Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Coming Trip to the Credit Union Museum: Call for Suggestions

Ever since I first discovered the existence of America's Credit Union Museum in Manchester, New Hampshire, I've been dying to check it out. Unfortunately, life kept getting in the way of my dreams of archival adventuring, but I've decided to put my foot down and make January the month I finally get to take in the American credit union movement's premiere historical institution for two glorious days. My hope is that this trip will provide inspiration for a number of Credit Union History posts, including (but, thanks to the inspirational magic of primary sources, not limited to):
  • A video interview with museum director Peggy Powell.
  • A review of the museum's exhibits (hopefully with photos!).
  • A brief guide to the resources available in the museum's reading room.
  • A book review of Roy Bergengren's single known work of fiction, Cumet: A Fantasy Having to do With Credit Union Mass European Tours (as it turns out, Paul Thompson's The Credit Union Lady is not the only credit-union themed novel ever written). Self-deprecatingly mentioned in several of his subsequent non-fiction books, Bergengren's novel supposedly proposes the idea of credit unions organizing trips to other parts of the world in order to help create international understanding. I've been fruitlessly searching out a copy of Cumet for a while, but it has been impossible to find; however, it turns out that the Museum has one, and Ms. Powell has graciously offered to open the glass case and allow me to read it!
Additionally, I'd happily welcome any suggestions from readers of Credit Union History as to other thing to look for and/or what you'd like me to write about. Leave your suggestions in the comment section, on the Facebook page, or drop me an email.


I finally got the Credit Union History "Tip Jar" working. If you'd like to help fill my gas tank for this trip, click on the "Google Checkout" button on the right hand of the screen...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Book Review - Cooperation Works! by Nadeau and Thompson

Cooperation Works! How People Are Using Cooperative Action to Rebuild Communities and Revitalize the Economy, by E.J. Nadeau and David J. Thompson, is an accessible and wide-ranging overview of the cooperative movement in the United States as things stood at the time of the book's publication in 1996. Including both a general discussion and a number of specific anecdotes, each chapter is devoted to a specific form of cooperation, including such topics as senior housing co-ops, community-owned sports teams, and employee owned enterprises.

In addition to the value of the overall comparative perspective promoted by the diverse subject matter of Cooperation Works!, the book's chapter on community development credit unions (CDCUs) is particularly valuable to those interested in credit union history. Though the historiography of American credit unions in general is pretty sparse, extra little has been written about the CDCU model. This neglect can likely be attributed to the fact that, with their relatively recent origins and a tiny fraction of the asset-size of traditional credit unions, CDCUs are relatively easy to relegate to a footnote or an aside. When discussed at all, they are mentioned in passing as a project that emerged out of the "War on Poverty" era before the narrative returns to the main credit union story.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Common Bonds and Conflicting Identities: The Establishment and Development of the Vermont State Employees Credit Union

Given that I busted my butt writing this document for the better part of a year in order to finish my masters degree, I might as well make it available for public consumption. Read the whole thing here (pdf); the Abstract follows the break:

Monday, December 19, 2011

Book Review - Speaking of Change by Edward Filene

Edward Filene
When considering the development of the early credit union movement, it is impossible to ignore the key role played by reform-minded business man Edward Filene (of Filene's Basement). After encountering cooperative banking on a trip to India, he arranged for the Canadien credit union pioneer Alphonse Desjardins to speak to a group of community leaders in Boston about cooperative banking. Thereafter, Filene led the charge in obtaining the first credit union law in Massachusetts in 1909, and he spent over a million dollars of his own money over the subsequent three decades on credit union organizing and advocacy.

Described by one historian as "an American Owenite" (in reference to the early 19th century British utopian industrialist and cooperative pioneer Robert Owen), Filene was a man of action who devoted his later life to patronizing and supporting a wide variety of causes in addition to the credit union movement. In doing so, he constantly traveled and spoke before diverse audiences. After his death in 1937, a group of his associates decided to memorialize him by collecting what they felt to be the best of these speeches and publishing them in a book entitled Speaking of Change.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Occupy and Credit Unions: Next Steps

As readers of this blog are well aware, I've been actively advocating a synergistic relationship between the Occupy and credit union movements ever since since the former kicked off in Zuccotti Park on September 17th, and the developments since that date have been truly exciting. Beginning in early October, "Bank Transfer Day" spread widely through the Occupy movement's networks, which not only resulted in hundreds of thousands of people moving their money from commercial banks to credit unions, but was also critical in making activists aware of the basic differences between banks and credit unions. This awareness has fed activism that continued long after November 5th, with Occupiers across the country supporting the credit union model with teach-ins, pro-credit union pickets of banks branches, and using credit unions almost exclusively as the institution where movement funds are kept.

Given all of this, a recent development in San Francisco has been framed by many as the logical next step: members of the Occupy movement there have decided to establish their own credit union. Called the Peoples Reserve Credit Union, the founders stated that the "goal of this project is to encourage San Francisco residents, businesses, as well as nonprofit and city agencies to keep their money out of the big banks and to redistribute that money locally. Initial services will include micro-loans for the working poor and homeless, and subsidized student loans at low interest rates." After starting with 500 members, the founders aspire to have over 2,000 within a year.