A License To Print Money
E.C. Wayland spent his early years in Piedmont operating a blacksmith shop. In the
1880's, being a "blacksmith" meant much more than just shoeing horses. His shop
would have produced many different items made of iron -- everything from kitchen
items and harness hardware to ax heads and plow blades. During that era, a well-run
blacksmith shop could prove to be a lucrative enterprise.
When his shop burned down in 1889, Col. Wayland took advantage of the opportunity
to build a large two-story building in the center of Piedmont. On the upper floor, he
launched a successful wood-working shop. Here, he followed in the footsteps of his
father and brothers and began building sturdy farm wagons. The finished wagons were
swung out through a pair of "barn doors" built into the back wall of the upper floor and
then lowered to the yard below, using a winch.
This efficient use of space allowed the Colonel to utilize the entire lower floor as a
spacious mercantile store, packed with merchandise of all kinds. Using sales
techniques that were far ahead of his time, Colonel Wayland built up a lucrative
business, where profits came from selling quality goods in volume, at reasonable
Meanwhile, the upper-level wagon works proved profitable as well and the "Wayland
Wagon", a sturdy farm wagon, was sold throughout that part of the state. By utilizing
standard-size parts, Mr. Wayland was able to offer the same basic wagon in several
variations,customized for use as a field wagon, hauling produce to market or operating
a cartage business in an urban setting. The "no frills" wagons were of solid, basic
design, built to last and based upon tried-and-true construction techniques.
Apparently, it was at this time, in order to obtain the capital needed for his ambitious
expansion, that Mr. Wayland went into partnership with brothers William and Charles
Carter. The two brothers were at that time primarily involved in the booming timber
business and were looking to expand into other fields of endeavor. Driven forward by
the Carters' startup capital and E.C. Wayland's boundless energy and business acumen,
the firm of Carter & Wayland would eventually come to dominate the economy of the
Their firm would eventually come to operate a total of seventeen saw mills throughout
the region. The timber business was booming, during these years of explosive growth in
the frontier West. How many times have you seen a frontier town in a western movie,
sitting out there on the open prairie, not a tree in sight for hundreds of miles? And yet
the town was built entirely of wood! All the lumber to build all those frontier towns and
cities came from the vast timber lands located in the East -- primarily in Missouri, Illinois
and Michigan. The saw mills of the East converted countless thousands of trees into
lumber, which was then shipped farther and farther west across the plains, by the
In order to pay the weekly wages of this growing work force of employees, the firm of
Carter & Wayland used "company script" in the form of brass coins (paper script was
too easy to counterfeit). The coins were purchased from a private firm that specialized
in producing customized script for individual companies. Many large corporations,
notably mining concerns, had their own company script, good only for purchases made
in the "company store". Many mining towns were "company towns". Everyone, in one
way or another, worked for the mining company and the company store was "the only
store in town". With no outside competition, price gouging was a common practice.
Small wonder then, that the company store and company script developed a bad
reputation early on.
However, in the case of Carter & Wayland, their use of company script was likely seen
at the time, by the community as a whole, as an act of benevolence . You might well
wonder how that could be. Imagine running a business where your employees work
hard all week long (normally six days a week, 12-14 hours a day). Then, imagine
stamping out your own worthless brass coins and passing them out to your workers on
payday, in lieu of real U.S. currency. And then, to top it all off, your employees are
forced to shop at YOUR mercantile store and buy everything at YOUR prices, using those
brass coins, which are worthless anywhere else. Sounds like a license to steal -- or at
the very least, a "license to print your own money". And it was all perfectly
(See samples of genuine C&W coins, below.)
But we are looking at all of this through 21st Century eyes. To the people of that time,
things looked quite different. In fact, Col. Wayland and the Carter brothers would have
been perceived by the civic leaders of Piedmont as progressive and benevolent
employers, as well as "sharp" businessmen. Local church groups and various local
societies dedicated to what we would describe today as "family values" would have
applauded the firm's use of company script. Why?
During the last decades of the 19th Century, the Industrial Revolution had fractured the
social structure and values of earlier generations. One of the results was an incredible
rise in the abuse of alcohol among laborers. Millions of men had left the family farm to
enter the factory and work long hours, performing tedious, mind-numbing tasks.
Payday meant a chance to "cut loose" and get good and drunk. Then, with the rent and
grocery money having been spent on drink, it was time to stagger home and collapse in
a drunken stupor. Or worse yet, arrive in a drunken rage and give the wife and children
a good sound beating (behavior that was considered "regrettable", but nonetheless
perfectly legal, at the time).
But a man who was paid in company script found that his money was no good at the
local saloon. It was only redeemable for food and a variety of domestic goods at E.C.
Wayland's mercantile store. Most landlords owned multiple properties, so taking rent
payments in script from some renters and cash from others was generally not a
problem. Landlords went shopping, just like everyone else.
And while the brass coins were, on the face of it, very cheap for Carter & Wayland to
have minted, they were, after all, exchangeable by their employees, at face value, for
countless quality items at their thriving mercantile store. True, the Colonel and his
partners made a bigger profit with this system, but the community at large looked
beyond that, to the greater good. Husbands came straight home from work, sober.
And the single young men who were flooding into the county, drawn by the lure of
sawmill employment, quickly learned that, on a Saturday night, with only C & W brass
coins jingling in their pockets, neither the bartenders, nor the blackjack dealers nor the
saloon girls would have anything to do with them. They were forced to seek female
companionship in a healthy social setting, at church socials, barn dances and the like.
And that suited the local forces for sober and virtuous living just fine, thank you very
much. As a result, Carter & Wayland's use of company script was viewed by community
leaders as a positive and laudable step forward along the road to molding Piedmont
into a modern, progressive 19th-Century community.
Company script coins from this era, once commonplace, are today much sought after
by collectors. By the early 1940's, these brass coins were seen as nothing more than
worthless scrap metal. During World War II, tons of them were collected and melted
down for use in the manufacture of ammunition shell casings.