Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
By Frank Passic, Numismatic Curator, Balzekas Museum
Various Lithuanian communities across the United States issued their own tokens that were good for trade in their establishments. Most of these were issued in the early 20th century before World War II. It is always fascinating to come across these tokens at coin shows and research the history of the organizations that issued them. The Balzekas Museum has a fine collection of Lithuanian tokens from Chicago, Illinois, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We are always interested in donations of Lithuanian-American tokens from various towns across the United States. These are an important record of the history of Lithuanian immigrants who came to America in the early 20th century.
This issue we go to the Motor City: Detroit, Michigan, and feature a token used in the late 1920s by the Detroit Lithuanian Club, located at 9243 Russell Street. Many Lithuanians came to Detroit to work for Henry Ford on the assembly line in the early 20th century. They were immigrant and unskilled laborers who “moved from the coal mines of Pennsylvania and West Virginia and Canadian farms and forests after the daily wage went up to $5 in 1913,” states the Encyclopedia Lituanica. The 1920 U.S. Census reported 2,653 Lithuanians in the city, which increased to 6,240 in 1940.
Through the years, there were over 50 different organizations, clubs and churches that were formed by Lithuanians in the Detroit area to promote their heritage. One well-known endeavor of course is Camp Dainava, located 60 miles west of Detroit near Manchester, Michigan. Here various Lithuanian youth and adult camps are held during the summer months.
The 1928-29 Detroit City Directory lists Adam Straijis as president of the Detroit Lithuanian Club, with Peter Chane as secretary. This group was the predecessor of the Detroit Lithuanian Darius-Girenas Club. Lithuanian food was definitely served here, as the token we are featuring this month attests.
This token is aluminum, and measures 18 mm. in diameter. It was issued circa 1928. The obverse features a rim of fine denticles. The legend states, “LITHUANIA LUNCH 9243 RUSSELL ST.” The reverse, also containing a rim of fine denticles, declares “GOOD FOR 5˘ IN TRADE.” This token is listed in the Michigan Trade Tokens book by Cunningham as #225L18A.
Imagine getting a nice slice of kugelis for just 5˘ with this token, or how about some Lithuanian cold beet soup in the summertime? Whatever the price, this token is a reminder for us today to get out that Lithuanian cookbook and cook up a “Lithuanian Lunch” yourself. Mmmmmmm.
Detroit Lithuanian Club Token, Obverse side
Detroit Lithuanian Club Token, Reverse side
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic