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The Red Cap’s Gift: How Tipping Tempers the Rational Power of Money


Modern people are obsessed with money, but the practice of tipping a waiter or chambermaid is a counterbalance against money’s tendency to infect human relations. People who tip infect money back, with nonmonetary values. This article provides a general history of tips investing money and monetary exchange with ideals such as status, dignity, waste, care, and play, in certain parts of the United States, c. 1880–1929. It also offers a case study of railroad red caps’ tips in the five years following passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938; when tipping declined, it reduced red caps’ ability to invest their work with nonmonetary values.

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