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H Mexico Has the Greatest Pawnshop m the World I_J
By FRANK G. CARPENTER Snapshot of th e Thieves' Market Copyrighted. 1913, by Frank G. Carpenter. Mexico City, Mex. I1E revolutionary troubles are crowding the national pawn shop and scores who have been ruined by the recent bombardment are “hpck ing” everything under the sun. How would you like to borrow money of Uncle Sam at 1 per cent a month? 1 do not mean big, long time loans, but something like five, ten or fifty ••plunks” to tide you over HU next salary day. That is what you can do in Mexico City. The government here has a pawnshop in which you can “hock” your watch or your wedding ring, or even an oil stove or a porcelain bathtub. Jt is known as a “mountain of piety.” and this moun tain of easily getable gold stands just opposite the cathedral and within a stone’s throw' of the national palace, on one of the great plaza, right in the heart of the corners of Cinco de Mayo ' street and the great plaza, right in the heart of the capital. It is a big, three story building which looks llkq a prison. Jt has a cross on one corner of the roof and the Mexican coat of arms over the portals. It covers almost a block and it is filled with everything pawnable under the Mexican sun. It has millions of dol lars’ worth of gold and silver stored away in its vaults, and in the sale cases today I saw a peck of gold ornaments and of precious stones, and also rings and bracelets galore. In the National Pawnshop During my stay 1 went throught the va rious rooms, seeing people of all ages, ■exes and financial conditions borrowing money on articles of every description. 1 watched the selling and saw crowds looking over the stocks of various pledges to get bargains. In the loan rooms the people stood before long counters, above which were wire networks like those of our banks, and in the great patio or square, around which the rooms of the building run. I saw them bring in auto mobiles, steel safes, baby cradles, parlor sets and pianos. 1 watched the opening of an upright piano. The owner was a pretty girl, dressed in black, with a man tilla over her head, and the tears stood in her eyes as she saw it unpacked. In t nother part of the patio were a man and his wife getting a loan on their par lor carpet, which still showed the dust of recent year, and away off in one cor ner lay a half dozen old bathtubs, which had been evidently taken from the houses and brought there as pledges. It may be they will be redeemed by Saturday night. In going through the building 1 saw warehouse after warehouse filled with household goods of every conceivable kind. There were hundreds of porcelain and zinc bathtubs, chairs, stools and candlesticks and tables and beds without • number. There were great shelves Piled with clothing, and organs, talking ma chines and pianos by dozens. There were also kitchen and cooking utensils and things one would not be able to pawn in the states. The smallest sum loaned on any article is li cents of our money and the loans run from that to $2000. I am x told that about 50,000 pieces are pawned every month, and something like $300,ouo in loans is given out in that time. All but about 10 per cent are redeemed, the interest paid in monthly amounting to $20,000 and upward. How Money Is Loaned 1 watched the process of loaning. Tho moment a pledge is brought in an ex pert valuator fixes the price, and tho loan is only a certain percentage of this. The price is low, for if the pledge is r.t: claimed and it cannot lie sold the valuator has to take it himself, giving therefor the amount of the loan and the interest. As long as the interest is legiilarly paid all pledges are he’d, but after this they are offered for sale. In going tlirough the courts, v.urehouses and salesrooms 1 found frrke tags on every thing. These showed tlie original values and the loans, and in many cases the values had been reduced three or four times, and most things seemed to me wonderfully cheap. Indeed, the first step is about what the goods would bring in a second hand store. This is held for n month, and then, if no one comes to buy it, is reduced. The next month it is further marked down, and this goes on from month to month until five months, when, if not sold, the valuator must take back the article. 1 spent some time in the jewelry sales room. Here were cases of pearls and dia tnons, and quantities of rings, brooches and pins set with jewels of every descrip tion. 1 saw earrings with pearls as big as the end of your linger, and great sapphires and emeralds valued at from $600 to $4000. Many of the jewels were in sets, consisting of bracelets, brooches and earrings, with now and then a tiara of diamonds to match. Most of these trinkets seemed to me very cheap. Just now Mexico is in the throes of hard times, owing to the revolutionary troubles and the sales of unredeemed pledges are large. Sometimes tourist pick up great bargains in jewelry. 1 know of one man who got a beautiful brooch containing a half dozen pears and four diamonds for $100, and of another who bought a fine diamond ring for half that amount. 1 coveted a set of jewels whose price had been cut. from $300 down to $300, but I thought of the customs, which are rig idly enforced on the borders of Texas and did not invest. At the lawn broking Auctions I wish I could show you one of the auc tions of this national pawnshop. They are attended by tHe motley throng which makes up the crowds of the Mexican cap ital. There are men in sombreros, short jackets and tight-fitting trousers. There arc women in black with mantillas over their heads, and there a re 'people dressed it uch the same as those of our cities. At the auctions the pledges include chro mos, saddles and harness, household goods and clothing and jewelry and trin kets of every imaginable kind and de scription. The goods are put up at the request of the would-be purchasers and are often sold to the first bidders. The man picks out his article and it is knock ed off after giving the others a chance. Everything lias been appraised, and there i-3 no false bidding. The great bargains in good things, however, are usually sold before the auctions take place. In the Thieves’ Market In addition to the national pawnshop there are many private pawnshops in Mexico City. At these the loans are more The Stores Are Locked With Heavy Bolts costly and 3 or ]0 per cent a month is frequently paid. It is unsafe to attempt to borrow on stolen wares at the Monte do Piedad, but this is not so of the pri vate pawnshops, and l am told that many of them are fences or receivers of stolen goods. Indeed, there is one market here which has so much questionable merchandise that It goes by the name of the Thieves’ market. It is not far from the cathedral and just off of tne main market house of the city. It is on a street once occupied by the palace of King Montezuma and where the first bull ring was afterward established by the Spaniards. On the same spot 13 heretics were condemned to be burned to death by the inquisition in 1469, and it is only within a century or so that the land has been cleared and the property of the city. In my walk through this market I kept iny hands on my pocketbook, but i was not mclested. I examined the goods, but there was nothing of value in the shape of curios or gold and silver get with jew els. The most of the wares seemed to be trinkets, household goods and old cloth ing. There was a great stock of the lat ter and as I looked at the silk dresses and men's suits of one kind or another I bethought me of the warning f had when I spent nry llrst night in Mexico. My adviser was an old resident. Said he: “In going to bed on the ground floor you must he careful to put your trousers under the mattress and lay your other clothes near the wall farthest away from the window, especially so If you keep jour blinds open. This country has many sneak thieves and there are professionals who have jointed rods with a hook at the end by wiiich they can reach through the bars and drag out your clothing. You must also watch out for jour pockets, and especially in crowds and on the street cars. It is not safe to leave your car wirdow open while traveling on the railways and you want to keep track of your camera." The Revolution and Its Hold-Ups Since then 1 haVe found reason to ap‘ preciate these suggestions. A man trav eling with me had his pocket picked two days after lie entered Mexico, and this has scared him so that he now does not venture out without one hand in his trousers. 1 am told that the thieves steal wire cable and electric wiring. They cut through the roofs to get into tlie stores and warerooms and even try to rob the poor boxes of the chmches. The railways lose thousands of bolls from the cars and tracks every year and they even take the fishplates from t lie rails. Nothing left out of doors unwatched is safe and I am told The Monte de Pildad, the World’s Greatest Pawnshop that doormats are usually chained down. It is not safe to put an ash barrel out into the street and potted plants' and flowers are sometimes stolen, while a vacant house frequent ly loses its lead ipe, electric globes and batli fixtures. Just now in these revolutionary times much of the stealing is bare faced and open. There are parts of Mexico which swarm with brigands and banditti and where it is unsafe to travel even by rail or in automobiles. This is especially so outside the cities. Indeed, in a recent railroad ride which I took through a disturbed section I carried my surplus bills in ray stock ing. I had $lo0 in American money, consisting of a $luo bill, two twenties and a ten. I put these next my bare feet, with the idea that if my train were held up they would not be found. Fortunately, i got through all right, but the passengers on the same road two days later were robbed by a party of bandits, and lost all but their clQth ing. In the mountainous districts even one’s clothing is liable to be taken, and there are recent instances where men have been stripped and left naked. So far Americans and other foreigners have been robbed only of their money, but such cases are frequent. Banking; and Money Matters Speaking of money matters, I find it best to travel in a country like this with a letter of credit. 1 have one issued by tlie Riggs National bank of Washington on one of the leading banks of London, and with this I can get money in any of the cities. The place I patronize here is the National Bank of Mexico, an institu tion whose capital is more than $17,000, 000, with deposits which compare with our largest United States banks. Its profits are something like $3,000,000 a year and it has branches in nearly every Mex ican city. Another big bank here is the Bank of London and Mexico, which was estab lished by British capital at the close of our civil war and which is paying some thing like 12 per cent on its stock. And then there is the Mexican Bank of Com merce and Industry, backed by a capital of $5.000,000, some of which is held by the Deutsche Bank of Berlin, some by the Speyers of New York and by business men here in the city, and also the Mexi can Banking company, which has a capi tal of about $2,000,000. Nearly all the banks arc owned by foreigners. The Banco National is large ly backed by French capital, the branch Bank of Montreal by the Canadians, and there is also a Chinese financial organi zation, with a capital of a half million or so. Altogether there are 34 chartered hanks In Mexico City which are doing a business of several hundred million dollars a month. The total banking cap ital amounts to more than $100,000,000 in gold, and the dividends paid range all the way from 5 to 10 per cent. The stock of nearly every bank is far above par, and th\f is the same with the life insurance companies, title insurance companies and many other financial institutions. The country now Is on a gold basis, the unit being tlie peso or Mexican dollar, which is worth just about 50 cents. In addition to the ordinary banks there are mortgage banks similar to those ex isting In France, which extend credit to agricultural and mining enterprises These, to a certain extent, are under the minister of finance, and they are intended to aid in the development of the country by loaning money to farmers and others. One of these banks is known as the In stitution of Loans for Irrigation Works and the Encouragement of Agriculture. It was started with a capital of $1,000,000 and a bond issue of $50,000,000, guaranteed by the national government. A few weeks ago congress authorized the cap! tal stock to be increased to over $200,000,0*10. Mexico’s Oldest Bank The oldest loaning institution in Mexico is the Monte de Piedad, of which l have written. It was founded before our Declaration of Independence was signed way back in 1775, with a capitalization of $300,000, Its purpose being to free the poor pec pie from the usurious rates of interest charged by private pawnbrokers. The founder was a rich mine owner, who had w'hat then was the bonanza mine 6f Mexico. This was situated near Pachuea. and along about tlie time that we were fighting the revolutionary war it had al ready yielded $15,000,000. Its owner was noted for his extravagances. He gave several warships to Spain and loaned the king a million dollars. The same mine is still worked and it is now owned by Americans. The Monte de Piedad is also a savings National Bank of Mexico Whose Capi tal Is $17,000.0*) liiiiik, and il came near failing In 3XS4 on account of its issue of demand liabil ities based on long-term loans. It then held a cash reserve of two and one-hall millions against a circulation of four mil lions, but a panic came, a run was made and the institution was compelled to sin pend Outside aid was obtained, how ever, and the bank kept on Its feet. Since then there has been a change in the Mex ican banking laws, and r am told those how in force arc excellent'. The country was put on a gold stan dard by Diaz about six years ago, and ■since then the peso has been worm practically DO cents gold. Before that it ran up and down, fluctuating ac cording to the amount of silver It con tained. In 1901 H was worth 40 cents, in 1902 and J903 only 41 cents, and in 1904 it was ID cents and a fraction. It then ran up to GO cents, which value it lias held ever since. There is no doubt about the sound financial condition of the Mexican gov ernment. In recent years it has been taking in more money in taxes than has been needed for the government expenses, and the public debt, consid ering the assets of the? country, is com paratively small. It amounts to only a little over $£00,000,000, or about one flftli of what the United States owe#. It is very small in comparison with tlie debts of Europe. France, for instance, is no wowing almost six thousand mil lions, and the German empire ami is now owing almost six thousand mil lions. Italy’s debt is fast approximat ing three thousand millions, while that of the United Kingdom,* including Hie colonies, is more than four thousand millions. Eittle Japan owes thirteen hundred millions, whilo Switzerland, that little patch of mountains and val leys, owes considerably more than this republic of Mexico. I am told that there is a great ueal of hoarded money In Mexico. I p to the be ginning of the present generation bank ing was comparatively unsafe and many of the people buried their money instead of depositing it. Even now' there are millions upon millions under the court yards of the rich haciendadoa or hidden away in the walls. Men die who are supposed to be worth nothing and thousands of dollars are found in their miserable homes. Not long ago an American brought suit to collect a debt of u man in one of the provincial cities. lie got judgment, but the defendant said: “I can’t pay you. but my father will.” The father was called on and he took the officials down Into a cellar under his house where there was $400,000 stored away. The judgment was for $3,000 and five of the hags were handed over In payment therefor. 1 understand that the church has a great deal of secreted money and that the hoards of the common people are just now beginning to come to the banks. The same is true in the Philfppines, where our soldiers dug up silver in the courtyards of the houses, and also in India, where hundreds of millions of dol lars in the shape of gold coin and jewelry are buried In places in and under the walls of the homes of people supposedly poor. English Preacher s Part in Early American Colonization Some time ago I was asked to write an historical novel on some lesser known Wessex worthy. While pros pecting among various kinds or ma terial 1 came across the Rev. .John White, and his connection with tin* birth of America, but soon discovered 1 had not time to do justice to such a big theme. Now as the arrangements for the celebration of 100 years of peace be tween England and America are in course of preparation. I have been thinking again of the subject. As. how ever, 1 am still prevented by other • work from writing a novel around the career of this grand old divine, 1 have thrown some of the material into a news story, rather with a view to in teresting the man in the cars than the high-brows, who doubtless have delved more deeply than I in the archives of the seventeenth century. WILKINSON SHERRKX. (The well known English novelist.! ONDON, March 1.™(Special, t In the church porch of a .small town in southwest England there* is a brass tablet to the memory of a man who has never suirieienily emerged into the limelight of public regard for the great part be played In speeding John Endicott and his gal lant band to the home of freedom. The hidden romance of New England colonization appears as soon us you be gin to examine the Dorset archives of the seventeenth century, clear for all to see at the present day is the me morial tablet in the south porch of fc$t. Peter’s church. Dorchester. read year by year by many American pil grims. It runs. “In this porch lies th * body of the Rev. John White. M. A. of New College. Oxford. He was born at Christmas. 1575. For about id years he was rector of this parish and also of Holy Trinity. He died here July VI. 104(i. A man of great godliness, good scholarship and wonderful ability and kindness, lie had a very strong sway in the town. He greatly set forward the emigration to the Massachusetts 13.i.v colony, where his name lives in un fa ding remembrance.” Such a memorial uncovers immediate ly one of the tap roots of history, which nurtured by religious inlolM ante in the rank soil of Stuart polio, developed into, the vigorous tree of transatlantic lit * rty Sometimes called the Apostle of tin West. John White belongs to the great fellowship of staunch and IndcpenJen* !* men who stand rock-like amid the , ♦ fwirl of events and ast tin* flux of $j4ition into the mould of their it on Ifet wills. No parochial Cromwell ho, nor obscure Hampden, though the accumu lated dust has to he blown off the page of history, to some extent, before the outlines of his greatness can be clear ly discerned. Von can almost hear his gruff voice ringing in the borough records of Dorchester, England. There, he ruled by the divine right of moral ascendancy over the townspeople, some of whom were among the earliest set tlers of New England. Fuller pays John White the compliment of saying “the inhabitants were much enriched by him, for knowledge caused piety, and piety bred industry, so that a beg gar was not to be se»-n in the town. All the able poor were set on work, and the impotent maintained by the profits of a public brewhouse. He had control of two things—his own passions —and his parishioners’ purses. Ho also established a "hospital,” where 60 poor children were received and educated “in some lawful trade Independence and initiative tours d in John White's veins Hi* father, a clergyman, had been < ..ommunicated in 1622 for comuniacioi - conduct in not attending the arch deacon’s visita tion. independence combined with in itiative were the «. u.nanbh g patterns In the warp and woof «*f Us individu ality. and botli traits a.-urn. d fhe great ness of statesman-like qualities when the movement- westward started. Hit was -the master mind hat organized and directed, seconded by fbshop I^akc*. the colonization of a freer homo beyond the waves. Glimpses of the interest tal * n ir. the New World peep out in M:.'. tb ear af ter the lauding of the Pilgrim Fathers. Tile mayor of Weymouth (England) then wrote to the mayor of Exeiei inquiring “what they of Exeter intend to do touch ing Sir Frsxdinsn'lo Gorges projc t about the tdniitaeioii and ffysshhige utt N* England.*' A private company, formed chiefly of Dorchester > oonle from l iJ * onward sent out fishing vessels to the New England coast, and had landed men ai Cape Ann to establish a station for the benefit of their vessels. This was abandoned, but subsequently it formed the basis of John White's enterprise. On Murih 21. lb * 1. “a oommitfe.* was chosen for the New England bu^inese at the free school. I orele--ter when Sir Walter Erie, the bigwig' cf the 1 >calH>. prc*Uk*<i. Some of the Cap • A.on settle? s had moved • >n and founded what aft? river ds Hu lorn, and .? became n<. «•> •;r. y io re place thern. “J« :m KnUieott.’’ the an eestor of -Mr* Joseph Chamberlain ' t man well known to «livers person* of note.” and a native of Dorchester. was taken into consultation, and entered warmly into the scheme of succoring the infant colony. A patent was obtained BY WILKINSON SHERREN from the council l»y which there tvaS "bargained and .sold unto some knights end gentlemen about Dorchester, Sir Henry Russell, Sir John Young, Thomas Southcoat, John Humphrey, John Endi cott and Simon Wheteomb. gent., that part of New England lying between Mer riinae river and the Charles river at the bottom of Massachusetts bay." Other people of influence from the neighbor hood of London and Lincolnshire, men cl strng religious convictions, were through John White's influence dtrected into the new movement. A few weeks after Charles I. granted the petition of right. Endlcott sailed from Weymouth < England) a port eight miles distant front his native town, from "Well pilgrims set out in the middle ages to visit the shrine of St. Compostella. The intrepid knight and his company sailed in the “Abigail" —Henry Guuden, master. John White conducted a religious service on board before she sailed, in full sight of the hushed and crowded quays, where folk stood marveling at an impulse of conscience potent enough to send their fellow countrymen across the alienating sea. Through John White the patent was confirmed and a royal charter granted to the. governor and com pany of the Massachusetts bay colony in 1629. This apostle of the west was 54 when the seeds of his first gigantic effort be gan to fruct'v’y. Nineteen, years of use fulness still stretched before him. The tiny ships plowing the waves of the At lantic between England and America car i led many a missive of hope and cheer from him to the colonists, and at Hu same time brought him news of their enterprise. But John White did not rest content with correspondence, and was concerned throughout the rest of his life in helping the colonists in more practical ways. An interestink sidelight on his unceas ing activity in this direction is found in the DorcheMer borough archives. From this source we learn Jhat Ann Samways, accused of speaking Unseemly words of John White, had declared “that he did starve the the country, and did coyne with the devil for money, and would be .'i merchant and a farmer for his profit, nnd did send provision to New England in color to convey to Spayne.” The great divine was an industrious farmer, and owned two closes, or pasture fields, where one Nathaniel Bower sometimes worked during the harvest. On one occasion this worthy was hailed before Mr. Mayor for coming into collision with the watch and spoke in his defense of “Working -U-J1.E «-J fa .. II. - Rev. John White’s Rectory at Dorchester % *; with Master John White, clerks, helping in the corne till midnight." With such an enthusiast for (lie new world in their midst it is small wonder that people in the town and locality were eager to eross the blue frontiers of the Atlantic Into the young land of liberty. A woman accused of absenting herself from church, excused herself by explain ing that "she was bringing home her late husband's apprentice boy to Monk ton dlteh on his way to Weymouth, to take ship for New England.'' John White's thrift and industry were freely discussed by the common people. A streak of Cautious generosity ran in his nature, as it is recorded that “Chris topher Baker, scholar of Trinity col lege, begged at John White's house, and was sent hack to Oxford." The prudent nilnlster dispatched the impecunious scholar by free transit, lest perchance a handful of money might tempt hint to conduct marked up against Nicholas Maunder, lined for “typling with two widows.'' Another instance of his gene rosity is recorded, for lie sent (ill pounds tfjittl) for the distress of Taunton In the lime of pestilence. A puritan not so rigorous as some of the kill-joys of the period, he neverthe less frowned on Sunday games. Much to his annoyance, lives were played against his church tower of St. Peter's. It Is. therefore, likely that he approved of the sunlight upon some boys who one Sun day In long vanished sunlight, were caught playing nine holes and five holes In "Master White's close." and were "stocked and lined." High and low came under the ban of his displeasure. The Christmas revels In which Sir George Trenchard, sheriff of the county, dared to Indulge, greatly offended the divine, who frequently called upon his lloclt to forsake such vanities. This austere tem per did not. however, ullenute the sym pathy of Ids parlshoners. "On June f, 1(130." says a diary of the period—a year before the settlement of Maryland—"was a fast kept for the turning away of the danger which narrowly threatened the re moval of Mr. While." Three years later, the diarist made this significant state ment! "20 ship of sail, and in them 2,000 planters sailed for New Kngland, among them John Humphreys and his wife," showing how vigorously the emigration had set In. While on the one hand John White In fluenced the policy of the infant colony overseas, lie was occupied on the other hand with the important triltes of town life. The marvel is that his mind could he both parochial and international at one and the - same lime, in Ids later years he became a recognized peace maker and arbitrator. Among the rec ords still extant la one bearing witness to the fact that he was applied to "through Master Mayor to effect a rec onciliation between Constable Hale and one Qollop.*' The sun of John White’s life went down in storm and tumult. A fighter for his conception of right and truth to the last, lie organized Dorchester on tlie side of parliament at the opening of the Civil War, and afterwards earned for his pain* the title of "an old instrument of sedi tion." from Wood, the historian. Ills rectory was pillaged In 1042 by Prime Rupert’s troops and his library de stroyed. Tn due course he was appointed rector of Lambeth. London, and became one , of the assembly of divines. He of fered prayers In St. Margaret’s, West minster, before the commissioners, when he subscribed to the Solemn League and Covenant. Largely through his influence many Dorchester townspeople also took the same oath. This truly named. "Apostle of the West” last looked on the light of day in the town he had served so nobly. The solemn obsequies were long past before the. news of his death could reach his admirers and friends in New England, where many a tear must have fallen when it became kpown that John White was no more. The Michigan Political Union From the New York Evening Post. A state that gave the Roosevelt electors a plurality of tiOJXX) Inst November would seem to tie one that was particularly without excuse for harboring any dicker ing or deals between the saints and the sinners, yet Michigan actually leads the way in a reuniting of the republicans anil the progressives. The latter get the plat form. which is so mediaeval as to ex cept judges from its proposal for the adoption of the recall, and the Former have the satisfaction of marching under the^ame okl banner, \fhl6h, up to June 18 o\ last year, even the colonel held sacked. The unholy alliance proves that, however it may be In New’ York, former Chairman Hotchkiss’s statement of Tues day at Albany is not of universal applica tion. The progressive leader remarked: “1 am safe in saying that the progressives would not enter the same room with repub Hacn leaders.” He, or at least his chief, will lie constrained to revise tills asser tion. however, when they give clue con sideration to the battle-cry of the Michi gan republicans. “Get together and fight the democrats” was the heaven-sent word that dispelled all anger and threw brother , once more Into brother's arms. Is It un likely that, with or without the colonel's consent, the same inspiring slogan will reunite republicans and progressives in states where the November pluralities were democratic I : . l.