy next to you (while you can still talk) that now we have more enlightened people in Washington. Try not to spill your drink if he falls off the stool laughing.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Wednesday, November 6

Hammurabi, the Guy Was Great

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By Art Cashin

On (about) this day in (about) 1772 B.C. one of the great administrative minds in human history issued a new code of law. His name of course was Hammurabi the Great of Babylonia. Throughout human history lots of rulers have adopted "the Great" in their titles but on a merit basis this guy clearly deserved to be on the short list.

More than a millennium before Socrates, Caesar, and Christianity and nearly 500 years before Moses - - he issued a code of conduct that was all encompassing, yet amazingly fair and flexible. Most schoolboys (er make that school - - persons) learn that the code of Hammurabi was "an eye for an eye". It was far more complex. It tried to cover all human interactions and attempted to marry two concepts - - "the strong shall not injure the weak" and all shall have a right to prosper in line with their effort. It covered crime, property rights, divorce, military service, inheritance, loans and bankruptcy. (Remember, 4000 years ago there was an active futures market in most commodities and an early form of program trading.)

Hammurabi's code was so broad it included some items that might get him invited as a guest on Donahue; et. al. (it covered medical malpractice claims and limits on bankrupting the family of those chronically ill). Anyway it brought great peace and prosperity to the people for centuries (until some government types began to play politics).

To celebrate, stop by the Constitution Lounge and have a couple of Amendments on the rocks.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Monday, November 4

Old 16 and the Vanderbilt Cup

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By Grant Davies

On this day (-2) in 1902, a new offering from a fairly well-known automobile company hit the road for the first time. It was billed as the "best built car in America", and it probably was.

The company was named Locomobile and on that day they sold their first four cylinder, gas powered car, the "Model C." It put out an incredible 12 horsepower. If you were looking for enough torque to make your head snap backwards upon sudden acceleration, and the horsepower didn't deliver, the $4000 price tag surely would. (For those who have a curiosity about how much the Federal Reserve has defended the value of the currency since then, that's $120,040.66 in 2013 dollars. But I digress.)

Anyway, some rich guy in New York was loco enough and had the equivalent of a hundred and twenty grand lying around, so he popped for the Model C. The company was off to the races, literally. More on that later.

The Locomobile Company of America had been around since way back in 1899 (that's three years for you lucky kids of the 60s "new math" programs) and had been producing high quality steam powered cars for folks who just wanted to get around town and weren't in a hurry.

According to, "Steam cars had to warm up (literally: the water needed to boil in order to build up steam pressure) for about a half-hour before the car could be driven, and their water tanks needed to be refilled every 20 minutes or so. They also needed three kinds of fuel: water for the boiler, kerosene to heat the water and gasoline for the pilot light." And that's not counting the acetylene that was needed for the car's "key" which was an acetylene torch to light the pilot. The cars weren't exactly racing material.

So when the company decided that the internal combustion engine was the future instead of steam, they hired a guy named Andrew Riker to design the Model C. It lived up to its billing as a well built car and by 1906 he had manufactured one that lasted well enough to win the "Vanderbilt Cup" two years later. The race was an 11-lap, 258.5-mile test, held on Long Island. It was a very big deal back then.

This car, nicknamed "Old 16," was a tad more powerful than the Model C. It had four-cylinders as well but it put out 10 times the horsepower of the Model C. It was a real speedster that looked fast before it was even running. The car is pictured above and there is a really cool video featuring Paul Newman talking about it below. For more detailed and really cool pictures check this page.

To celebrate the day, take the person riding shotgun in your car to the "Old Sixteen Cafe." When the waitress asks you how you want your coffee, just say, "In my cup." You can skip the Vanderbilt part.

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