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The Rise of the Billionaires Leaves the Middle Class Stranded

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Friday, August 22, 2014

RUNNING AGAINST SOCIAL SECURITY

I would say that Bertrand Snell is a shinning example of the “Peter Principle”. Bertrand (above, with his ideological opponent, FDR) started out life as a bookkeeper. Then he successfully ran a cheese factory, and then a lumber company in upstate New York. He was well qualified to fill all of those positions. For awhile he was the president of a small college. This success led, in 1915, to Bertrand being elected to congress. In 1931 he became the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. That led, in 1932, to his being elected Minority Leader in the House of Representatives. And that made him one of the primary architects of the disaster which befell the Republican Party in 1936, the first time they ran against the brand new Social Security program of the New Deal. In short, it was Bertrand Snell’s fault. Of course, he had some help.
Herbert Hoover had not only lost the 1932 Presidential Election, he lost it by almost 18 percentage points. His ineffectualness at dealing with the Great Depression (the stock market crash had occurred just 6 months after he first took office) was so obvious that Herbert won only 6 states – Pennsylvania, Delaware, R.I., Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. And yet Herbert still had hopes he could engineer a come back. Yes, FDR’s New Deal had already created six million jobs, and had doubled industrial production and sent corporate profits from a $2 billion loss under Hoover to a $5 billion profit under Roosevelt. But there were still 8 million Americans unemployed, and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) was charging that the new Social Security Administration was part of a fascist/communist take over of the federal government. Does any of this sound familiar?  Anyway, back to our story...
On June 9th, 1936, Herbert addressed the Republican National Convention in the Public Auditorium in Cleveland, Ohio, and did his very best to rally the faithful to his cause. As Time Magazine detailed, “After 15 minutes (of) yelling, shrieking (and) hooting, (Hoover) was allowed to begin."
He warmed up quickly. According to Time, Hoover told the faithful, "Fundamental American liberties are at stake. Is the Republican Party ready…to cast your all upon the issue?" "Yes!" roared the crowd….".. have you determined to enter in a holy crusade for freedom which shall determine the future and the perpetuity of a nation of free men?" "Yes!" roared the crowd in ecstasy.” The faithful went on chanting “Hoo-ver, Hoo-ver, Hoo-ver,” long after Herbert had left the stage.
Noted Time; “The demonstration could not be stopped for half an hour, even when Speaker Snell tried to introduce a little old lady, surprisingly pert for her 77 years, the widow of President Benjamin Harrison.” Finally Bertrand banged his big gavel and informed the crowd that Herbert would not be coming out for a curtain call because he had already boarded a train for New York. Stunned, the floor demonstrators paused for a breath, and in vague confusion the demonstrations petered out. 
Except, Herbert had not even left the building. He was in fact, just off stage, waiting to be recalled by the carefully prepared demonstrations, and proclaimed the nominee by acclamation. That was his plan, anyway. But Bertrand had already determined that the party nominee would not be Hoover. It would be Governor Alf Landon, known affectionately to the faithful as “The Kansas Coolidge”. The party chairman had cut the ground out from under Hoover.
Alf, was the only Republican governor re-elected in 1934. He had a reputation as a fiscal conservative who cut taxes and balanced the state budget. That made him the Republican wonder-kid, the perfect man to oppose the “tax and spend” Roosevelt.
Alf's candidacy had a few problems, of course. What candidate does not? First; Landon had balanced the Kansas budgets because Roosevelt's New Deal had kicked in millions of dollars to offset the state's deficits. Second; Alf publicly supported so many parts of the New Deal, including Social Security, that he was at odds with the Republican party platform. Third; Alf was a terrible public speaker. He mumbled. And like any good mid-westerner, even when speaking clearly he didn’t blow his own horn very much. As H. L. Mencken noted, he "simply lacks the power to inflame the boobs."
The party platform that Alf was going to have to stand on had been engineered by Chairman Bertrand and forty-four year old John Daniel Miller Hamilton (above), the “crinkly haired” “jut-jawed” G.O.P. general counsel, who reeked of “animal vigor.” Hamilton was paid $15,000 a year to be the parties’ attack dog. He was described by one fellow Republican as having, “…a seven-devil lust to live and shine under the blessings of the rich”.  Both Bertrand and Hamilton were Af’s front men, and Hamilton had nominated the Kansas Governor. And to seal the deal, in his speech Hamilton read a telegram from Governor Landon promising to support the anti-New Deal anti-Social Security platform. 
Said the Republican platform; “For three long years the New Deal Administration has dishonored American traditions…has been guilty of frightful waste and extravagance, …has created a vast multitude of new offices, …set up a centralized bureaucracy, and sent out swarms of inspectors to harass our people. It has bred fear and hesitation in commerce and industry, thus discouraging new enterprises, preventing employment and prolonging the depression…We pledge ourselves: To preserve the American system of free enterprise, private competition, and equality of opportunity...We advocate: Abandonment of all New Deal policies that raise production costs, increase the cost of living, and thereby restrict buying, reduce volume and prevent reemployment. …”.  Sound familiar? It should. Basically, this has been the Republican Party Platform for the last seventy years!
But the platform saved its most vicious criticism for that newest New Deal program, Social Security. It was Social Security that had "energized the base".  As it was initially passed the program did not cover farm workers, the self employed, state, federal or local government workers, railroad workers, or domestics. There was no aid for the disabled, and there were no cost of living alliances. Still,the Republican platform for 1936 charged, "The New Deal policies, while purporting to provide social security, have, in fact, endangered it", and claimed that "the fund will contain nothing but the government's promise to pay" and is "unworkable".  Again, does any of this sound familiar? 
 
Bertrand had a master plan for victory, funded by a $14 million war chest (equal to $207.5 million today), with over a million of that coming from just three families – DuPont, Pew and Rockefeller – and the rest almost entirely from business leaders anxious to prevent further Federal regulations of their business. 
And then there was “The Liberty League,” described by one historian as “…the best-financed and the most professionally run…anti-big-government organization ever to come down the pike.” The League was the original "Astro-turf" pesudo-grassroots organization. It raised and spent as much cash as the two established parties combined (30% of it coming from the Koch brothers of the day,  the DuPont family). The League's  national headquarters occupied 31 rooms in the National Press Building, and there were 20 state branches. Hamilton confessed later, "Without Liberty League money we (the GOP) wouldn't have had a national headquarters."
The campaign that followed saw the constant repetition of the extremist scare tactic. The New Deal became “The Raw Deal”. Franklyn Delano Roosevelt became “Stalin Delano Roosevelt”. William Randolph Hearst asserted in a pro-Landon editorial, “The Bolshevist tyranny in Russian has ordered all Bolshevists, communists and revolutionaries in the Untied States to support Roosevelt!" It all sounds so familiar in the Obama Care World of 2014. Or the Republican attack on Social Security in 2012. The term "repetition" leaps to mind.
In late October 1936 the Republican National Committee sent checks for $5.00 to 400 black pastors in Maryland, along with a letter, which began, “Dear Brother,” and then argued that the G.O.P. had always done more to help blacks than the Democrats had - Not since the Civil War, but its the thought that counts, right?
The Young Republicans were founded during this election to get out the "youth" vote. And to encourage women to vote Republican, fashion shows were staged.  Every show would start with a woman wearing a wooden barrel on suspenders, marked, “If The New Deal Wins”, followed by lovely models in Paris designs, marked “If Landon Wins." Women were expected to be swayed by such "fashion politics".
A few weeks before the election, tens of thousands of workers opened their paychecks to find what looked like an official government notice. In fact it was from their bosses and the Republican Party, warning workers that if Roosevelt were re-elected, come January they would all suffer a 1% pay reduction. This prompted the head of the Social Security Board, a life long Republican, to issue an immediate response, asserting that ""Any political message in a worker's pay envelope is coercion. It is a new form of the old threat to shut down the mill if the employer's candidate isn't elected. We're supposed to be beyond that in this country."  Well, we are approaching a century later and we still aren't!
Finally, Landon himself was coaxed into actually speaking out against Social Security, and joining the anti-Social Security bandwagon. In a Milwaukee speech, he called the program ""unjust, unworkable, stupidly drafted and wastefully financed."  It was socialism, communism, and an attempt at the redistribution of wealth. And it would bankrupt the nation in a year. Or maybe two. Almost a century later, and the Republicans are still predicting its immanent demise.
However, it appears that most Americans saw all of this Republican effort in the same light as that expressed by the voter,  who said that Roosevelt was "the first man in the White House to understand that my boss is a son-of-a-bitch"  In 1936 the Democrats came out swinging, including FDR, as illustrated in a speech he delivered in Boston, and which he wrote himself. “In the summer of 1933", said FDR, "a nice old gentleman fell off a pier. He was unable to swim. A friend ran down the pier, dived overboard and pulled him out. But his silk hat floated away with the tide. After the old gentleman was revived he was effusive in his thanks. He praised his friend for saving his life. Today, three years later, the old man is berating his friend because the silk hat was lost.”
The election of November 3, 1936 was the most lopsided since James Monroe ran unopposed in 1820. Eighty-three percent of eligible voters showed up at the polls and Roosevelt won almost 61% of their vote. He carried every state in the union except Vermont and Maine, giving rise to the Democratic twist on the old adage, “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont”. 
Roosevelt won 532 electoral votes to Landon’s 8. Seventy-one percent of Americans of African decent voted Democratic, as well as 57% of women, 63% of men, 76% of low income voters, 80% of Catholics and 86% of Jewish voters. After the election the Democrats held the Senate, 75-16, and the House, 332 to just 88 Republicans.
Landon would admit that his attack upon Social Security had been a mistake, and henceforth he publicly opposed any attempt to dismantle this New Deal program. John D. Hamilton would say after the election, "The Lord himself couldn't have beaten Roosevelt in 1936, much less the Liberty League." Maybe; but the election was the death knell of the Liberty League. They lingered into 1940, when the DuPont family finally pulled their funding, and the group then quietly died. Long before that John Hamilton had his own reactionary reckoning. 
In 1937 Hamilton's wife sued him for divorce, on the grounds of “gross neglect of duty, abandonment and extreme cruelty.” That same year Alf Landon had Hamilton removed as Party Chairman, as Landon tried to rebuild the party in his own Midwestern less reactionary less-ideological image.
Under Landon's non-red baiting non-FDR hating conservative guidance the party stopped trying to overturn all of the New Deal and began to climb its way back. The Republicans would gain strength until 1948 when it looked like they were certain to regain the White House. But late in that campaign they gloated too publicly about finally eliminating Social Security,  and that handed Harry Truman his come-from-behind re-election. It was not until Ronald Reagan in his 1981 inauguration speech that the G.O.P again openly called for overturning substantial parts of New Deal programs. But even Reagan knew better that to attack Social Security. 
The 1936 election left Bertrand Snell, the leader of smallest Republican Minority in the House of Representatives since the Civil War. He was one of the few Republicans re-elected in 1936. But he did not run again in 1938. Instead, he went into the newspaper business. He published the "Potsdam, New York Courier-Freeman" and ran it until 1949. He also became the owner of the New York State Oil Company. He was ably qualified for both of those jobs. He died in 1958, while a Republican occupied the White House. That Republican was Dwight D. Eisenhower, He was a national hero, and a product of the Landon influence. But the conservative wing of the GOP charged that "Ike"was a Republican In Name Only, and his administration was nothing better than a "little New Deal" administration. 
It seemed that with time, the Grand Old Party is determined to forget the lesson Bertrand Snell had sacrificed himself to teach them, and which Alf Landon had given so much to drive home to the party faithful. Running against Social Security is political suicide. And now so is the Affordable Care Act.. 
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

ITS A GAME


I might say the weather was prophetic. A thunderstorm blew in that Tuesday morning, June 14, 1949 before dawn. It must have felt a relief at first, breaking a ten day dry spell. But when the thunder faded, the sky remained so uninviting that only 7,815 showed up at the corner of North Clark and West Addison, to file into Wrigley Field. Last place Chicago was hosting fourth place Philadelphia, but the real draw was the first return of two popular players, first baseman Eddie Waitkus, and pitcher Russ “Mad Monk” Mayer, who had both been traded to the Phillies the previous December. At first it seemed unlikely the ex-Cubs would get their revenge, but after noon the clouds parted, and by game time the sun was driving temperatures into the low eighties.
“Rowdy Russ” pitched his typical game. While there were no temper tantrums this time, the scowling screw ball pitcher went eight and two-thirds innings, gave up ten hits and made two wild pitches, while allowing only one walk. Eddie, who was such a good defensive player he was known as "the natural",  also rose to the occasion, going two for four, with a walk, and he scored twice. The Cubs staged a ninth inning rally on two solo home runs, but 2 hours and 12 minutes after it began, the Phillies had won 9 to 2, improving their record to 29 and 25, while the Cubs sank to a dismal 19 wins against 32 losses. As morality plays go it was a very satisfying for the pair of exiled heroes. But it was only the opening act.
Two miles north of the ballpark, the Edgewater Beach Hotel (above) had opened on Chicago's North Shore in 1916, just in time for the Roaring Twenties. With a thousand rooms and twelve stories over looking Lake Michigan, a private beach, tennis courts, swimming pools, a golf course, hiking and riding trails, a five star restaurant, and sea plane service to the downtown Chicago lakefront, the Spanish stucco hotel was the Midwest coast du jour for a decade. During the thirties, Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw played in the outdoor and the indoor ballrooms, and were broadcast over the hotel's own radio station – WEBH. However the depression eventually grew so great it forced the owners to sell, and by 1949, 'The Sunrise Hotel” was an aging dame, concealing the mends in her petticoats - hiding the truth that fame and fortune, and youth and health are merely temporary distractions.
The Phillies team bus got back to the Edgewater at 5349 North Sheridan by four, and after showering, Russ met with his parents and his fiance Dorthy, who had driven the 80 miles up from their homes in Peru, Illinois. Eddie joined them taking a cab to a restaurant. Eddie Sawyer, the Phillies manager, had set a ten o’clock curfew. Although Myer usually paid little attention to such restrictions (one teammate admitted he roomed only with Russ's bags), this night he and Eddie made the check in. After escorting Dorthy and Meyer's parents to their room, the ball players returned to their own quarters in room 904. There they discovered a note addressed to Eddie, taped to the door.
Written on hotel stationary, the note read: “Mr. Waitkus; It's extremely important that I see you as soon as possible. We're not acquainted, but I have something of importance to speak to you about. I think it would be to your advantage to let me explain it to you. As I am leaving the hotel the day after tomorrow, I'd appreciate it greatly if you would see me as soon as possible. My name is Ruth Ann Burns, and I am in room 1297a. I realize this is a little out of the ordinary, but as I said, its rather important. Please come soon. I won't take up much of your time, I promise.”
Eddie would say later he thought the note was from an old girl friend from his hometown of Boston. But whatever his reason, instead of just calling the twelfth floor room, despite the late hour, Eddie decided to go there directly. It was about eleven thirty, and another thunderstorm was ripping the darkness, when 29 year old Eddie Waitkus stepped off the elevator on the twelfth floor.
The door of room 1297a was opened by a tall, dark haired young woman, who introduced herself as Marry Brown. She told Eddie, “Ruth Ann will be back in a few minutes. Why don't you have a seat.” Eddie squeezed past the fold out bed in the small room (above). As he sat in a nondescript chair (right)  he noticed three empty drinking glasses sitting on the dresser (left) – a daiquiri and two whiskey sours. Eddie realized with a start the woman was staring at him. He remembered, “She had the coldest looking face I've ever seen.” And then he realized the woman was holding a rifle. As he stood up, she shot Eddie in the chest.
The bullet drilled through Eddies' right lung, causing it to collapse, and lodged in the muscles of his back, next to his spine. Stunned, Eddie asked the woman, “Oh Baby, what did you do that for?” As he fell the blinding pain hit him. And as he struggled to catch his breath, Eddie heard the clinking of the telephone dial. After a moment, he heard the woman's voice. “I've just shot a man, in my room” she said. Then she hung up, walked out and waited beside the elevator for the police to arrive. When the attendants carried Eddie out of the room, Rowdy Russ heard his friend Eddie asking, over and over, “Why?”
The shooter willingly identified herself as 19 year old Catherine “Ruth” Ann Steinhagen (above), a typist for the Continental Casualty insurance company. She told the detectives, “I went to Cubs Park and watched Eddie help the Phillies beat the Cubs 9 to 2. It was wonderful.” But then she said, “If he had just walked into the room a little decently, I would have told him to call the police. However he was too confident. He swaggered.” Asked to describe her relationship with Eddie, Ruth Ann said, “I just became nuttier and nuttier about the guy. I knew I would never get to know him in a normal way...Then I decided I would kill him. I didn’t know how or when, but I knew I would kill him.” She added, “I'm sorry that Eddie had to suffer so, but I had to relieve the tension that I have been under the past two weeks.”
The cops checked out Ruth Ann's apartment, at 3600 North Lincoln Avenue, where it crossed North 

Addison. From the Brown Line station on the corner, her apartment was less than five minutes from The 

Loop, where CC Insurance had their offices. It was also less than half a mile west of Wrigley Field, where 

Ruth Ann had been a regular during the 1948 season, attending 50 games – before Eddie had been traded 

to  Philadelphia. And on the walls of Ruth Ann's room, the detectives found a shrine to Eddie Waitkus, a 

collage of photos cut from magazines, and newspaper clippings, even on the ceiling above her bed.
Her mother admitted the girl had developed an obsession with the Boston native, even regularly eating 

baked beans. Ruth Ann studied Lithuanian, because Eddies' parents had immigrated from that nation. In 

1948, when Ruth Ann started setting a place for Eddie at the family dinner table, her parents sent her to a 

psychiatrist. She told the doctor, “I used to go to all the ball games to watch him. We used to wait for them 

to come out of the clubhouse after the game.” When Eddie was traded to Philadelphia, Ruth Ann cried “day 

and night.” As spring training approached in 1949, she moved out of the family home to her Lincoln Avenue 

apartment.
At her arraignment on June 30, 1949 – 17 days after the shooting - Dr. William Haines diagnosed Ruth Ann as suffering with schizophrenia, and her lawyer affirmed that she was “unable to cooperate with counsel in her own defense”. Judge James McDermott committed her to the Illinois Eastern Hospital for the Insane at Kankakee. 
Meanwhile, Eddie had suffered through four surgeries, and came close to dieing more than once. But he was young, in good shape, and his combat tour in the Philippines in 1944-45, where he had earned four Bronze Stars.  The army had left him disciplined. He would miss the rest of the 1949 season, and he never again achieve the .306 batting average he held on June 14, 1949. But on opening day of the 1950 season, the Philadelphia first baseman went three for five.
Ruth Ann spent three years in Kankakee, repeatedly under going electroconvulsive shock therapy, as well as hydro and occupational therapy. In April 1952 the doctors deemed her to be “cured”. The prosecutors office asked if Eddie want to pursue a case against Ruth Ann, and he said no. Ruth Ann was never tried for her shooting of Eddie Waitkus. When the 22 year old was released into the custody of her parents (above), Ruth Ann told reporters she was going to go to work at the Kankakee hospital as a physical therapist, but she never did.
Most of the Edgewater Hotel was demolished in 1968, leaving a single pink colored apartment tower, and the once private beach. The site is now Park Tower Market.
Eddie retired in 1955 at 35 years of age, with a life time batting average of .285. He had married one of his nurses, and they had a son. For many years he was an instructor at a Ted Williams baseball camp, teaching future major league players. But Eddie also showed the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, from his war experiences and his shooting at the Edgwater. He became an alcoholic, and a recluse. Said his son, “His nerves were shattered for awhile...and he didn't recognize the problems, but they hampered him for the rest of his life.” Edward Stephen Waitkus died of esophageal cancer on September 16, 1972, at just 53 years of age.
Catherine Ruth Ann Steinhagen lived quietly with her family in a nondescript north west Chicago home until her parents died in the early 1990's. Her sister died there in 2007. Just after Christmas of 2012 Ruth Ann fell in her home (above), hit her head and suffered a subdural hemotoma. She died on December 29 in the Swedish Convent Hospital, at 5145 N. California Avenue, two-and-a-half miles north of Wrigley Field, and about two miles west of the old site of the Edgewater Beach Hotel. She was 83 years old..
The incident inspired the book and film “The Natural”. But as you can see, legend often has only a passing acquaintance with reality. And reality, often has only a passing acquaintance with  legend.
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Sunday, August 17, 2014

GREAT EXPECTATIONS Part Four

I suppose the luckiest moment in the history of Phoenix, Arizona occurred when the first settlers decided to reject the suggestion of its founder,  Jack Swilling,  that they should name the new town “Stonewall”, after the Confederate General "Stonewall Jackson".  Instead they listened to the more educated voice of Phillip Darrell Duppa, an Englishman who had been versed in the classics. Phillip liked to call himself “Lord Duppa”,  a  title delivered with a self depreciating grin. The limey  had the romantic idea that the ugly little adobe town founded between the White Tank Mountains and the Salt River was a place of rebirth, a spot where new life could rise from the ashes of the old, like the Phoenix Bird. And that appealed to the survivors of the Civil War, from both sides. On the other hand it was bad luck when James Reavis stepped off the California stagecoach in Phoenix, to raise the Peralta Land Grant from its ashes.
Phoenix was not legally a town yet when Reavis arrived in April of 1880. That would happen in February of the following year. But already the town had almost 2,500 citizens, a couple of churches, a school on Center Street, 16 saloons, four dance halls, a bank and a telegraph line connection to the outside world. And Huntington and Cooke's  railroad was already reaching out from San Diego, although it had not reach the town yet. But James Reavis showed no interest in any of that. He told people he was a subscription agent for the San Francisco Examiner, but he sold very few subscriptions. He read the local paper, he listened when people talked , and he gauged the spirit of the place. He even traveled the 15 miles out to where the seasonal Salt River and the perennial Gila Rivers met, and clambered about over the hills for an hour or so. On his return to town, he boarded the stagecoach for the terrible one hundred mile journey north, into the mountains, to the territorial capital of Prescott.
Repeated conflagrations had forced the mining town of less than 2,000 to begin building in brick, including a new court house (above).  It was in that building in May of 1880 that James Reavis presented a letter from George’s Willing's widow, granting him authority to act in her name and take possession of the bill of sale for the Peralta land grant. And once he had this bill of sale in his hand, James caught the next coach bound for San Francisco.
Once back in San Franciso, Reavis now oversaw an English translation of  the Royal Credula -  “The King's Debt” - the land grant supposedly made by the Spanish King. This had of course originally been written in English, by Reavis' conspirators back in St. Louis. But now Reavis had actually seen the land, and could make minor changes in the translation to reflect the actual terrain.  
After discussions with Huntington and Crocker, James Reavis decided to expand the size of the grant, placing its very center at the confluence of the Salt and Gila rivers,.which he had visited on his day trip. Contained within the grant now were the towns of Phoenix, Tempe and Casa Granda. Fifty miles east, and still covered by the grant, was the richest claim in the territory, the Silver King Mine, producing $10,000 out of every ton of ore pried from its tunnels. Reavis added a helpful note from the powerful Inquisition of New Spain, dated 1757, assuring the Viceroy there was no impediment to the grant, and a statement from the lucky recipient, Don Miguel de Peralta, himself, dated 1758, which defined the western boundary so as to reach all the way to Silver City, New Mexico territory, and the silver deposits under Chloride Flats north of there. Preparing this new old paperwork took the entire winter of 1880-81.
In July of 1881 Reavis finally made it to Sacramento, to repay Florin Massaol and get his hands on the mineral rights George Willing had pawned back in 1874.  In the end, however, Massaol was so impressed by the people backing Reavis, the forger got what he wanted for only the cost of a railroad ticket. All he had to do was sign yet another promissory note, agreeing to pay Massol $3,000 if and when the Peralta grant was confirmed by an American court. In exchange Massaol signed over power of attorney on the mineral rights to Reavis  That's all Reavis wanted, anyway. It as not as if he had any intention of ever digging for gold or silver himself.
Reavis then boarded a train for Washington, D.C., seeking the record book of the Mission San Xavier del Bac, located just south of Phoenix, Arizona, and a benchmark used for the grant. The book had been the territories' contribution to the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. After the Exhibition had closed, the book along with other exhibits, had been moved to Washington. It was still there, and Reavis was permitted access to the book because of his contacts with wealthy Californians. Had the book still been in Arizona such “friends” might have been a source of suspicion, but in far off Washington the other rule about museum curators came into play - they never miss an opportunity to impress a potential wealthy patron. Reavis was allowed to spend several days in private,  going over the book. In September he continued his odyssey in Mexico City, and then on to Guadalajara..
In both Mexican cities James Reavis bonded with the archivists, the librarians and probate clerks in charge of the documents and records he needed. He told them he was a correspondent for San Francisco newspapers, looking for stories about the roots of California families, and probably paid them for small “favors” he received. And when he returned to California in late November of 1881, he had photographs of the documents, as well as typed translations and certified copies, all paid for by his wealthy investors. Six months later he was in Lexington, Kentucky, agreeing to pay George Willings widow, May Ann, $30,000 for the free and clear ownership of the Peralta grant – 50% more than George had paid for it in 1863 – a transaction which, in reality, had never taken place.
This proves again the central rule of capitalism, which is that everything has a value, defined as what people are willing to pay for what they want. And in most capitalist endeavors, the first step is to create the want. And that is what James Reavis was about to begin doing.
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