This Month in Edmonds History: Buying local

Bill Dollar drawings, appearing Nov. 20, 1931 and Dec. 25, 1931, in the Edmonds Tribune-Review.

My Edmonds News is proud to present a monthly look at Edmonds history, straight from the archives of the Edmonds Historical Museum. For the month of December, we’ll revisit 1931.

During the 1931 holiday season, Edmonds was introduced to a brand new resident: Bill Dollar.  Bill Dollar was officially born on Nov. 20, 1931—“full grown at birth and worth 100 cents”—and appeared weekly on the front page of the local Tribune-Review newspaper throughout the month of December. Debuting more than 80 years ago, he was one of the city’s earliest supporters of the “buy local” movement.

Today, the local movement has many names—Buy Fresh, Buy Local, Shop Small, Shop Local, Small Business Saturday—but in 1931, in small-town Edmonds, it came in the form of Bill Dollar.

“If every dollar earned by Edmonds citizens were spent here in the home community, this would be one of the most prosperous communities in the country.  Money would be instantly available for every civic need and every just request would be immediately satisfied,” said Bill Dollar in his first article after birth. He went on to say, “I hope that I won’t fall into the hands of some citizen who will send me away from Edmonds for I like it here, and I want many of my brothers to settle here as quickly as they can.  I was made to work and I want to work in Edmonds. Will you keep me here?”

Edmonds’ residents made an effort to keep Bill Dollar in town that year. By Christmas Day 1931, worn out from holiday shopping, he declared, “Many merchants have made a profit from me during the last few weeks, and that was due entirely to the fact that the loyal Edmonds people who got me kept me circulating in their home stores; everyone who took me in the regular course of business made his legitimate profit and then passed me on to the next merchant so that process might be repeated.”

The Edmonds merchant, according to Bill, went far beyond general merchant duties:

“He is the fellow who gives you back your money, or makes exchanges when you are not satisfied with what you have bought…He is the fellow who meets you at the door with a handshake, and lets you out again with a real, ‘Come Again, Goodbye.’…He is the fellow who meets and greets you on the street every day in the year, and takes a neighborly interest in your family affairs…He is the fellow who pays heavy taxes to help support school and build the home streets and maintain the home police and fire departments, and parks and lighting and water service…He is the home merchant—your neighbor—your friend—your helper in time of need.”

So when you’re buying local this holiday season, think of Bill Dollar and his parting words: “When money is sent out of Edmonds for goods that can be bought at home, that money with all of its possibilities is lost to this city forever.”

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