Author Topic: The use of plantation tokens  (Read 4615 times)

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Offline Rangnath

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The use of plantation tokens
« on: January 03, 2009, 02:37:24 AM »
How might such tokens be used?  Were they intended for use within a company store, for example, or for use between those of the "plantation" with those not of the plantation (other traders, other stores)?
richie
« Last Edit: September 07, 2010, 11:47:03 PM by Figleaf »

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Re: The use of plantation tokens
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2009, 02:40:36 AM »
Richie,
  I think that they were used in the issuer's own store.A 50c. token was valid for buying 50c. worth of goods,such as rice or tea.

Aidan.

Online Figleaf

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Re: The use of plantation tokens
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2009, 12:51:39 PM »
At their most innocent, they were used to keep track of what a coolie had earned in a day. Rice bag carriers, for instance, would get a token for each load, which could be exchanged for money at the end of the day.

At their least innocent, they were used for trucking: forcing staff to buy at the staff shop at inflated prices. While this practise came under heavy fire in European countries and North America, South American and Asian plantation owners (usually North Americans and European corporations or families) happily continued to use it.

Peter
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Offline thelawnet

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Re: The use of plantation tokens
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2009, 04:43:11 PM »
The seller says it reads "50c Guteur.co 1892 Bandar Poeloe Unter Neilmung" (perhaps guteur reads gut fur?, and 'Unternehmung' is German for company)

Bandar Pulau is now a district of Asahan province in North Sumatra (which is where a lot of 1880s-1890s plantation tokens come from).

I'm a bit confused as to what was the money in use in late 19th Century Sumatra. All of the Sumatran tokens are denominated in dollars and cents. The currency of Batavia from the 17th Century was the Dutch stuiver and subsequently the duit. In the 19th Century things moved over to the decimalized gulden and cents. Obviously the further from Batavia, the less likelihood there would be that things would be as they were there.

But the Dutch had gone to the effort of conquering most of the parts of Sumatra (except Aceh) in the 1860s to add to the bits they gained in 1824 from the British. I guess monetary reform was not necessarily immediate. Even so, I don't understand the use of the dollar, e.g., by Nederlandsche Handel-Maatschappij, which opened in Medan in 1888, and issued notes of 1 - 100 dollars in the late 19th Century.

I guess in any case the numismatic history of the 'Indies' is anything but homogenous, and almost impossible to accurately document - 'Java' or even 'West Java' comprised of numerous different (and changing) areas, some of which would have followed Batavian practices earlier than others, so it's really impossible to say that the 'Indies', or 'Sumatra' had a single currency until some point long after the Dutch first arrived (I guess it would be 20th Century).
« Last Edit: January 03, 2009, 04:45:24 PM by thelawnet »

Online Figleaf

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Re: The use of plantation tokens
« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2009, 05:59:48 PM »
The denomination in dollars on so many of the Sumatran plantation tokens is eplained by the fact that the majority of the Sumatran coolies were Chinese, coming from what is now Malaysia and Singapore. They were calculating in Straits dollars, which itself was derived from the British Trade Dollar, a descendant of the Calolo dollar (Spanish colonial piece of eight), which was connected with the Chinese silver tael, the Hong Kong dollar, the Yen and the American trade dollar (not the dollar in circulation in the US). In other words, you could send this money to China, where it would be readily accepted. An ordinance from 1880 specifies all fines in Dutch gulden, though.

This arrangement suited the estate owners quite well. Rubber and tobacco were quoted in gold. The price of silver against gold was falling dramatically (most countries went from the silver standard to the gold standard in this period, India and China were the exceptions). Therefore, using dollars was an extra source of profit for them. Using dollars was prohibited only in 1906.

Your typical Asahan plantation offered central buying services and a common labour contract. The contract would specify that the coolie and his family would exploit a piece of land, usually 1 hectare or less. In a period of 5 to 9 years, the family would plant a commercial crop (often tobacco) in one year, rice in another year and the land would be fallow in the rest of the time (Sumatra is not very fertile). Plants would be obtained on credit from the estate. The coolie therefore ran the harvest risk as well as the market price risk. It is likely that 50 cent tokens, a pretty high denomination, were used to pay for the plants and to receive payment for the harvest, in other words, the major share of the income of the coolie was the rice production.

Peter
« Last Edit: January 03, 2009, 06:15:35 PM by Figleaf »
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Offline Rangnath

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Re: The use of plantation tokens
« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2009, 09:54:27 PM »
RE: Trucking
Thanks Peter.  I did not recognize the term, but I certainly know the concept.  In the 1980's, I had a friend who was investigating violations of the Maryland State Anti Slavery Act in the Eastern Shore of that state.  One of the practices was "trucking".

And when you learn more, thelawnet, I'd love to hear of it
richie

Offline Rangnath

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Re: The use of plantation tokens
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2009, 08:54:58 PM »
Aidan, any idea why it was called a "truck" token and when Parlaiment passed such acts?

In 1975, I met an Indian (a Hindi speaker) woman, in her 70s in Fiji, who told me the story of her life.  When she was 11, she and an older friend were lured on to a sailing ship and taken against her will to Fiji to work on the sugar plantations.  She would never see her parents or her place of birth again.  I know that early on, the sugar workers were required to buy their provisions from the company store, and quickly fell into debt.  I would guess that early on, the workers had aspirations to return to India; a hopeless dream. But I don't know if the store used tokens.   
richie   

Online Figleaf

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Re: The use of plantation tokens
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2009, 09:02:26 PM »
The root of the word is the French word "troc" which is "payment in kind" in English. For once, French was (a whole lot) shorter than English...

Peter
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Offline thelawnet

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Re: The use of plantation tokens
« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2009, 09:06:44 PM »
Aidan, any idea why it was called a "truck" token and when Parlaiment passed such acts?

There's a resonable explanation on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truck_system

"The practice is ostensibly one of a free and legal exchange, whereby an employer would offer something of value (typically goods, food, or housing) in exchange for labour, with the result being the same as if the labourer had been paid money and then spent the money on these necessities. The word truck came into the English language within this context, from the French troquer, meaning 'exchange' or 'barter'. A truck system differs from this kind of open barter or payment in kind system by creating or taking advantage of a closed economic system in which workers have little or no opportunity to choose other work arrangements, and can easily become so indebted to their employers that they are unable to leave the system legally. The popular song Sixteen Tons dramatizes this scenario, with the narrator telling Saint Peter (who would welcome him to Heaven upon his death) "I can't go; I owe my soul to the company store.""

Offline Rangnath

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Re: The use of plantation tokens
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2009, 09:19:26 PM »
thanks so much Peter, Aidan and thelawnet . 
In the states, we use the expression "truck farmer" to describe the farmer who grows a wide variety of crops on a relatively small parcel of land.  I always assumed that the expression came from the use of a truck: the English word related to "truckle" or beyond, to the Latin trochlea, meaning hoop or wheel.  But now I see that the French serves better:  troquer.  Bartering.  Hmm.  Interesting relationship between language and economics.   richie

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Re: The use of plantation tokens
« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2009, 09:56:35 PM »
Richie,
  Here's a link explaining what the Truck Acts are; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truck_Acts .

Aidan.

Offline Berani

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    • Plantation tokens from all over the world
Re: The use of plantation tokens
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2011, 11:29:41 AM »
The seller says it reads "50c Guteur.co 1892 Bandar Poeloe Unter Neilmung" (perhaps guteur reads gut fur?, and 'Unternehmung' is German for company)

Bandar Pulau is now a district of Asahan province in North Sumatra (which is where a lot of 1880s-1890s plantation tokens come from).

I'm a bit confused as to what was the money in use in late 19th Century Sumatra. All of the Sumatran tokens are denominated in dollars and cents. The currency of Batavia from the 17th Century was the Dutch stuiver and subsequently the duit. In the 19th Century things moved over to the decimalized gulden and cents. Obviously the further from Batavia, the less likelihood there would be that things would be as they were there.

But the Dutch had gone to the effort of conquering most of the parts of Sumatra (except Aceh) in the 1860s to add to the bits they gained in 1824 from the British. I guess monetary reform was not necessarily immediate. Even so, I don't understand the use of the dollar, e.g., by Nederlandsche Handel-Maatschappij, which opened in Medan in 1888, and issued notes of 1 - 100 dollars in the late 19th Century.

I guess in any case the numismatic history of the 'Indies' is anything but homogenous, and almost impossible to accurately document - 'Java' or even 'West Java' comprised of numerous different (and changing) areas, some of which would have followed Batavian practices earlier than others, so it's really impossible to say that the 'Indies', or 'Sumatra' had a single currency until some point long after the Dutch first arrived (I guess it would be 20th Century).

For more information about plantation tokens see also www.plantagegeld.nl

Greetings Berani