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After all of the pomp and circumstance of graduations for the class of 2019, the realities of the world — work and money — are now probably a priority for many of those graduates.

About a century earlier, in 1917 and 1923, the Napa Daily Journal published two articles related to quests for finding employment and establishing financial stability.

Being gainfully employed seems to have been of great personal importance, especially when the U.S. was engaged in conflicts and wars. Apparently, having a job during times of war indicated one’s willingness to help the country achieve its ultimate goal of victory. As noted by the local news media, this practice and ideology was also prevalent during “The Great War,” World War 1.

Although many Napans were ineligible to enlist in the armed services during World War I due to age and/or medical infirmities, they found other ways to serve their country. In the summer of 1917, a Napa Daily Journal article titled, “Getting Government Positions” reported “In an interview with Prof. J. H. Janson, president of the Napa Business College, Mr. Janson stated that his college has gained marked distinction in preparing government stenographers and clerks who have entered the service of Uncle Sam with entrance salaries ranging from $900 to $1,200 a year.” (This salary range was a very good wage in 1917.) The Journal continued, “Mr. Janson informed us that the Napa Business College ranks first in the State to successfully fitting students to go directly from the college and pass the Civil Service examinations.”

The article included a long list of Napans who had been selected for various state and federal government jobs. They were all graduates of the featured local business school. Following that roster, the Journal concluded its coverage of the Napa Business College and its program with some final details. It said, “Mr. Janson states that he is overwhelmed with calls for competent bookkeepers and stenographers. And the Civil Service Commission is urging him to prepare many more for Uncle Sam’s service.” The Napa Business College was once located on Main Street in downtown Napa.

With those jobs producing a steady income and living wage for Napans, many of those locals recognized the wisdom of creating a financial nest egg for themselves. At that time, the primary way to carry out that financial goal for the average person was to open and maintain a savings account. In the summer of 1923, the Journal provided details about a local financial institution that could help Napa residents achieve those goals.

The article headline stated, “New Finance Co. Started—Organization was made Thursday Night.” The Journal continued, “The Stockholders and Directors of the People’s Financial and Thrift Company held its first regular meeting at the Chamber of Commerce building.” According to the newspaper report, the officers, board members and finance directors were all elected during that initial meeting. Also, the organization’s bylaws were adopted that evening. The 1923 article also said, “It is expected to commence doing business in about a week.”

In addition to establishing a savings account with the new company, Napa residents could also apply for low-interest business and personal loans. The Journal continued, “The business of the organization will be to furnish small loans and handle and discount paper.”

As part of that offering, the Thrift provided in-house administration and processing of loan applications, in-person notification regarding the approval or denial of those applications and management of the approved loans as well as the savings accounts. The article added, “The capital stock of the People’s Financial and Thrift Company is $75,000 of which $60,000 already has been subscribed.”

As for the fate of these two local businesses, both eventually ceased to exist. Hopefully, soon additional historical research will shed some light on the reasons and/or causes of their respective closures.

Regardless of their specific business operation history, the Napa Business College and People’s Financial and Thrift Company helped to create a brighter and more secure life for numerous Napa County residents.

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Email Rebecca Yerger at yegerenterprises@yahoo.com.

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