Historical Echoes: “Burns Money” on What’s My Line?   Liberty Street Economics
Liberty Street Economics

« Demographic Trends and Growth in Japan and the United States | Main | How Do Liquidity Conditions Affect U.S. Bank Lending? »

October 10, 2014

Historical Echoes: “Burns Money” on What’s My Line?

Amy Farber

WhatsMyLine_HULL In a May 2014 Historical Echoes post, Marja Vitti describes what happened to money too old to be left in circulation: it was incinerated by the Federal Reserve Banks until passage of the Clean Air Act of 1970, after which the money was shredded. Paper money incineration by a Federal Reserve Bank employee was the subject of a hilarious broadcast of the famous TV quiz show What’s My Line? In this broadcast, which aired on June 12,  1960, Thomas Hull, in charge of burning the money for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, steps onto the set, writes his name on the chalkboard, and when asked by John Daly, the show’s host, where he comes from, needs to repeat “Lake Ronkonkoma, New York” three times before he is understood clearly. You might think that this is why Mr. Daly answers so many of the panelists’ questions himself rather than letting Mr. Hull answer them. But you’d be wrong—he does this for pretty much every contestant to ensure that communications are clear and the game remains fair.

     On this date, the four panelists (whose mission it is to guess the contestant’s job with yes/no questions) are Joey Bishop (the guest panelist), Arlene Francis, Bennett Cerf, and Dorothy Kilgallen. Because Thomas Hull is introduced with the brief description “salaried and deals in a product,” the guessing pattern resembles a twenty-questions-like game of trying to figure out the product (money) rather than the nature of Hull’s work (burning). Since we think about money more as a means to a product than a product itself, and since money is so pervasive in daily life, the answer is quite elusive to the panelists.

     Here is a selection of questions from the panelists that elicit significant laughter from the live audience:

Cerf: Does this product perform a useful service? (subdued laughter)

Cerf: Are people better off after they’ve used the product? (raucous laughter)

Kilgallen: If I held it in my hand, would I use it on something or somebody? (titter)

Kilgallen: In order to perform its normal use, would I have to move my arm? (robust laughter)

Cerf: Would it be used more by public service corporations than the Army? (subdued laughter)

Francis: Is there anything about this product that is dangerous or could be used in a dangerous way? (raucous laughter)

Francis: Is it anything that helps to get rid of anything else? (raucous laughter)

     To get the real flavor of the humor, we suggest watching the video. After an extended mother-in-law joke started by Mr. Bishop, Mr. Daly decides that the panel has to call it quits and reveals that “Mr. Hull burns money.” He ends this segment of the show by fleshing out the nature of Mr. Hull’s job:

Mr. Hull burns money. He is the supervisor for currency destruction with the New York City Federal Reserve Bank . . . and he has a tough job: every day he burns a million and a half dollars in old tired ones, fives, tens . . . But I do want to give you one solace: this money is no longer fit for circulation.



Disclaimer
The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve System. Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the author.




Amy Farber is a research librarian in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Research and Statistics Group.


Posted by Blog Author at 07:00:00 AM in Historical Echoes
Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

The comments to this entry are closed.

About the Blog
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from New York Fed economists working at the intersection of research and policy. Launched in 2011, the blog takes its name from the Bank’s headquarters at 33 Liberty Street in Manhattan’s Financial District.

The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, and Donald Morgan, all economists in the Bank’s Research Group.

The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.


Economic Research Tracker

Liberty Street Economics is now available on the iPhone® and iPad® and can be customized by economic research topic or economist.


Useful Links
Comment Guidelines
We encourage your comments and queries on our posts and will publish them (below the post) subject to the following guidelines:
Please be brief: Comments are limited to 1500 characters.
Please be quick: Comments submitted after COB on Friday will not be published until Monday morning.
Please be aware: Comments submitted shortly before or during the FOMC blackout may not be published until after the blackout.
Please be on-topic and patient: Comments are moderated and will not appear until they have been reviewed to ensure that they are substantive and clearly related to the topic of the post. We reserve the right not to post any comment, and will not post comments that are abusive, harassing, obscene, or commercial in nature. No notice will be given regarding whether a submission will or will not be posted.‎
Disclosure Policy
The LSE editors ask authors submitting a post to the blog to confirm that they have no conflicts of interest as defined by the American Economic Association in its Disclosure Policy. If an author has sources of financial support or other interests that could be perceived as influencing the research presented in the post, we disclose that fact in a statement prepared by the author and appended to the author information at the end of the post. If the author has no such interests to disclose, no statement is provided. Note, however, that we do indicate in all cases if a data vendor or other party has a right to review a post.
Archives