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David L. Hammes , Richard Mahler
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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  • Length: 166 pages
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Book Description

Thomas Edison’s inventions electrified cities, streamlined factories, and provided the hardware and software needed to launch a vast new entertainment industry. A true American visionary, people clamored to hear the genius whenever he spoke. But a key part of his legacy has been missing from history books—until now.
In 1921, Edison proposed a radical overhaul the U.S. monetary system. In fact, he proposed coming up with a new kind of money.
Like today, this was an era wracked by high unemployment, a fluctuating dollar, political unrest, and social turmoil. Edison's goals were bold: to assure the dollar would become reliable enough to support full employment, to relieve the huge debt burden crushing farmers, to prevent Wall Street from gouging Main Street, and to bring prosperity to the entire nation.
Harvesting Gold tells the remarkable story of Edison’s forgotten plan. It explores economic questions that are as relevant today as when raised by the nation's top thinker more than 90 years ago: What is the proper role of the Federal Reserve System? Why does the Fed do what it does—and should it continue?
Harvesting Gold reveals what this creative genius was told by the experts, included his encouragement by respected Wall Street financier Bernard Baruch. The book tries to understand why Edison's remarkable plan was ignored by the movers and shakers of his day—and how America might have changed had they heeded his advice.
Written in an engaging style and drawing on extensive correspondence drawn from archives of the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, Harvesting Gold recounts a compelling drama for anyone eager to know about a little-known period in 20th-century history—as well as its direct connection to crucial economic and monetary issues of today. It also reproduces a copy of Edison's original proposal. Readers who made bestsellers of Ahamed’s "Lords of Finance," Sorkin’s "Too Big to Fail," and Lewis’s "The Big Short" will be enthralled by Harvesting Gold.

"A smart, lively account of a revealing episode in economic history ... A detailed [and] highly readable exposition of [Thomas] Edison's complex [monetary reform] scheme and it's surprising resemblance to modern-day policy innovations ... In Hammes' vivild portrait, [Edison] emerges as a great American amateur: half-genius, half-crank, convinced that a little commonsense tinkering could improve the economy where the experts have failed. Hammes illuminates the crucial role money plays not just in the economy but also in the national character." — Kirkus Reviews

Editorial Reviews


"A smart, lively account...nuanced

[T]he great inventor's eccentric, intriguing foray into economic[s]...its surprising resemblance to modern-day policy innovations.

...vivid portrait, Edison...half-genius, half-crank, convinced that a little commonsense tinkering could improve the economy where the experts...failed."
Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

David L. Hammes has taught economics at universities in Canada, Australia, and the United States since the early 1970s. He has been in the economics department at the University of Hawaii at Hilo since 1988. Hammes' writings on economic topics, including the early history of the Federal Reserve System, have appeared in many academic journals in the field. His earlier book, Shaping Our Nation, was published in 1988. Hammes lives in Hilo, Hawaii, with his wife Kathy. They have two grown sons, Mark and Steven, living in California. Contact David at

Product Details

  • File Size: 2312 KB
  • Print Length: 166 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Richard Mahler Publications (March 12, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007JR03EU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #932,665 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
During a heated discussion of politics and world affairs, monetary policy makes for a great conversational emergency brake. Money is fun to receive (and even more fun to spend), but rarely understood beyond its everyday use. Thanks to an abstract nature, the deeper meaning of money is difficult to explain, and trying to do so without boring readers to tears has proven a fool's errand for many authors.

Fortunately in "Harvesting Gold", David Hammes entertains more than he lectures. Thomas Edison proves to be a fascinating protagonist, and helps to maintain the reader's interest. Using Edison, Hammes is able to build an engaging narrative that illuminates the inner workings of money and the gold standard, and reveals the volatile realities of a period we collectively refer to as "the roaring '20s".

Detailed sections on the functions of gold and paper money and Edison's plan to augment them may challenge the lay reader, but the character of Edison is endearing enough, and his misadventures curious enough to keep people with an interest in economics or early twentieth century history well engaged. Indeed, the book at times serves as a love letter to a bygone era, when inventors like Edison tackled a remarkable range of problems, and enjoyed a level of celebrity unheard of for modern patent owners.

By taking the reader through Edison's process of first learning about, then trying to "fix" money, Hammes provides a level of understanding useful to anyone paying attention to the current volatility of financial markets, and the range of solutions being bandied about by politicians (including a return to the gold standard). Hammes even draws a parallel between the early 1920s and our modern era, and it is one worth noting. If only Edison were around to comment...
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Putting Monetary Policy to the Test March 14, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Monetary Policy and Thomas Edison.
One would presume that the name Thomas Edison would NOT coincide with those other two words, Monetary (or money for that matter) and Policy. This book did just the opposite. It took one of America's best and brightest inventors, if not one of the world's foremost inventors and plugged him into a realm in which he seemingly does not belong. "Harvesting Gold" effectively placed Edison under a whole new light; showing that Edison, despite his genius and prowess for creating, fixing, improving many different problems that plagued his day, would not simply stop once the lightbulb began glowing or the phonograph started to play music in the homes of America. Edison knew that despite his vast technological contributions that there was much more that he could possibly do to help allay the difficulties that he himself faced during the 1920s and prior to them.
"Harvesting Gold"shows a new side of the man. Showing his caring for the main streeters, the people who helped America expand. He wanted to show them that he was fighting for their well being and by throwing his hat into the ring of policy making could have or possibly would have shown this. The text paints a picture of a man who could not give up or give in when problems needed to be addressed, but it also paints a picture of how vastly different his knowledge, his perspective and his beliefs were. Something that goes unheard of when you think of the man named Thomas Edison.

This book has its moments where as the reader you'll find yourself stroking your chin, muttering to yourself, scratching your head and moments where you'd have to change your own thoughts to see where Edison is coming from. If you are interested in seeing a different side of the man, then this is a great read for you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The Edison Dollar" February 5, 2014
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This is one of the most fascinating books I have read about an issue I had never ever heard of before.

There is no doubt that the research and money concepts of Edison had substance. His ideas were well thought out and certainly well intended, and most probably would have made a world of difference.

Unfortunately, for Edison, there were greater forces at play, behind the scenes, who clearly felt threatened by his proposal and therefore went to great lengths to ensure the Edison proposal never saw the light of day.

This book is a 'must read'!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not all Edison's ideas worked May 18, 2014
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Edison admitted not all his ideas worked. His attempt at banking reform was interesting. I agree with the author Edison's scheme was hopelessly flawed. However, Edison's originality is still interesting. Book illuminates features of Edison that are absent from most treatments of the man.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thomas Edison: Smart, Enjoyable, Relevant! March 13, 2013
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A great read that actually adds to the sum total of our knowledge of Edison and yes, monetary policy, hmmm!

A great read that is absolutely not tedious but rather engaging and something for the consideration of the casual reader and the economist, hmmm!

A great read that actually teaches the reader SOMETHING, hmmm!

Professor Hammes conveys in a most enjoyable manner an alternative side of Thomas Edison. This is not a ponderous text about light bulbs. It is a serious, shall one say robust, discussion of monetary policy, the gold standard, the "roaring 1920s" and American inventiveness.

The scheme proposed by Edison was intriguingly interesting, and maximally relevant to our current environment. Professor Hammes expatiates a tad on the Fed but mostly on the interesting consideration that Edison exchanging money for wheat is not dissimilar to giving modern day bankers money for... toxic mortgage-backed securities. One more hmmm!

This "little" book is much bigger then its' thickness suggests. Reading Harvesting Gold: Thomas Edison's Experiment to Re-invent America Money will result in the reader drawing the conclusion that yes, his or her time today was well spent.
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