The 1910 Senate Monetary Commission

People talk a lot about the “Classical Gold Standard,” but hardly anyone knows anything about it. I’ve gone through books from Bagehot to Hawtrey to Bordo and Eichengreen, and haven’t yet found even a rudimentary description of any accuracy. The best since 1950 is Giulio Gallarotti’s book, The Anatomy of an International Monetary Regime: the Classical Gold Standard, 1880-1914. While I agree with a lot of Gallarotti’s conclusions, and admire his dense citation of previous work, this book is directed at academics, and largely in response to prior academic claims. Not exactly a beach read.

After the Panic of 1907, the political wheels were set in motion that eventually led to the Federal Reserve Act in 1913. Along the way, the U.S. Senate commissioned an extensive investigation into monetary and banking practices around the world, the results of which were reported as the National Monetary Commission of 1910. This is the Classical Gold Standard, as it looked to people living at the time. The works are forthright and clear, and have a ton of information about monetary and banking practices all over the world. Plus, there is a wealth of data: weekly balance sheets for the Bank of France and the Reichsbank, 1875-1908 for example. If you want to learn about the pre-1914 banking systems of Russia, Austro-Hungary, the Netherlands and Japan, there’s a whole book about that. Another volume deals with the Swedish banking system. “Clearing House Methods and Practices” in the U.S. get their own book.

Normally, this collection would be found in the basement archives of a university research library. But, today, you can read the whole thing in .pdf format, for free, here: