As we continue our research into the large, industrial employers who once occupied the factory complex in Ferry Village, I thought we’d take a break this week and talk about war bonds. The accompanying photographs were donated to the South Portland Historical Society a few years ago by a descendant of William Richardson.

As you may remember from last week’s story, William H. Richardson was the bookkeeper and treasurer of Marine Hardware.

In 1918, employees at Marine Hardware-Equipment Company in Ferry Village posed for a company photo to recognize their investments in Liberty Bonds. South Portland Historical Society photo

Each photo is unique in that it gives a different view of the factory complex behind the employees. The photos include the caption: “Marine Hardware-Equipment Co., 4th Liberty Loan, October 2, 1918” with the additional comment that every employee of the company was a subscriber. So, what did they mean by the 4th Liberty Loan?

The “4th Liberty Loan” is in reference to the major source of funding used by the United States during World War I: borrowing from the public.

In times of war, governments need to come up with the money to pay for it. There are three primary avenues: increased taxes, borrowing, and printing money. Of course, printing money with nothing to back it is generally a problematic solution.

During the first World War, while taxes were part of war funding, the primary mechanism that they used was borrowing, in the form of Liberty Bonds that were issued by the treasury department and sold through the Federal Reserve and its member banks. Liberty Bonds were sold in four bond drives, each known as a Liberty Loan. The first Liberty Loan drive was announced on April 28, 1917; the second on Nov. 15, 1917; the third in April, 1918; and the fourth in October, 1918.


In a photo taken on the same day in 1918, the Marine Hardware-Equipment Company employees posed with a different view of the factory in the background. South Portland Historical Society photo

There is a wonderful article on the WWI Liberty Bonds, written by Richard Sutch of the University of California, Riverside and Berkeley. It can be found on the website. Professor Sutch was able to explain some fairly complex concepts in very easy-to-understand language.

In his article, he mentions how the Federal Reserve System was created in 1914, the same year that World War I broke out. When the United States entered the war in 1917, the Federal Reserve was still new and led by William McAdoo, who also happened to be the Secretary of the Treasury.

This put McAdoo in a very unique situation of being able to work with Congress to create a funding plan for the war (something done by the Treasury), and being able to come up with a plan on how to sell that funding to the public. McAdoo chose the path of patriotism, believing that the public would be willing to buy the bonds to support our involvement in the war. Sutch provides great detail in this short paragraph:

“When the United States entered World War I in 1917, it became immediately evident that an unprecedented effort would be required to divert the nation’s industrial capacity away from meeting consumer demand and toward fulfilling the needs of the military. At the time of the congressional declaration of war, the American economy was operating at full capacity, so the requirements of the war effort could not be met by putting underutilized resources to work. The wartime population would have to sacrifice to pay the bill, and McAdoo understood the point. Shortly after war had been declared, he delivered a speech that he later recorded for posterity: ‘We must be willing to give up something of personal convenience, something of personal comfort, something of our treasure – all, if necessary, and our lives in the bargain, to support our noble sons who go out to die for us.’”

Patriotism is clearly felt in the accompanying two photos.

Marine Hardware-Equipment Company produced these photographs as documentation of their employees who all subscribed at this bond drive. Holding bond rallies, sometimes with celebrities making an appearance, was one of many methods used by the government to sell war bonds. In November, 1918, in South Portland, there were war bond rallies held in multiple locations.


In addition to one at Marine Hardware, Frederick Hinckley was the speaker at a rally at the Cumberland Shipbuilding installation plant in Ligonia. At Cumberland Shipbuilding’s hull yard on our east end, E.H. McDonald of Porteous, Mitchell and Braun, was the speaker. A fourth bond rally was held at Portland Shipbuilding in Ferry Village.

War bonds were also a major part of funding during World War II and we saw a lot of that with the shipyards located here in South Portland. Bond rallies were a regular part of life at the shipyard. One of the rewards sometimes offered to employees who sold the most war bonds – the opportunity to pick someone to christen a Liberty ship.

Volunteers needed: South Portland Historical Society is preparing to reopen its museum at Bug Light Park in May. We are seeking volunteers to help with giving museum tours and running the gift shop. Volunteers typically cover a three-hour shift each week. If you might be interested in volunteering and would like to learn more about it, please reach out to us at 207-767-7299 or by email at

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director for the South Portland Historical Society. She can be reached at

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