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In today’s consumer-driven society, extolling the virtues of thrift might seem like a quaint relic of a bygone era. Americans have embraced the ideas of easy credit, instant gratification, and spending as a tool to combat everything from recessions to the effects of natural disasters and terrorist attacks. In David Blankenhorn’s new compendium, Thrift: A Cyclopedia, he reminds readers of a time when thrift was one of America’s most cherished cultural values.

Gathering hundreds of quotes, sayings, proverbs, and photographs of Blankenhorn’s vast personal collection of thrift memorabilia, this handsome book is a treasure trove of wisdom from around the world and throughout the ages. Readers will find insights from such varied sources as the Bible, the Qur’an, William Shakespeare, Karl Marx, Oscar Wilde, J. C. Penney, and Warren Buffett. Entries are serious, inspiring, occasionally humorous, and they will go a great way toward expanding the narrow perception of thrift as simple penny pinching; replacing that myopic view with one of a broader thrift—one that, as William H. Kniffen puts it, “earns largely and spends wisely” and leads to a life of independence and comfort well into old age.

Educators and parents will find ample wisdom to pass on to the next generation about the value of hard work, saving for the future, and generosity. Historians will delight in the glimpses into the U.S. thrift movement of the 1920s. Those seeking encouragement and inspiration will find much material here for reflection on the ideals of good stewardship, diligence, and sound financial planning. As our society ails from wastefulness, growing economic inequality, indebtedness, and runaway consumerism, there could be no stronger cure than this powerful little word, “thrift”, which finds its root meaning in the word “thrive.”

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Introduction / 3

Part 1 What Is Thrift? / 9

1. Thrift as Growing / 12

2. Thrift as Good Fortune / 15

3. Thrift as Prospering  / 18

4. Thrift as Saving / 23

5. Thrift as Hoarding / 30

6. What Thrift Is / 37

Part 2 The Cases against Thrift / 55

7. The Ascetic’s Case / 56

8. The Prophet’s Case / 57

9. The Gentleman’s Case / 58

10. The Sensualist’s Case / 61

11. The Economist’s Case / 68

12. The Socialist’s Case / 73

13. The Spendthrift’s Case / 79

Part 3 Visionaries / 83

14. By Dint of His Thrift: Daniel Defoe (b. 1660) / 85

15. The More Treasure They Will Lay Up in Heaven: John Wesley (b. 1703) / 90

16. The Art of Making Money Plenty: Benjamin Franklin (b. 1706) / 93

17. Duncan of Ruthwell: Henry Duncan (b. 1774) / 109

18. Knox’s Bank: James, Walter, and James Knox / 115

19. Those Rules of Thrift and Economy: Catharine Beecher (b. 1800) / 118

20. Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy: Lydia Marie Child (b. 1802) / 121

21. The Prophet of Victorian England: Samuel Smiles (b. 1812) / 124

22. Sikes of Huddersfield: Charles Sikes (b. 1818) / 129

23. Who Catches the Vision? Alonzo, Wilmot, and Wilmot Evans / /  133

24. A Constant Lesson in Thrift: Clara Barton (b. 1821) / 135

25. The Greater Thrift: Charles Pratt (b. 1830) / 137

26. Always Had a Broom in My Hand: John Wanamaker (b. 1838) / 139

27. A Day Labourer So Long: Edward Brabrook (b. 1839) / 142

28. The Idea of Thrift: Orison Swett Marden (b. 1850) / / / 144

29. That We May Save the Greatest: Bolton Hall (b. 1854) / 147

30. A Person Who Makes Beautiful Things: Elbert Hubbard (b. 1856) / 150

31. Character in the Highest and Best Sense: Booker T. Washington (b. 1856) / 153

32. Beauty in Homespun: Martha Berry (b. 1866) / 160

33. Creative Economy: S. W. Straus (b. 1866) / 162

34. Take the Nickels and Turn Them into Dollars: Maggie L. Walker (b. 1867) / 166

35. Some Reflection of the Simple Virtues: Laurence C. Jones (b. 1882) / 168

36. George Never Leaves Bedford Falls: Frank Capra (b. 1897) / 172

Part 4 Institutions / 177

37. Thrift Boxes / 179

38. Gardens / 185

39. Friendly and Fraternal Societies / 187

40. Mutual Savings Banks / 192

41. Producer and Consumer Cooperatives / 210

42. Building and Loan Associations / 214

43. Credit Unions / 225

44. Public Libraries / 234

45. Thrift Shops / 240

Part 5 Movements / 243

46. To Build International Solidarity / 245

47. To Bring People Together / 250

48. To Organize Sacrifice / 260

49. To Train Children / 269

Part 6 Thrift Wisdom / 277

50. Proverbs and Maxims / 279

Conclusion: The Possibilities of American Thrift / 291

Acknowledgments / 304

Appendix A: Do You Know What Thrift Is? (A Quiz) / 305

Appendix B: Puritans and Quakers / 306

Notes / 310

Quote Citations / 313

Index / 341

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