Oliver M. W. Sprague

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Oliver M. W. Sprague
Born(1873-04-22)April 22, 1873
DiedMay 24, 1953(1953-05-24) (aged 80)
Boston, Massachusetts
SpouseFanny Knights Ide
ChildrenKatherine Ida Sprague
Theodore Wentworth Sprague
Parent(s)William Wallace Sprague
Miriam Wentworth Sprague
Academic background
Alma materHarvard University
ThesisThe English Woolen Industry in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries[1]
Doctoral advisorWilliam Ashley[1][a]
Academic work
Sub-disciplineFiscal policy, central banking
InstitutionsHarvard University
Imperial University of Tokyo
Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration

Oliver Mitchell Wentworth Sprague ((1873-04-22)April 22, 1873 – (1953-05-24)May 24, 1953) was an American economist and president of the American Economic Association in 1937.[3] His research focused on fiscal policy and central banking.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Sprague was born to William Wallace (1842–1912), a businessman,[4] and Miriam Sprague (née Wentworth) on April 22, 1873, in Somerville, Massachusetts. He attended St. Johnsbury Academy and graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University in 1894.[1] He went on to further study at Harvard, receiving an AM in 1896 and PhD in political science in 1897.[1][5]


After a year of study in England,[6] Sprague was made Austin Teaching Fellow in political economy, a one-year fixed-term position, at Harvard College in fall 1899.[b][7] He became instructor in political economy in 1900[c] and was promoted to assistant professor of economics in 1904. The Imperial University of Tokyo appointed him as a full professor of economics in 1905, where he stayed until 1908 when he returned to Harvard as an assistant professor of banking and finance at the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration.[6] He was made Edmund Cogswell Converse Professor of Banking and Finance in 1913, a post he held until his retirement in 1941.[5][9]

He was elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1931 and member of the American Philosophical Society in 1938.[10][11]

He served on the editorial board of the Quarterly Journal of Economics from 1909 to 1920.[1]

Other activities[edit]

Sprague held numerous advisory roles throughout his career. The Bank of England appointed him Chief Economist from 1930 to 1933; he was the second American to occupy this role.[d][1][12] He also advised the Reichsbank, the Bank of France, the Bank for International Settlements, and the League of Nations. He was a member of the League's Gold Delegation, which promoted the Gold Standard.[6]

Following his stint at the Bank of England, he served as assistant to the Secretary of the Treasury in 1933, a role he left the same year due to disagreement over the optimal path to recovery for the US economy.[6]

He used his expertise for various positions in the private sector too. He was a director of the National Shawmut Bank and a foreign exchange advisor to the General Motors Corporation.[6] He died in Boston, aged 80.

Personal life[edit]

Sprague married Fanny Knights Ide[e] in 1905. They had two children, Katherine Ida and Theodore Wentworth Sprague. He had four siblings: Charles Wentworth, Maude, Arthur and William.[4] The number of publications he could author was limited by his poor eyesight.[1]

Theodore (1912 – 2000) would graduate from the University of Cambridge, attend Johns Hopkins University for a year and receive his PhD in economics and sociology from Harvard in 1942, writing about "Some problems in the integration of social groups, with special reference to Jehovah's Witnesses", then become a substitute instructor in sociology at the University of Connecticut. He went on to teach sociology at Earlham College and Colgate University. He became a competitive dog breeder after his retirement.[14][15][16][17][1][5]

Selected works[edit]

  • Sprague, Oliver Mitchell Wentworth (1910). History of crises under the national banking system (PDF) (Report). Washington: Government Printing Office. OCLC 988890094.
  • Sprague, Oliver Mitchell Wentworth (1911). Banking Reform in the United States: A Series of Proposals, Including a Central Bank of Limited Scope. ISBN 978-1360510019.
  • Dunbar, Charles F.; Lindsay, Lady Jane (January 21, 2014). Chapters on the Theory and History of Banking. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 9781495293719.[f]
  • Sprague, Oliver Mitchell Wentworth (1934). Recovery and Common Sense.


  1. ^ Charles Franklin Dunbar according to INET's HET.[2]
  2. ^ A. Piatt Andrew, later Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, was awarded the same fellowship that year
  3. ^ 1901 according to the 1900-1901 Annual Report of Harvard College[8]
  4. ^ Following Walter W. Stewart, who served 1928–1930.
  5. ^ died on August 5, 1942[13]
  6. ^ Left uncompleted at Charles Dunbar's death and finished by Sprague


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Cole, Arthur H.; Masson, Robert L.; Williams, John H. (1954). "O. M. W. Sprague 1873-1953". The American Economic Review. 44 (1): 131–132. ISSN 0002-8282. JSTOR 1803068.
  2. ^ "HET: O.M.W. Sprague". www.hetwebsite.net. Retrieved January 14, 2021.
  3. ^ "American Economic Association | Past Presidents". www.aeaweb.org. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Humanities, National Endowment for the (June 12, 1912). "St. Johnsbury Caledonian. [volume] (St. Johnsbury, Vt.) 1867-1919, June 12, 1912, Image 4". St. Johnsbury Caledonian. ISSN 2331-7728. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c "Register of Papers: Oliver Mitchell Wentworth Sgrague" (PDF). COMMITTEE ON THE HISTORY OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM. November 1, 1955.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Oliver Mitchell Wentworth Sprague". The American Economic Review. 43 (5). 1953. ISSN 0002-8282. JSTOR 1808731.
  7. ^ "Appointments (Appendix)". Annual Reports of the Treasurer and President of Harvard College 1899-1900 (Report). 1901. p. 318.
  8. ^ "Appointments (Appendix)". Annual Reports of the Treasurer and President of Harvard College 1900-1901 (Report). 1901. p. 296.
  9. ^ "Sprague, Oliver Mitchell Wentworth, (22 April 1873–24 May 1953), Professor of Banking and Finance", Who Was Who, Oxford University Press, December 1, 2007, doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u243228, retrieved January 7, 2021
  10. ^ "Oliver Mitchell Wentworth Sprague". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
  11. ^ "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
  12. ^ Cole, Arthur H.; Masson, Robert L.; Williams, John H. (1954). "Erratum". The American Economic Review. 44 (3): 396. ISSN 0002-8282. JSTOR 1810812.
  13. ^ "MRS. OLIVER M.W. SPRAGUE: Wife of Economist, Harvard Professor Emeritus, Dies at 66". New York Times. August 6, 1942.
  14. ^ "Doctoral Dissertations". The American Economic Review. 33 (3): 767–790. 1943. ISSN 0002-8282. JSTOR 1813040.
  15. ^ "Higher Degrees in Sociology Conferred in 1942". American Journal of Sociology. 49 (1): 67–73. July 1, 1943. doi:10.1086/219313. ISSN 0002-9602. S2CID 222447923.
  16. ^ "Minutes, April 21, 1943". University of Connecticut, UCONN library.
  17. ^ "The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts on September 7, 2000 · 35". Newspapers.com. Retrieved January 8, 2021.