The American Thrift Army (ATA) was a national program that ran in two phases:

  • Phase 1 ran from 1917 through 1919 and was operated by the U.S. Government

  • Phase 2 started after Phase 1 ended (1919) and was organized on a national scale through the National Education Association (NEA) and the banks.

Phase 1:

In early 1917, with World War 1 raging in Europe, the US Government started the War Saving Stamps (WSS) to encourage people to invest their money in the government for the ramp up to U.S. involvement.

 

The American Thrift Army (Phase 1) began in January 1918 as an effort by the U.S. Treasury Department, in cooperation with banks and schools to encourage children to save money and invest in U.S. War Saving Certificate Stamp during the war and after. Although the focus of the ATA program was on children, it wasn't limited to just children. Anyone could buy Thrift Stamps or War Savings Stamps.

The plan was straight forward: Children would bring in 25 cents at a time to their school and would be given a "Thrift Stamp." Once 16 Thrift Stamps (equals $4.00) were collected on a special United States Government Thrift Card, it would be turned in to a bank and held for 5 years in the form of a War Savings Stamp (W.SS.), earning interest. At the end of 5 years it could be cashed out in 1923 for $5.00.

Thrift Stamps and War Savings Stamps could be purchased in schools, post offices, banks and other places, including specially built kiosks in busy city areas and the newly invented self-service stamp dispensers that were called Automatic Receiving Tellers (ART).

There are 4 versions of the United States Government Thrift Card:

American Thrift Army #1

The classic 25 cents Thrift Stamp is an ATA Phase 1 item, often found on Untied States Government Thrift Cards. Although the Secretary of Treasury changed leadership at the end of 1918, the stamps continued with William G McAdoo's signature, rather than newly installed Carter Glass.

This card is likely the first version offered, probably 1917. It lacks the last line found on most cards: Such payment and exchange must be made during the year 1918.

#1

#2

Front & Back of

Thrift Card 

were the same for Versions 1 & 2

This card has the final line: Such payment and exchange must be made during the year 1918.

Government Printing Office 2-3891 on lower edge

This version also lacks the wording "Government Printing Office" but DOES include 2-3891

#3

This version is physically smaller that versions 1&2, probably for adult use (fits in a pocket or purse easier). It contains most of the same information on the other cards. Government Printing Office 2-4765

A folder to carry the United States Government Thrift Card, versions 1 &2

A smartly dressed young lady reminds us to "take our change in thrift stamps" on this poster.

#4

This post-1918 version of the United States Government Thrift Card contains big changes;

  • The oval logo of Lady Liberty's hand and torch with the wording The Torch of Liberty has been replaced by a round logo of Benjamin Franklin's face and the Buy W.S.S. and A Penny Saved is a Penny earned has been added.

  • William G McAdoo, the Secretary of the Treasury retired on December 15, 1918 and was replaced by Carter Glass. This printing has Carter Glass' signature on the card.

  • The wording on the back of the card reflects that this is clearly passed 1918.

  • Government Printing Office WS 1A

The ATA had a system that school children could earn a rank in the American Thrift Army.

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Last Updated June 14, 2020

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