Once upon a time in the Ozarks there was a resort called Monte Ne, which was founded by a man who was famous in his time, though nearly forgotten today. His name was William Hope Harvey, and he was an important advisor on economic matters to William Jennings Bryan during Bryan's presidential bid in 1896. Harvey had visited Rogers during that campaign and was impressed with the beauty of the area, which reminded him of his native West Virginia.
In 1900 he returned and bought up some of those hills and valleys and springs, specifically a place called "Silver Springs." It was around this cluster of springs that he built Monte Ne, which was to become variously a health resort, a political headquarters, a publishing house, a think tank for philosophical luminaries, a place for the education and improvement of civilization itself and finally a time capsule, a phoenix egg from which a new civilization would arise after the demise of the present one.
Harvey, like practically everybody who tries to make things better, was just frustrated as all get-out that other people didn't see the self-evident truth of his ideas and the corruption and hypocrisy of the status quo. Despite his message of integrity, honesty, service and compassion, people found him to be a pretty cold fish, hard to please, difficult to work for and hard to approach personally.
He originally established Coin Publishing Company in Chicago to publish Coin Magazine to get his message to the world. That message was pretty much a list of what was wrong with western civilization. The magazine failed, but Harvey still had his message to get out, so he put some of the most important points in one book, called "Coin's Financial School." This book was a fictionalized debate between a young genius named "Coin" and others representing bankers, stockbrokers, politicians, newspapermen and the various aspects of the prevailing political and economic reality. In these monkeyed-up debates, Coin always runs rings around the opposition and makes them look like stooges. Thereafter, Coin became Harvey's nickname.
"Coin's Financial School" sold over 1.5 million copies, but it's hard to find today. To make his theories more available to the masses the books were made of the cheapest materials, and 125 years later they've mostly crumbled to dust. I read "Coin's Financial School" in the Butler Center of the LRPL, and after returning it to the librararian and returning to the table to collect my things I found a dusting of yellowed pulp, the price paid by the book for being read one more time.
Monte Ne was not his first big project. Before Coin Publishing and before Monte Ne, and with no training in geology, he moved to Colorado and started mining. His mine, "The Silver Bell," failed, but he promoted the industry by ramroddiing the construction of an ostentatious "Palace of Minerals" in Pueblo. He left Colorado under unpleasant circumstances. He had promised to contribute $5000 of his own money to the project, and other investors felt he might have held back. He moved to Ogden, UT and went into real estate. While there he concieved and staged a wild west version of Mardi Gras, even importing parade royalty from New Orleans.
After Utah he formulated his social theories and became a famous guy and people listened to what he said, and he debated other famous guys in public on matters pertaining to the economy and what was wrong with it. I'm going to try to distill Harvey's financial thoughts as much as possible. This is pretty dry stuff, but I'm including it because all the other sources I read had practically nothing to say about the ideas he espoused. This comes from "The Book," which was published in 1930 and from "Coin's Financial School," published in 1896.
First, money is sacred and usury is the tool of Satan. I'm not exaggerating his feelings on that. He uses those terms. All the world's ills are caused by usury in its strict sense. Money is sacred because it's the most direct representation of a man's labor. Usury is bad because it drains money, interest, from people who work and gives it to bankers who sit on their butts and create nothing but paperwork. Debt is bad because it puts a freeloading middleman, the banker, in between a man's labor and his property.
Included in Harvey's pantheon of economic sin are insurance, currency speculation, Social Security, labor unions and arbitrage. In fact, what eventually became the foundation of American culture in the 20th century is but a complex house of cards ready to be flicked apart by the big (English) money lenders wenever it suits their fancy to do so. He thought that sooner or later they would do so, and that's how he decided to preserve the collected wisdom of his age in a 130-foot-tall pyramid in the Ozarks. More about that later.
The institution that he sees as the greatest threat to our civilization is the Federal Reserve Banking system. The Bank hoards money, gold, in its vaults and issues loans as credit against a tiny fraction of the actual money it has on hand. So people who borrow money aren't actually borrowing money. They're borrowing debt issued by the bank, and they are paying interest on it with their labor.
Every year there will be a certain number of foreclosures, and the bank will get some property. If you're operating your farm on debt, no matter how talented a farmer you are, sooner or later you're going to have a couple of bad years in a row and the bank will end up with the land, which it will sell to your wealthy neighbor. In this way, all the property in the country will gradually be concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. The farms, factories, restarurants, stores, you name it, will tend to conglomerate until all the means of production are owned by a few corporations and individuals.
Those corporations and individuals with all the property will be a kind of commercial oligarchy running the country, and the commercial oligarchy will be controlled by the bankers, who control the money supply that stokes the furnaces of the commercial empires; and the workers will be living on credit and buying at the company store, becoming wage-slaves, forever in hock to the man and eventually owning not even the coffins that hold them in their early graves. Keep in mind that Harvey was writing in the twenties and thirties.
The Federal Reserve System, says Harvey, is a huge scam that allows banks to issue debt (bad stuff) and pretend it's money (good stuff). And what do they pay the government for the right to do this? Damn near nothing but the cost of printing the real money that backs only ten percent of the debt they issue. The debt that they issue becomes a means gradually to foreclose on the whole country and move all the goodies east, to the Wall Street banks, brokerage houses and insurance companies.
And while we're on the subject, says Harvey, where's the sense the government handing free money to the banks and then borrowing, not money but bank-issued debt, right back again at interest through a complicated scheme of bonds, notes and bills?
Usury was not the only tool of the devil. Harvey also despised England and all things English, particularly their banking system, which he saw as the agent that had infected and corrupted America's own. He also cursed Empire and all things Imperial, and at the time, England was the world's dominant superpower. In the name of civilizing the world, they had gone forth and kicked ass on a global assortment of stone age wogs and installed themselves as masters, doing really very little for the countries they conquered.
It was in England and in Banking that Harvey discerned a plot to dominate the earth. He wrote a fictionalized account, called "A Tale of Two Countries," in which a fat English Banker named Baron Rothe undertook to corrupt the American economy and government in order to place the reins of the United States in the hands of his worldwide banking system.
Let's seeeee..... fat... evil megalomaniac... English... banker... Rothe. Do you think the Rothschilds took offense at this? I'll bet they thought the remote hill country of Arkansas was a good place for this loudmouth. Harvey is sometimes accused of antisemitism because of this, but plainly the jewishness of the Rothschild family is incidental to Harvey's opinion. If he had been anti-semitic, the social climate of the day would not have discouraged him from being so publicly, and he was never subtle or guarded in expressing his opinions. If he had been an anti-semite, he would have been an unambiguous one.
Another tool of the evil megalomaniacal dark forces was compound interest. Back in the good old days, usury was defined as lending money at interest. Somewhere along the line usury got redefined as charging more interest than the law allows. Compounding interest is a way of circumventing the law and charging more than the legal rate and not getting punished for it.
His solution is likely to seem pretty radical to 21st Century Americans. First he wanted to nationalize the banks, the public utilities, transportaion, certain essential industries like steel, which of necessity must be operated on a large scale and which produce basic commodities. Second, he wanted to abolish taxes, the money to operate the government coming from the aforementioned nationalized industries. Third, usury would be abolished, and only gold and silver metal would be considered money at a fixed rate of 15 1/2 ounces of silver to be equal to one ounce of gold. Fourth, the upper limit of an individual's net worth would be set at $50,000 in cash and land plus $20,000 in personal property other than land. No indivual in Harveyland would be allowed to own more than 100 acres. Anything you have over and above the $70k in cash and toys you have to surrender to the government.
Bear in mind that this was his plan in 1930 when a laborer's daily wage was a dollar. In 2001 dollars, you're allowed to keep several million in the bank, so he wasn't exactly Castro. His point was that once you achieved a certain amount of wealth you were just pointlessly keeping it out of the hands of others. After you've got the palace and the yacht and the Playboy centerfold wife and the limousine, anything more is just your greed gratifying itself to the detriment of the rest of society.
His plan of monetizing gold and silver was to be a temporary solution. At the time, currency was backed with gold only, which was the English (and therefore evil) way. Monetizing silver as well would make it much harder for the bankers to hoard all the real money, and it was the fact that the bankers had monopolized all the real money in the first place that allows them to get away with the scam of putting the rest of us in debt.
The gold standard was to Harvey further evidence of England's culpability in America's financial problems, since it was the English who first demonetized silver in 1816 and through hoarding gold had subsequently decreased the value of everyting else. Since debts to English banks had to be paid in gold, countries that did not produce gold had to buy it to pay their English debts, driving down the value of the goods they did produce. If you were not a gold producing country, the English banks had you by the short hairs.
Eventually Harveyland would demonetize even gold and silver (Roosevelt demonetized precious metals in 1933-34.); and all money would be backed by government services provided by the nationalized industries. That's not as revolutionary an idea as it might sound. Postage stamps, for example, are a kind of money redeemable in government services.
The government would control the money supply and the rate of growth of the economy not by tweaking interest rates, but would put money into the economy through public works projects and would take money out through the nationalized utilities. The artificial cap on wealth, along with a ban on corporations, would insure that most businesses would stay small and decentralized and that ownership of business in general would be in the hands of the largest number of people. For instance, instead of going into the "restaurant business" by leasing a franchise which requires you to provide the corporate decor and the corporate menu made from corporate supplied soylent green, you'd be making your own decisions. Ideally, the restaurants in every town would be owned and opperated by locals. The same with farms, stores, and everything else. More people would be owner-operators and fewer people would be tennants and wage laborers. There would be no national chains, no Wal-Mart, no Sears, no MacDonalds, no giant corporate farms, no Microsoft.
Corporations would be banned, but partnerships would be allowed in the interest of creating larger business entities for big projects, given that the value of your share of the partnership was counted against your personal net worth.
The adoption of a new constitution also figured into Harvey's plan. The electorate was to be consulted on two issues only, constitutional amendments and election of office holders. Voting would be continuous. A book in each bank district would contain the current votes of all eligible voters in the district. Any voter could go into a bank and change his vote any time. An office holder's term would end the minute somebody else could claim a majority. The house and senate would be abolished altogether, governors would be placed under direct authority of the president and the duties of the courts would be reduced to torts only. His plan was to concentrate authority and responsibility at the top.
Even though Harvey purported to be a populist and warned of the dangers of "Mussolinism," his remedy for the world's ills sounds like national socialism to me. He was brilliant enough to formulate a plan, but not brilliant enough to see it for what it really was. The two basic elements are there--concentrated heirarchical political power and government ownership of critical industries. Under his proposed constitution, there would be no deliberative body and no supreme court as we know it today. Harvey's plan called for no checks and no balances and no powers reserved for local authorities. All the state governors would be under the direct authority of the president and the federal government would consist of the president, five justices (who have no authority to interpret the constitution) and their appointees. Such was the political climate in the 1930's. Those economically desperate times nurtured experiments in fascism and marxism and any number of theoretical "ism" variants.
One of those variants was the Liberty Party, formed in 1931 to save the U.S. from the great depression, headquartered at Monte Ne and led by Coin Harvey. Membership requirements for the party were pretty loose. All you had to do to be a voting delegate at the national convention was sign a paper saying you had read Harvey's "The Book" and had lost faith in the Democrats and Republicans. One delegate, Mary Ella Hughes of Edmond, OK, was seven years old.
The party served as a catch-all for liberals, radicals, anarchists, anybody who wasn't getting a foothold in the mainstream. The aging and frail Harvey was their reluctant candidate, the first Arkansan to run for president, and he lost spectacularly.
Back to the origins of Monte Ne itself. In 1901 Harvey bought 320 acres and set up a partership to build the resort. He moved his family from Chicago into the clapboard sided log house that was on the property. In December, the house burned, along with all the finery that his wife Anna had brought from Chicago. Anna packed her few remaining belongings and moved with the daughters back to Chicago, essentially abandoning Harvey, and returning to Monte Ne only once in later years to attend the funeral of their son Hal. (In 1929, at the age of 78, Harvey would get an uncontested divorce from Anna and marry his secretary.)
Harvey invented the name Monte Ne for his new resort, saying he concocted the name from the Spanish and Indian words for "Mountain" and "Water." He laid out streets, built hotels, marked out lots, established a bank and a newspaper. Two of the hotels were gigantic log structures with red tile roofs. One of those, Oklahoma Row, was called the largest log building in the world at the time. A fragment of one of those buildings was later moved from its original location and still stands at the intersections of highways 94 and 945. That's one end of it in the photo to the left. I couldn't find a way to get the whole thing in the picture. Just imagine repeated segments extending a hundred feet or so off to the left, a stretched-out log cabin with a tile roof.
Harvey built a golf course where grown men played wearing short pants, and an enclosed swimming pool where men and women swam simultaneously. Scandalously progressive for the time and place!
He built a dedicated rail line from Lowell to Monte Ne, only five miles long but proudly proclaimed to be "as wide as any in the country." The station at the resort not only loaded passengers off the train, but loaded them onto a genuine imported Venetian gondola, which ferried them across a lagoon to their hotels. Two genuine Venetian gondoliers were also imported to teach the local young men the authentic rowing technique.
So here it is today, parts of it. There's quite a bit you can't see that was flooded when Beaver Lake was built. When the water is low some of the foundations make dandy fishing piers. You can walk the foundation of Oklahoma Row and visit the three-story cement tower that comprised the southern end of the building.
The demise of Monte Ne is usually blamed on the automobile and the lack of decent roads in the Ozarks. As automobile ownership rose, Harvey worked tirelessly on the Ozark Trails Association, which tried to improve, mark and map roads through the region, particularly those leading toward Monte Ne. That's not really the whole story, though. There was a world war followed ten years later by a global depression which magnified every other problem the enterprise had. The rail line from Lowell was unreliable, probably due to the fact that the equipment was rented from the main line, which had better uses for its best locomotives and rolling stock. The rail line was owned and opperated on a shoestring by people who were not part of Harvey's organization.
Another problem might have been Harvey himself. He expected his guests to adhere to a certain character-improvement regimen, and that included strict observance of bedtimes. There's a story in the Snelling book about Harvey going to the town's power station to shut off the electricity when an evening's entertainment went on past the bedtime he'd set. The very next morning, most of the guests checked out. Vern Ingersoll, one of Harvey's home-grown gondoliers, complained that not only would Harvey berate him in public, but he'd do the same thing to the guests.
He was a hard man, stubborn and willful. It was that unpleasant force of will that kept Monte Ne going as long as it did, and it was that unpleasant force of will that caused him problems with labor, with his guests and with his family.
As the Great Depression dragged on, Harvey began to make arrangements for the construction of a pyramid, which he had first proposed in 1920 in a publication called Common Sense. (A lot of his titles sound familiar, don't they? "Common Sense," "A Tale of Two Nations," "The Book....") The Pyramid would be 130-feet high and 40-feet square at the base. Sealed inside this pyramid would be materials that would eventually be useful to the survivors of the coming dark age. Harvey decided on the height by mentally reducing the Ozarks to rubble and filling in the valleys, so that even after the mountains wore away, the tip of the pyramid would be visible. Way up near that tip would be this inscription: "When this can be read, go below and discover the cause of the death of a former civilization." He estimated the cost of construction at $75,000, which means that under the limitations of wealth that he himself proposed, he couldn't own it.
Inside the pyramid were to be certain key books, Harvey's, of course, encyclopedias, histories and a bible among others. Also there were to be working examples of a few useful inventions like phonographs and safety pins. Harvey constructed a Roman amphitheatre which was to stabilize the foundation of the pyramid and serve as a foyer to the structure. Two cement seats from that amphitheatre, pictured here on the left, can be found at the public restroom in Frisco Park on First Street in Rogers. They were salvaged as the waters of Beaver Lake rose. The amphitheatre is known locally as "The Pyramids," and upper structures of it can be seen when the water is low. In the 1970's there was a drought which exposed the whole thing.
Cost estimates rose. Harvey's money ran out and donations were inadequate. No pyramid was completed and no time capsule was ever filled. Rumors persist to this day about a sealed tomb under the waters of Beaver Lake filled with mint condition automobiles and other treasures from the early 20th Century, but there's nothing here but the fragments of a vision, flooded, crumbling and defaced. The cruel irony is that when Harvey first moved here, he could have built the pyramid with his own money; but the effort of keeping Monte Ne a viable resort had depleted his personal resources.
The closest thing to a pyramid here is Harvey's own tomb, a giant concrete block encasing the bodies of himself and his son Hal. The 40-ton tomb was dragged to high ground when Beaver Lake was created in the early 1960's. Everybody who knew Harvey said he would have preferred his tomb stay put and be innundated along with his beloved valley, but the law required the removal of graves from the condemned lands. Here's a picture of Harvey's death mask, which is on display at the Rogers Historical Museum.
The end of Harvey wasn't the end of Monte Ne. The buildings were still there, and they were bought and sold and given new incarnations. Oklahoma Row was once an art gallery, and the owner lived in the cement tower. Harvey's residence at one point became a restaurant called The Harvey House. Gradually, though, the properties degenerated and today in Monte Ne you'll find a lot of mobile homes and metal buildings. It's a little sad when you look at the old pictures and see how grand the place used to be. There were three hotels, Venetian gondolas, a political headquarters, a bank, a newspaper, a railroad, a publishing house, a power company, a golf course, a swimming pool, music venues, a Roman amphitheatre; and it was all held together by the combined forces of Coin Harvey's personality and pocketbook.
There's plenty more of interest regarding Coin Harvey. The folks at the Rogers Historical Museum are in the process of putting together a definitive history of Monte Ne (no set completion date). You can find what's left of Monte Ne on the map. Take highway 945 east of Rogers.
Harvey, William Hope; The Book; Mundus Publishing Company, Rogers, AR; 1930.
Harvey, William Hope; Coin's Financial School; Coin Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1894.
Hughes, William Herschel; Octagenarian Nominee of Newborn Party; Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 22. pp. 291-300.
Keenan, Clara B.; Coin Harvey's Pyramid; Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 6, pp.132-144.
Snelling, Lois; Coin Harvey, Prophet of Monte Ne; S. and O. Press, Point Lookout, MO; 1973.
Thanks to the Rogers Historical Museum
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