Kemmerer, Edwin Walter (1875–1945)

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Kemmerer, Edwin Walter (1875–1945)

Edwin Walter Kemmerer (b. 19 June 1875; d. 16 December 1945), U.S. financial adviser in Latin America. Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Kemmerer attended Wesleyan University (B.A., 1899) and Cornell (Ph.D., 1903). One of the most famous U.S. economists in the opening decades of the twentieth century, Kemmerer was a professor at Cornell (1906–1912) and Princeton (1912–1943). He helped design the Federal Reserve System in 1911, edited the American Economic Bulletin and the American Economic Review, and became president of the American Economic Association in 1926. He was renowned as an expert on money and banking. His greatest achievement, however, was his success as an adviser to foreign governments. A product of the Progressive Era, Kemmerer saw himself as a professional technician bringing universal, scientific advances to underdeveloped countries and their poorer citizens. He became known as the "money doctor."

Throughout the world, Kemmerer spread the gospel of the gold standard and central banks. His teams of experts stabilized exchange, modernized financial and fiscal institutions, and thus made countries more attractive to foreign investors, particularly during the lending boom of the 1920s. He played many of the roles later assigned to international financial institutions, principally the International Monetary Fund.

Kemmerer's overseas economic reforms began with the United States-Philippine Commission in 1903–1906. From 1917 to 1934 he conducted similar crusades against inflation in Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Germany, Chile, South Africa, Poland, Ecuador, Bolivia, China, Peru, and Turkey. In most cases, Kemmerer and his colleagues were invited independently by foreign governments, although the U.S. State Department heartily approved of his missions.

After the Great Depression, Kemmerer's influence faded, as he continued to espouse monetary stability based on the gold standard. Although his ideas lost sway, his institutions—such as the central bank, the superintendency of banking, and the national comptroller—continued as major instruments of economic policy-making in Latin America. Moreover, the pattern he set for the role of foreign advisers in Latin America's financial development forecast the operations of international institutions, academics, and technocrats in subsequent decades.

See alsoBanking .


Paul W. Drake, The Money Doctor in the Andes: The Kemmerer Missions, 1923–1933 (1989).

Edwin W. Kemmerer, "Economic Advisory Work for Governments," in American Economic Review 17, no. 1 (March 1927): 1-12.

Robert N. Seidel, "American Reformers Abroad: The Kemmerer Missions in South America, 1923–1931," in Journal of Economic History 32, no. 2 (June 1972): 520-545.

Additional Bibliography

Almeida Arroba, Rebeca. Kemmerer en el Ecuador. Quito: Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO), Sede Ecuador, 1994.

Rosenberg, Emily S. Financial Missionaries to the World: The Politics and Culture of Dollar Diplomacy, 1900–1930. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003.

                                            Paul W. Drake

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