Scrip Money or Shinplasters
Shinplasters that the Reynolds Bros. used shortly after 1887 to pay mill workers and loggers – instead of US currency in Reynoldston, N. Y.
During the late 1870’s and early 1880’s the Reynolds issued their own currency to pay workers called “shinplasters” pictured above This currency could only be redeemed at the company store for goods and
supplies. While the workers initially accepted this symbiotic realtionship over time it led to anger and frustration. It is clear that the “shinplasters” were a mechanism to control the workers and their families and to limit the capital costs of the early operations. see Company Store
But, some evidence points to the Reynolds’s looking on their employees as undependable people who had to be prodded into line. It was thought that the reason why Reynolds Brothers paid
their men in scrip money rather than U.S. currency was so the workers would buy food for their families rather than alcohol for themselves (letter from Mrs. George T. Reynolds, July 28, 1969).
Although this story may have some basis, the more probable explanation for the use of scrip money is that in the early years of the Reynolds operation there was a shortage of’ currency to pay the men and it was a profitable way for the Reynolds to recover most of the money that they were paying their employees.
Mr. Bordeaux: Scrip money they called it. They ( Reynolds) issued it themselves….it could be used no place else only their own store.. And if they paid you back in change it was script money.
Mr.Langlois: You couldn’t use the script money in Malone could you?
Mr. Bordeaux: Oh no, only use it up there. You could go there and buy stuff. It was scrip money see. They done away with that after a while.
Eleon Bordeaux oral history interview Jan 1969 tape 2 p.24-25
The focus of the song is the injustice of the use of shinplasters to pay the employees of the Reynolds Bros Mill. ‘Red cards’ were holds placed on company store accounts preventing customers from incurring further charges.
The text of this song is exactly as spoken to us by those who originally sang it Many of the area’s residents resented the Reynolds family for their seemingly lack of concern for the lot of their workers. Jim McGovern, a woodsman, from Reynoldston composed the following song that the men sang at the Bordeaux Dance Hall and in the logging camps. The focus of the song is the injustice of the use of shinplasters to pay the employees of the Reynolds Bros. Mill. ‘Red cards’ were holds placed on company store accounts preventing customers from incurring further charges.
“I’ll try my luck in Reynoldston,
I hear a poor man say.
I told him to give up that town
Or he’d surely rue the day.
For no money in that town you’ll find,
Cannot come your way.
For the Reynolds’s has got a store
That takes it day by day.
You can’t go fishing along their mill pond
I swear you can’t catch suckers that never spawn.
They must be friends of Baldy’s,
I solemnly declare.
Shinplasters are all worn out
They can’t get them in line.
For someone would squeal on them
And Uncle Sam would join.
And if he joined their game
He’d hold the winning hand.
And then the Reynolds’s would
Float against the strand.
When they go up on high
Their passage for to buy.
When they meet St.Peter
Down they will go tumbling
To a place that’s awful hot.
Old Frank’ll holler “Blazes”
Come tumblin’ through the smoke.
“We’ve gotta save those red cards
Even if we’re forced to choke.”
Written by Jim McGovern
Reynolds Mill Worker