Kemmerer, Edwin W. (1875-1945) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections
Edwin Walter Kemmerer was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on June 29, 1875. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1899, working his way through that University. He won a fellowship for graduate study in economics and finance at Cornell University, where he took his doctorate of philosophy in 1903. He taught at Purdue University for two years before going in 1903 to the Philippines. Returning to the U.S.A., he was, from 1906 to 1912, assistant Professor of Economics and Finance at Cornell. In 1912 Kemmerer was appointed Professor of Economics and Finance at Princeton. He occupied the Chair for sixteen years, until he was elevated to the Walker Chair in International Finance in 1928, and at the same time made Director of the International Finance Section of the University. He taught at Princeton for 31 years. He retired in July 1943.
It was as a financial consultant that Kemmerer won his spurs as an international economist. He had no small share in re- constructing the currency systems of the Philippines, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia (twice), the Union of S. Africa, Chile, Poland, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, China, and Turkey. He called himself a diagnostician rather than an attending physician, and a good diagnostician he was. His practice was to analyze difficulties, to devise a list of remedies, and then to leave the patient, usually a sick and troubled country, to go on from there. As in his reports on Poland and on Colombia, he would close an investigation by submitting legislation all drawn up and ready to be passed by the legislature of the country in question. When a country applied to the Department of State and the Treasury in Washington for an expert, Kemmerer was the man usually designated. In 1917 he was financial adviser to the Government of Mexico, and in 1919 to the Government of Guatemala. He was Chairman of the Commission of American Financial Advisers on Colombia in 1923, and of the two members-the other was Dr. Vissering, Governor of the Bank of the Netherlands-of the Gold Standard Inquiry Commission for the Union of South Africa 1924-25; expert on currency and banking to the Dawes Committee 1925; Chairman of the American Commission of Financial Advisers to Poland 1926, to Ecuador 1926-27, to Bolivia 1927, to China 1929, to Colombia 1930, to Peru 1931, and to Turkey 1934. Several of these countries decorated him for his work. It was when on one of these surveys that he and his family had a narrow escape. They were aboard the boat Villa Franca in the Alta Parana River in Paraguay when the petrol on board exploded. Sixty lives were lost. The Kemmerers jumped overboard and swam to shore. They were among the few survivors.
The best known of Kemmerer's fourteen books are perhaps Modern Currency Reforms (1916), The ABC of the Federal Reserve (10th Edition 1936), The Principles of Money and 'their Exemplification in Outstanding Chapters of Monetary History -(1935), The ABC of Inflation (1942) and Gold and the Gold Standard (1944), which gives the author's well-known views on gold. In addition to these, there are reports such as that submitted by him in 1926 on Polish finances and published by the Ministry of Finance, Warsaw, and a large collection of pamphlets which can be divided into two main classes: those dealing with the gold standard and those on the Bretton Woods Plan. A third group deals with -miscellaneous matters, of which The Outlook for our College Endowments (1939) and Some Observations on the Monetary Policies of the United States (1941) are the best known.