It’s been several months since I’ve discovered a new money movie to share with you. I love these things, but I’ve exhausted most of my sources for Public Domain material. However, while browsing the Prelinger Archives again the other day, I discovered a little gem that had slipped my notice before: “What Makes Us Tick”, a short cartoon from 1952 that describes how the stock market works.

Note: The Prelinger Archives offer hours of amusement (and edification). Among other things, this collection includes hundreds of short educational films about money, history, and relationships. Most of these films are in the Public Domain. Those that are can be found at the Internet Archive.

“What Makes Us Tick” is a 12-minute cartoon (in Technicolor!) that extols the virtues of the stock market: “Common stock investments have helped to make our country prosperous and powerful. Owning a share of American industry is like owning a share in the future of our nation!” Like many of my favorite old educational films, this one was produced by John Sutherland.

“In a typical city or town,” the film begins, “on a typical residential street, we find a typical home occupied by a typical American family. Like millions of his fellow Americans, John Q. Public earns enough money to keep up the payments on a new car. He takes great pride in owning a fine new long-term mortgaged home that was built to last a lifetime.

Yes, John Q. Public is embracing the new American lifestyle of debt! But he longs for a little more: “In spite of the high cost of being a husband and a father, John Q. has a private little nest egg. His practical nature tells him that it ought to do more than collect moths.”

The rest of the film illustrates how Mr. Public can take his nest egg and use it to invest in industry, helping the country grow while also earning a little dividend for his trouble. It’s fun stuff.

I love this film — and others like it. I love the way they cheerlead and educate at the same time. And, especially, I love the glimpse into American culture from a bygone era, when consumerism was just beginning to thrive.

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