A Forgotten Stock Market Scandal from the 1920s
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Syracuse University Press
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Front Flap, Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication, About the Author
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They say that history is written by the winners, but maybe it should not always be about the winners. The losers, especially the ones who had what it takes to win, can be fascinating. That idea certainly applies to the L. R. Steel Company, founded in Buffalo in 1919 and bankrupt by 1923, leaving sixty thousand investors about twenty-six million dollars poorer. ...
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I wish to thank the following people and organizations who assisted Wilma and Roy McQuown and Mildred Bell. They are descendants of Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society. I spent time researching Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. The Grosvenor Room has a large and well-organized collection of newspapers, scrapbooks, and city ...
1. The Man Who Did Almost Everything Right: The Right Business at the Right Time in the Right Place
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In the early 1920s, Buffalo residents saw plenty of well-dressed “Steelites” driving new cars and eating at the best restaurants. Their offi ces had fresh fl owers every day. And they all had a certain peppy atti-tude, possibly from the motivational meeting that started each day at the offi ce. They beamed with the confi dence of people convinced that they ...
2. The Creative Promise of the L. R. Steel Company: Ten Thousand Lollipops
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L. R.’s Big Idea was not his only idea. This energetic visionary was full of ideas, many of them good. But he was not just a visionary; he actually implemented many of his ideas in the company. His creativity was evi-dent throughout his enterprise. Reading the newsletters reveals a com-pany that was way ahead of its time in many ways, and Steelites were ...
3. Inventing the Infomercial: Fifty Endings
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...ture industry. His birth in 1878 was almost coincidental with a technical In 1877 Leland Stanford, then governor of California, had made a casual bet with a friend over whether a horse ever has all four hooves off the ground at the same time while running. Stanford was sure that the horse was airborne at some point, although it was hard to determine from ...
4. The Life of a Salesman at the L. R. Steel Company: “How’s Yer Pep?”
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...“Steelites” could be found anywhere; churches, theaters, res-taurants, and, of course, at your doorstep. They gave people the opportu-nity to become part of a cheerful organization by owning shares in Steel’s. These “Steelites” were the heirs of the Liberty Bond Four-Minute Men who approached strangers with patriotic zeal. The difference, now, was ...
5. The Stores: The Best Fifty-Cent Chicken Dinner in Canada
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Th e good th ings in life were never more abundant than at the start of the Roaring Twenties in North America. L. R.’s personal calling was to bring this abundance to the average family. Things that would have been unimaginable luxuries in prior days were now “everyday miracles”: radios, toasters, washing machines, electric lights. Distributing these arti-...
6. The Denver Miracle: “Meet Me at Steel’s Corner”
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L. R.’s perpetual-motion machine just needed a little push to get started. Once in motion, it would generate enough energy (cash) to keep The Denver store at the northwest corner of Sixteenth and Welton was the fi nal embodiment of his retail theory. He built a store large enough to dominate a market with low prices and surrounded it with satellite stores ...
7. The Late-Night Meeting: “Well, Folks, Here We Are”
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The Lincoln Building in downtown Buffalo was the scene of a heated meeting on Friday, January 26, 1923. Steel’s was out of money. They could not pay their bills. A $250,000 payment on a loan that funded the acquisi-tion of the F. E. Nelson stores was due, and they were unable to pay it. It was the fi nal payment of a $1 million loan, so missing the payment would ...
8. L. R.’s Last Train Ride: “I Was Awakened by a Peculiar Sound”
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L. R. grew restless at Marguerite Manor. Both federal and state authorities were auditing his records for evidence of fraud, illegal use of the mails, or any other irregularities. Also, winters in Buffalo are not likely to lift the spirits of someone who has just lost his empire and is in the process of losing his reputation. He was used to action, to being the one with the big ...
9. Was It a Ponzi Scheme? Would a Crook Live Next to a Chicken Farm?
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Leonard Rambler Steel and Charles Ponzi had a lot in common. They were both snappy dressers who had many loyal followers. They were both known for their personal generosity and donations to charity. They were both extremely devoted to their mothers. They were both optimists who had great faith in themselves. Ponzi was so confi dent that he had no sav-...
10. What Went Wrong? Failure Is an Option
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The newspapers reported the story as if crimes were committed, but, in the end, it was a story about the failure of a very creative and aggressive business that lost money. There is nothing illegal about losing money.Business failures tend to follow a predictable pattern. Jim Collins, in How the Mighty Fall and Why Some Companies Never Give In (2009), has ...
11. The Legacy of Failure: Life Goes on . . . or Not
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Failure has consequences. Lives change. Businesses vanish. Build-At its zenith, Steel’s had seventy-fi ve retail locations in sixty-one cities, perhaps fi ve thousand employees, and sixty thousand investors. There were also more than one hundred offi ces that supported the “service” The sales offi ces closed immediately, and the salespeople drifted ...
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The line between success and failure is so fi nely drawn that often all that is required is one step forward to land on the winning side.We always hear about the winners; this book is about the losers.We have all heard the rags-to-riches stories told by those who succeed against the odds. We have heard the inspirational messages about how ...
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Back Flap, Back Cover
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Page Count: 200
Illustrations: 144 black and white illustrations
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: New York State
Series Editor Byline: Deanna McCay