GLADSTONE - As the city of Gladstone prepares for its 125th anniversary celebration this Independence Day, one local man has discovered a piece of a past city celebration.
Robert Carlson, of Escanaba, has been holding onto a "wooden nickel" from Gladstone's Golden Jubilee, which took place July 3-5, 1937. The nickel commemorates Gladstone's 50th anniversary at the time, and isn't really a nickel at all, but bears similarity to a $5 bill.
"I'm the last one in the family, and it was handed down to me," said Carlson. "I don't know where they got it. My brother-in-law worked at Birdseye Veneer Company and they donated the wood for that."
Robert Carlson, of Escanaba, holds a wooden nickel he inherited from his family. The 5-cent bill commemorates the city of Gladstone’s 50th anniversary — its Golden Jubilee — in 1937, as the city was founded in 1887. (Daily Press photo by Jason Raiche)
In fact, according to former Delta Reporter archives, the wooden nickel was printed on flexwood, which is birdseye veneer with a canvass backing, and was supplied to the Gladstone Golden Jubilee Committee by Birdseye Veneer Co., of Escanaba. The wooden nickels were issued in June 1937.
According to the newspaper, several hundred dollars worth of nickels were printed and distributed by the publicity committee, chaired by John Vogt.
Archives also turned up a memo written by Vogt, who credited the art work on the wooden nickel to a man named Harold Mackie. The memo confirms the names and signatures appearing on the wooden nickel are chairman George Johnson, manager of Penny Store, and John Olson from State Bank.
Local merchants purchased the nickels in large quantities to give out as change.
"So don't be surprised when you receive a wooden nickel in change for a dollar bill, after making a 95-cent purchase," wrote the Delta Reporter, at the time.
The wooden money was redeemable for its five cent-value for a limited time at two banks.
A statement on the back of the wooden nickel confirms this, reading: "This Souvenir Certificate is issued by the Gladstone Jubilee Committee of the Gladstone City Club in commemoration of the founding of Gladstone in 1887, and is redeemable as 5 cents in U.S. coin at either the Gladstone State Savings Bank, or First National Bank in Gladstone up to noon, July 3, 1937."
The back of the wooden nickel bears Gladstone's name and the slogan, "Where rails meet water," with complementing artwork.
Carlson was planning on selling the wooden nickel he possesses but has not heard from any interested buyers. He now is considering donating it to the city of Gladstone.
According to the city of Gladstone's website, Gladstone will celebrate its 125th anniversary on Independence Day beginning with the "Celebrating 125 Years"-themed parade in downtown Gladstone, and continuing at Van Cleve Park with kids games and activities, food vendors, entertainment, and fireworks to begin at dusk. The celebration will also feature the Great Lakes Sports Fishing Club's children's fish pond, Veterans Memorial Wall, and a jet flyover - weather permitting.