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143-The Conscience Fund

By Greg and Sharon Ross

For 200 years the U.S. Treasury has maintained a "conscience fund" that accepts repayments from people who have defrauded or stolen from the government. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the history of the fund and some of the more memorable and puzzling contributions it's received over the years. We'll also ponder Audrey Hepburn's role in World War II and puzzle over an illness cured by climbing poles. Intro: Wisconsin banker John Krubsack grafted 32 box elders into a living chair. According to his colleagues, Wolfgang Pauli's mere presence would cause accidents. Sources for our feature on the conscience fund: Warren Weaver Jr., "'Conscience Fund' at New High," New York Times, March 18, 1987. "$10,000 to Conscience Fund," New York Times, July 21, 1915. "$6,100 to Conscience Fund," New York Times, Feb. 4, 1925. "Swell Conscience Fund; Two Remittances, Small and Large, Bring In $4,876.70," New York Times, Feb. 6, 1916. "Sends $50 to War Department for Equipment Stolen in 1918," New York Times, March 2, 1930. "Depression Swells Total of Federal Conscience Fund," New York Times, April 21, 1932. "Federal Treasury Gets $300 to Add to Conscience Fund," New York Times, March 25, 1932. "9,896 Two-Cent Stamps Sent to City's Conscience Fund," New York Times, May 15, 1930. "$30,000 to Conscience Fund; Contributor Says He Has Sent Four Times Amount He Stole," New York Times, March 10, 1916. "Guilt: Settling With Uncle Sam," Time, March 30, 1987. "The Conscience Fund: Many Thousands Contributed -- Some Peculiar Cases," New York Times, Aug. 5, 1884. "Pays Government Fourfold; Conscience Bothered Man Who Took $8,000 from Treasury," New York Times, June 13, 1908. Rick Van Sant, "Guilt-Stricken Pay Up to IRS 'Conscience Fund' Gets Cash, Quilts," Cincinnati Post, Jan. 26, 1996. John Fairhall, "The Checks Just Keep Coming to the 'Conscience Fund,'" Baltimore Sun, Dec. 10, 1991. Donna Fox, "People Who Rip Off Uncle Sam Pay the 'Conscience Fund,'" Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 24, 1987. Associated Press, "Ten Thousand Dollars in Currency Is Sent to U.S. 'Conscience Fund,'" Harrisburg [Pa.] Telegraph, July 20, 1915. "Washington Letter," Quebec Daily Telegraph, July 3, 1889. "Figures of the Passing Show," Evening Independent, Sept. 16, 1909. James F. Clarity and Warren Weaver Jr., "Briefing: The Conscience Fund," New York Times, Dec. 24, 1985. Warren Weaver Jr., "'Conscience Fund' at New High," New York Times, March 18, 1987. "Conscience Fund Too Small," Los Angeles Times, Aug. 16, 1925. "Laborer Swells Conscience Fund," New York Times, June 28, 1912. "A Conscience Fund Contribution," New York Times, Feb. 14, 1895. "The Conscience Fund," New York Times, March 27, 1932. "Swells Conscience Fund: Californian, Formerly in the Navy, Gets Religion and Pays for Stationery on His Ship," Los Angeles Times, May 5, 1915. "2 Cents, Conscience Fund: Sent to Pay for Twice-Used Stamp -- Costs Post Office a Dollar," New York Times, June 2, 1910. "$30,000 to Conscience Fund: Contributor Says He Has Sent Four Times Amount He Stole," New York Times, March 10, 1916. "'Conscience Fund' Rises: New Yorker's $8 Is Item in $896.49 Sent Treasury," New York Times, Nov. 28, 1937. "The Conscience Fund: Many Thousands Contributed -- Some Peculiar Cases," New York Times, Aug. 5 1884. "The Conscience Fund: Young Woman Seeks a Loan From It From a Belief It Was Created for Benefit of Honest People," Los Angeles Times, July 13, 1914. "Gives to Conscience Fund: Contributor of $36 'Forgot Tax Item' -- Another Sends $32," New York Times, April 3, 1936. "Conscience-Fund Flurries: Due to Religious Revivals," Los Angeles Times, Nov. 28, 1903. "$100 for Conscience Fund: Customs Officials Think Same Person Sent $10c a Few Days Ago," New York Times, March 10, 1928. "Swell Conscience Fund: Two Remittances, Small and Large, Bring In $4,876.70," New York Times, Feb. 6, 1916. "Conscience Fund for President: Pasadena Writer Sends Dollar to Harding to Make Good for 20-Year-Old Theft," Los Angeles Times, April 17, 1921. "$33 for Conscience Fund: Smuggler Sent Taft the Money After Selling His Goods," New York Times, May 21, 1911. "$1 to Conscience Fund: Remorseful Laborer Pays Off Debt to Government by Installments," New York Times, Nov. 10, 1912. "The Nation's Conscience Fund," Scrap Book, May 1906. "Uncle Sam's Conscience Fund," Book of the Royal Blue, November 1904. "The Conscience Fund," Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, July 1894. "Gives $18,669 to Conscience Fund," Chicago Tribune, Nov. 26, 1901. "Large and Small Sums Swell Conscience Fund," Virginia Chronicle, March 6, 1925. "Miscellaneous Revenue Collections, or Conscience Fund," Internal Revenue Manual 3.8.45.7.35 (01-01-2011), U.S. Internal Revenue Service (accessed Feb. 12, 2017). Listener mail: "Myth Debunked: Audrey Hepburn Did Not Work for the Resistance" [in Dutch], Dutch Broadcast Foundation, Nov. 17, 2016. The official Audrey Hepburn site. To see the mentioned image of Hepburn and her mother in a musical benefit concert in 1940, Samantha gives these steps: From the homepage, go to the "life & career" section. On the left side of the page, choose "1929-1940," then "Audrey's childhood." Click the down arrow below the image 15 times. A screen test of Hepburn in 1953, in which she says she gave secret ballet performances to raise money for "the underground": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSnKWwRCWnw Airborne Museum's exhibition on Audrey Hepburn and her mother, Ella van Heemstra. Two obituaries of Michael Burn: William Grimessept, "Michael Burn, Writer and Adventurer, Dies at 97," New York Times, Sept. 14, 2010. "Michael Burn," Telegraph, Sept. 6, 2010. This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Alexander Loew. Here are two corroborating links (warning -- these spoil the puzzle). You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset. Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website. Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode. If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!

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