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Old Louisiana: 2-bits, 4-bits...


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During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the U.S. government tried to spur economic activity by injecting money into public projects through the WPA (Work Projects Administration). Much of it was of the customary type—roads, bridges, sidewalks, etc.


Less obvious was the WPA Writer’s Project, which produced a wonderful group of books called the American Guide Series. Together they form a deeply detailed portrait of the United States of America about 1940 or so.


Some of the detail the books contain is uncomfortable, like this note for the city of Baton Rouge, capital of Louisiana: “[/i]Theater and Motion Picture Houses:[/i] …9 motion pictures houses (2 for negroes).”


But there is so much that has been preserved…“Swimming: Victory Park, Laurel and St. Anthony Sts., free; City Park, 15¢ before 6 p. m., 25¢ after.” And so on, for 746 narrowly-spaced pages in just this one member of the series, LOUISIANA: A Guide to the State.


So, a 1941s 25-cent piece (2-bits!)—price of an early evening swim at the Baton Rouge City Park, that last Louisiana summer before the war.



Edited by villa66
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And this, below, from something I found in another section of the same Guide….




This worn Mexico City-mint 1807 2-reales (two-bits!) is certainly a much-traveled coin. I wonder if it might possibly have been in New Orleans (where it would have been a 25-cent piece) in September of 1817, ten years or so into its career?


If so, it could have been of help getting into an event a local handbill called “an extraordinary fight of Furious Animals...[in]…a rotunda of 160 feet in circumference, with a railing 17 feet in height, and a circular gallery well conditioned and strong, inspected by the Mayor and surveyors by him appointed. / 1st Fight—A strong Attakapas Bull, attacked and subdued by six of the strongest dogs in the country. / 2d Fight—Six Bull-dogs against a Canadian Bear. / 3d Fight—A beautiful Tiger against a Black Bear. / 4th Fight—Twelve dogs against a strong and furious Opelousas Bull….


“If the Tiger is not vanquished in his first fight with the bear, he will be sent alone against the last bull; and if the latter conquers all his enemies, several pieces of fire-works will be placed on his back, which will produce a very entertaining amusement…


“Admittance, one dollar for grown persons, and 50 cents for children.” Children? Four-bits for a kid…a pair of 2-reales like this one.




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Louisiana was a tough place in 1817. An earlier sensibility....


As I was writing, and re-reading the description of the round venue where the fights were to occur, for about two seconds I found myself thinking about the Colosseum. A second after that, instead of 50-cents, 4-bits, or a pair of 2-reales, suddenly I found something like this picture in my mind...




:D v.

Edited by villa66
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Wow @villa66, two nice antoniniani! Welcome to the dark side ..... (of roman coins collecting :D).


Wonderful post! ;)  Did these American Guides have pictures?

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What a nice surprise @quattrino ! Funny you should ask about the pictures...I'm embarrassed to say I hadn't given them the attention they deserve. The Louisiana Guide has 8 sections of photos, with each section containing 8 pages. The photos are black-and-white and nearly 80 years old (there is one of "A deserted Plantation House--Belle Grove, near White Castle" that is especially evocative, and I'm going to search it later tonight).


The pages of illustrations are unnumbered, so this Guide's page count is actually 746 + 64 = 810. A lot of stuff!


And about the antoniniani...the pull of the dark side is very, very strong....


:D;) v.

Edited by villa66
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