March 16, 1978
by Wilbur Norton Vroman
Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public
This paper comes from an
accumulation of scribbled notes and memories. It suffers from a lack of preciseness, and
possible inaccuracies. But can one ask for preciseness and accuracy from notes and
memories both besmudged by about forty-nine years of neglect?
For nearly fifty years,
the writer had kept clippings from newspaper and magazines and had made notes about
individuals whom he had found interesting. Those individuals could be placed roughly in
two categories: Those of strong convictions or authority who had become community or
industrial leaders; and those whose singular reactions to situations had made them
anecdotal. This paper is an expansion of those clippings and notes.
In the collection of the
Bostonian Society, there is a manuscript that reads as follows:
We, the subscribers and
inhabitants of the town of Edgartown, do sincerely and truly covenant and agree to and
with each other that from and after the first day of January, A.D. 1775 we will not
directly or indirectly by ourselves and for any over or under us purchase of any person or
persons whatsoever for the use of our families any kind of goods, wares or merchandise of
the growth produce or manufacture of Gt. Britain or of the East Indies imported from Gt.
Britain except tools for manufacturies or husbandry, nails, pins, and needles, until our
Charter Rites be restored and the Port of Boston be opened; and if any person or persons
belonging to said town shall refuse to sign this or a similar agreement by or before the
first day of January that we will deem them to be enemies to the country and supporters of
the Oppressive Acts of the British Parliament, and whereas many of us, the subscribers are
owners of sheep, we also agree that we will sell our wool for one shilling a pound until
our rites are restored as aforesaid. Witness our hands at Edgartown, Nov. ye 8, 1774.
was an active churchman, a town official and had served as a Major under the Crown. Later,
he was to serve as a private in the Revolutionary War. Major Peter Norton must have been a
later, on March 2, 1894, a rural Illinois weekly newspaper, the Earlville Leader, published the following obituary:
. . . . William Gower
Norton died Thursday morning, March 1st, 1894, aged eighty-five years, ten months and
seventeen days . . . . . . . Mr. Norton was a man of strong convictions and he had the
courage of conviction, whatever he believed to be right or true, he did not hesitate to
advocate or defend. He had a spirit of broad catholicity
that kept him from the narrowness of mind that condemns another for an honest difference
of opinion. While devoted to his own convictions he did not pronounce the bigot's judgment
on those who differed from him. Whatever liberty of action or thought he claimed for
himself, he freely accorded to others . . . . . He was temperate both in speech and in
act. His life was free from the vices common to the times, none of his acts tended to
corrupt the fountain of social purity.
These excerpts from the
obituary give one an idea of the type of man William Gower Norton was. Free thinking, a
member of the Universalist, now the Unitarian, church, he was conservative in politics; he
set for himself absolutes in morals and manners. William gower Norton must have been a
The Earlville Leader on May 26, 1904, carried the following headline and story on its front
DEATH COMES WITHOUT NOTICE William Henry Norton Stricken and Expires in
a Few Minutes
soldier has answered his last roll call.
Another member of the Grand Army of the Republic has left his comrades here and gone to
his rest over yonder.
William Henry Norton was
born in New Portland, Somerset County, Maine, October 17, 1834, was at the tithe of his
death 72 years, 7 months and 5 days old. He was the son of William Gower Norton and Elmira
(Parker) Norton. His Gr. Grandfather Norton had served in the Revolutionary War and his
Grandfather Norton in the War of 1812 . . . His early manhood was spent in teaching, he
having received a fair academical education . . . On April 22, 1861 he enlisted as a private in the 3rd
Illinois Infantry. The regiment was captured in September, 1861. He was paroled three days
later. In 1862, he re-enlisted in the 104th Illinois Infantry was served until November,
1864 when he was discharged by reason of ill health (battle injuries) . . . . . he was a
member of the Grand Army of the Republic, and has held the office of post commander and
other places of honor therein . . . . . In politics Mr. Norton has always been a
Republican and it was one of the tenets of his political faith to support the choice of
his party after the nominations had been made . . . . Before the war, there was a
semi-political organization called the "Wide Awakes" which had for its purpose
the booming of Lincoln's candidacy for the Presidency; Mr. Norton was Commander.
These excerpts give one
a picture of William Henry Norton, Esq. Like his father, William Gower Norton, he was a
free thinker, a member of the Universalist Church. He was conservative in politics and he,
too, set for himself absolutes in manners and morals. He was a rugged individualist.
The names of these three
ancestors of mine were in a file folder that I have been
keeping for too many years and which has been labeled, ambiguously, "Convictions." Whenever I found an individual whose convictions or activities I
found interesting, I would put him in the folder. This Fortnightly paper comes out of that
In reviewing the persons
in the folder, I found that they could roughly be placed into two categories: First, those
of strong convictions or authority and, second, those whose singular reactions in a
situation have made them anecdotal. The two Norton gentlemen are of the first category.
An example of the
anecdotal type was the man whom I saw, and heard, in a restaurant in Chicago. It was in
the depression years, long before today's inflated prices. The man was paying for his
lunch. He handed the cashier his bill. It was for $1.30 and he gave the cashier $1.25. She
said, "You owe me a nickel more." The man said, "Good! I'll just take a
cigar." And with that, the cashier
slid back the glass counter; the man took a nickel White Owl cigar and walked out. I've often
wondered if the cashier ever knew just what had happened in that transaction.
Forbes magazine, in each issue, has articles about financial and industrial tycoons. The
October 15, 1976, issue had an article about Henry Mudd. When the name, Mudd, is
mentioned, we generally think of Harvey Mudd College, one of the Claremont Colleges. This
college was named for the grandfather of our Henry Mudd. Harvey Mudd had
made millions from the copper mines on the Island of Cyprus. In 1955, his Cyprus-Mines
Corporation had netted eleven million dollars on revenues of only twenty-seven million
dollars. Everything was favorable in 1955: copper prices were high; ore was plentiful on
Cyprus; and labor was plentiful and cheap on Cyprus. Embarrassed by the large profits,
Cyprus Mines Corporation had started to use some of the profits in plans for
diversification when grandson, Henry Mudd became chairman of the board of Cyprus Mines.
Henry speeded up the diversification and made his operations world-wide. He owned iron
mines in Australia, a cement plant in Hawaii, lead, silver, and zinc in South America. He
even owned a fleet of ships. For twelve successive years profits increased until they
reached a peak of $ 5.08 a share in 1974. Then - Whamo! Everything went wrong. The Greeks
and Turks got into a shooting war on Cyprus and the copper mines were occupied by the
Greeks. Henry finally had to close them and write them off. In South America the iron
mines were nationalized and production stopped. Thesemines were written off at excess of
eighteen million dollars. His fleet of ships, that had been shipping ore, had to be
moth-balled and had an annual operating loss of four million dollars. In 1976, there were
three strikes in Canada that played havoc with his mining operations in that country. In
Australia, high labor costs and a reduced demand for iron from the Japanese steel industry
put operations there ha the red and Henry had to
sell his Australian holdings at a loss.
The Forbes article tells
us little of Mr. Mudd as a man. He must be a lugged individualist with a great amount of
executive ability and optimism. With cut backs, losses, and difficulties, - none of which
he created,.,- he has the courage -audacity - to become involved in a new expansion
program, - the biggest that his company has ever undertaken. The Cyprus Mines Corporation
is expanding the copper mines that it owns to the north of Phoenix. In this expansion,
Henry Mudd has had to borrow in excess of two hundred fifty million dollars; the interest
charges only, for the loan amount to about twenty-five million dollars a year. And all of
this despite a large stockpile of copper, continuing low prices and a lessening demand.
With all these troubles,
Henry Mudd's Cyprus mines still has an A- Rating in Standard and Poor. Quoting the Forbes article: "Making money in the mining business in 1976 is a lot
tougher than it was in grandpa's day." It has been even tougher in 1977: On January
12, 1978, The Wall St: Journal reported that Cyprus Mines had had to cut its dividend from thirty-five
cents to twenty cents a share. If Henry Mudd isn't a strong individual, he surely will
have to become one.
Unfortunately, I did not
save the newspaper article, but I well remember a
story that the Chicago Tribune, in the mid-1930's,carried about a streetcar motorman who
was very much a rugged individualist. He was operating his streetcar in Philadelphia, - or
it could have been Pittsburgh, This motorman stopped his fully-loaded`street car in the
middle of a block, on one of the busiest streets in the business district. He took off the
control crank. (You will remember how the crank could be taken off one end, taken to the
other end of the car and used to operate the car from the other end.) He put the crank on
his stool, and opened the front door of the streetcar. He then turned around and made this
most complete speech to his passengers: "This job is getting me nowhere. I am
quitting." He thereupon took off his changer and walked out the open door of his car,
leaving his passengers stranded.
A somewhat irresponsible individual, I'd say, but
what an individual! I've often wondered what he finally became.
beyond his control, caused the difficulties for Henry Mudd and his Cyprus Mines
Corporation. Sometimes, however, it would appear that a strong executive, with knowledge,
drive and leadership, creates the circumstances for his and his corporation's success.
Robert C. Wilson
is President, and Chairman of the Board of Memorex Corporation. Robert C. Wilson toad been
recruited by a nearly defunct corporation, The Collins Radio Company. In 1972, Collins
Radio had had a loss of $ 64 million. In one year, Robert Wilson had been able to change
that loss into a profit of $ 13 million. I do not know all the circumstances in this
complete turn-around for Collins Radio.
It was enough, however,
for Memorex to want Robert C. Wilson to straighten out its operations.; Memorex recruited
him at a salary of $ 200,000, guaranteed by the Bank of America, one of the principal
creditors of financially troubled Memorex. In addition, he was guaranteed performance
incentives of $ 400,000 annually plus stock options.
In 1973 when
Wilson took over, Memorex was nearly bankrupt, and was about to be split up and taken over
by several other corporations. It had lost $119 million on revenues of $177 million. What
a challenge! Within three years Wilson "moved Memorex to the point where it earned a
record $18 million for the first six months of 1976." He also made the Bank of
America happy by paying off $ 135 million of its debt. In addition, he had the courage to
start a program of acquisitions of other companies. What is even more amazing, Wilson and
Memorex have brought suit against that giant of the computer industry, IBM. They are suing
for $3 billion, charging IBM with monopolizing the computer industry, and especially the
Memorex part of the industry - tapes and peripheral products. It promises to be one of the
longest and largest private law sits ever tried. The Wall St. Journal of January 20, 1978, reported that the jury had finally been
selected. It will be interesting to know the outcome of this suit.
Wilson is a dynamic,
hard working man. He works seven days a week. He is a rugged individual with tremendous
insight. He is well-paid for his executive ability. Not only has he had his $200,000
annual salary and a $400,000 bonus, but also his stock options have made him several times
a millionaire. His stock, which was selling for around $ 2.00 a share in 1973, reached a
high of $ 35.00 a share in 1977.On March 15, 1978, it closed at $28.50 a share.
Mullen had become a neighbor and friend, I came to expect almost anything of
that. great woman. One morning early, or it could have been one evening late, I chanced
upon her dancing barefoot in the dew on her lawn. We chatted, and in her convincing way,
she almost had me, too, taking off my shoes and dancing! "It would be good for your
soul; you will feel a part of the universe,'"' she said. On another occasion, when I
returned from the office, I found Mrs. Mullen stretched out on her back on our living room
floor with her feet in the air. She was making a wild, pedaling motion. One didn't laugh
at Grace Mullen, so I just smiled quizzically, and, in dignity, from her most undignified
position, and with flailing legs high in the air, she explained that she was showing my
wife the exercises she took daily to keep herself fit and strong. 'Tis a
It is not necessary to
go into details about Grace Mullen. She became a tradition in her lifetime. One anecdote
tells of her singleness of purpose
I moved to Redlands in
the mid-Bowl season of 1937. One day I introduced myself to Mrs. Mullen in the Sun Office,
them can Citrus Avenue, where she was leaving some publicity. I expressed my appreciation
of the Bowl and told her that the Bowl was one of the reasons why I had decided to live in
Redlands. She said something equivalent to "How nice!" and then proceeded to ask
me for a $100.00 donation. I explained to her that that was more than my entire estate,
including my Model A car. That didn't stop Grace Mullen. She asked me if I had any change
in my pocket. I showed her. She said that even a quarter would help, ?- and she got it. I had a sudden appreciation of
Mrs. Grace Mullen.
My next individualist is
Joseph Klein, a name as unknown to most of us as Mrs. Grace Mullen is
known to a11. Joseph Klein is a man of great ingenuity and business acumen. He expanded
his Brooklyn-based, salt-water taffy business into a multi-million dollar candy business.
Few of us have heard of the copyrighted name, "Now and Later." It is a ten-cent
candy bar of nine beige-colored
squares. Candy bars are generally consumed in a few minutes. This bar, being taffy and
being divided into nine portions, gives about thirty minutes of delectable, drooling,
many-flavored, teeth-decaying chewing. The "kids" could eat some now and save
some for later. Hence the name, "Now and Later." "Now and Later" was
the "brain-child" of Joseph Klein. The October 15, 1976, Forbes quotes Mr. Klein: "In the salt-water taffy business (his original
business) you work ten months of a year and ship two months, so you need a lot of capital
and you're constantly building inventories. We decided that the secret of this business
would be something you could ship year-round and get paid for in ten days." The something was the "Now and Later." A trial run of the candy bar in New
York was a success. Now Joseph Klein had to find a machine to produce the bar
He found it in Germany.
It could produce 150 bars a minute. Again quoting Mr. Klein in the Forbes article es article: "In September or October of 1966 the product took off.
From then on we were buying one or two machines a year. We had a tiger by the tail and we
had to keep up with it."
And keep up with it,
they did! In 1976 Mr. Klein had sixteen candy making machines that ran two shifts each
day, six days a week. Each machine makes 150 bars a minute. If my computer is correct, Mr.
Joseph Klein produces over two million bars each day. Barring (no pun) breakdowns and
strikes, that is about 700 million candy bars annually. What a lot of tooth aches! And all
from Joseph Klein!
In the late 1930's,
State Street in Redlands was being repaved. There were unused street car tracks running
down the street and a very thick layer of black-top was necessary to cover the street. At
each intersection of State and a cross street, there was a flagman, who was to stop
traffic and tell drivers to turn around. Along with other "sidewalk
superintendents", I was standing on the corner of Sixth and State streets when a fast
moving car came northward on Sixth. He didn't stop at State; he drove his car out into the
hot, 100e y, newly-poured black-top. The car
stopped in the middle of State Street and slowly settled to it, hub caps in the mess. The
flagman was an individual long to be remembered. He stared at the car and said Just two
words, "Oh, brother!" What a mild statement from a composed individualist!
I was surprised that I had included Mr. Roy Ash as one
of my individuals. He has never seemed to be an exciting individual. He had been one of
the co-founders of Litton Industries, a corporation whose stock has had wild swings from a
low of $ 4 1/8 to a high of $ 127 i/4. A wealthy man, he ins drafted by the Nixon
administration to be Director of the Office of Budget and Management from 1973 to 1975.
In the October 1, 1976 issue of Forbes, there was an article
about Roy Ash. He must be a man of superior executive ability to be able to command the
salary, bonuses, etc. that the Forbes article says he received when the
Adresso-Multigraph Corporation named him as its chief executive officer. His annual salary
was set at $250,000. Not a bad salary! But there were other "plums" that came to
Roy Ash. Quoting from the Forbes article: "Ash bought 300,000 shares of Adressograph stock on the
day that he was elected chairman, making him the largest individual stock holder. As luck
would have it the directors on the same day voted a special year-end dividend . . . . a
symbolic, though the company insists, coincidental, $ 30,000 sweetner for Ash."
The stock market also reflected the confidence that the business
community had in Roy Ash: On the day that Addresso Multigraph announced the appointment of
Roy, its stock advanced a full point from $ 9.00 to $ 10.00 a share; and Roy Ash was
richer by $300,000 -on paper -- on the 300,000 shares of stock that he had bought the
day previous. A $ 250,000 salary, a $ 30,000 extra dividend on his stock and a $ 300,000
stock appreciation after one day on a job. Roy Ash must be a most capable man.
r "I think she will
understand!" With this meek, weak statement of reassurance, the driver of an
automobile qualified himself for my list of individuals. While in college, I worked as a
service station attendant in the evenings. One evening a car drove up and the driver asked
for a "fill-up". The driver paid for the gas, and I handed him his change. He
seemed inclined to talk, and so we did for about five minutes, at the end of which, he
said, "I wonder what's keeping my wife," and he looked toward the restrooms. I
replied that I had not seen anyone go into the restroom. The man was insistent and asked
that I check to see if she were there. Together, we went to the ladies' restroom and
knocked on the door. There was no answer. Fearing the worst, we looked in and there was no
one there. The man was nearly frantic. We looked in the men?s room, in the office, and all
around the ground, and under the blankets in the back seat of his car. The man was quiet
for a moment, thinking, and then,. as if he could not believe what he was saying, he
quietly said, "My God! I left her at the service station when I had the car last
filled." He tried to explain that his wife had been asleep in the back seat and that
she must have gotten out at the last stop and he hadn't been aware of it. If he had been
frantic before, he was hopeless and helpless now.
He did not even know the name of the town where he had bought the gas, nor the distance
back. I finally got through to him and we decided that it would be best to go to the
police; perhaps they had had a report of his wife.
The story had enough
human interest that the next day it appeared in the Chicago Tribune. I was pleased to read that the man had found his wife. The local
police had started telephoning police departments in down-state Illinois
until they had located his wife in a small city about two hundred miles down-state. I
shall always remember that all-revealing, plaintive statement that the man made as he left
me to go to the police department: "I think that she will understand."
Roosevelt tried to ease the United States out of the Great Depression by
establishing the National Industrial Recovery Act, the NIRA, which was later changed to
the NRA. The NRA brought out the dander of many an
industrialist. Henry Ford was one who refused to cooperate and he continued to sell his
Model A's without the seal of the NRA, the Blue Eagle. He refused to unionize and would
not let a union, or the government interfere with his plants' operations. Wier of Wierton
Steel also refused to cooperate.
The rugged individual of
this period, however, was Sewell Avery, Chairman of the Board of
Montgomery Ward. There had been a stockholders' revolt against him because of the deficit
Montgomery Ward had had in 1932, and even more so, because of the contracts that he had
made between Montgomery Ward and the U. S. Gypsum Company. These contracts brought a great
amount of business to U. S. Gypsum and Avery had a large financial interest in U. S.
Gypsum. Fortunately for Avery, 1933, showed a profit for Montgomery Ward and at the annual
meeting he was re-elected to the Board by a large majority. Avery was a dynamic and rugged
executive and few, including stockholders, could oppose him, despite the U. S. Gypsum
Avery would have nothing
to do with the NRA. He would not permit any outsider to tell him, hover to operate his
company even if that outsider was General Hugh Johnson and back of Johnson, President
Roosevelt. General Johnson, who headed the NRA, claimed that Montgomery Ward was a retail
establishment subject to sixty-two cents an employee Federal Charge and certain salary and
employment regulations. Sewell Avery claimed that a mail order house was not a retail
establishment, and that it was not subject to, nor would he comply with, the regulations.
It reached a great impasse and, in a most ruthless manner, the President of the United
States told the President of Montgomery Ward to vacate; he was moving in the United States
Army to operate Montgomery Ward. On the day that the Army was to take over, Sewell Avery
refused to vacate his office. The Army moved in and tried to evict him. Avery clammed on
to his chair and the soldiers couldn't get him out of it. The Chicago Tribune showed a picture the next day of two soldiers carrying Sewell Avery out
of his office, still seated in his chair. Sewell Avery, individualist, was more than just
a symbol in "bucking" the
President of the United States, he was finally proved to be right when the Supreme Court
declared the N.I.R.A. unconstitutional and the United States Army had to turn back the
command of Montgomery Ward to him.
Subsequent operations of
Montgomery Ward have shown that Avery may not have been the best of executives. He was
very conservative, so conservative that assets that should have been used in expansion
were kept inactive, and Montgomery Ward became a poor second to Sears Roebuck, its
traditional and arch rival.
My file folder is
replete with the names of other individualists who, if I included them in this paper,
would change your polite and sleepy attention into exasperated and sleepy boredom. Without
detail, here are a few at random:
T. E. N. Eaton, retired professor, who, daily as he walked to his
patriotic teaching assignment at Redlands High during World War I, carried a rosebud in
his mouth to keep it moist and fresh until he got to his classroom:
A railroad president
who, in an economy move, transferred his entire office from St. Louis to a smaller
community. This he did over a weekend without letting the staff know. A, notice on the
office doors let the staff know on the Monday morning.
A Greyhound bus driver
who decided that he needed a vacation. He filled a bus with gasoline and kept it filled at
Greyhound Bus Service Stops as he drove alone. He almost made it to Florida before anyone
realized what was happening.
Every soul needs a
confession, and such a confession makes my soul: the preparation of this paper has been a
frustrating chore, and yet a pleasant chore. For years, my notes about individualists have
been nagging at me to write a paper. With no attempt to prove the "how" or
"why" of an individualist, and for better or for worse, the paper is done and
the nagging is o'er. This is pleasant.
I had procrastinated too
long; my notes were old and vague and hard or impossible to verify. This is frustrating.
And, how about those
half dozen or so men in this Fortnightly Club who also belong on my list of
individualists. 'Twas politic, and yet frustrating, not to include them.
October 1, 1976
May 5, 1934
after 1935, date not determined
Wall St. Journal
December 13, 1977
January 8, 1929
September 13, 1933
October 15, 1976
October 15, 1976
Wall St. Journal
January 12, 1978
May 26, 1904
Marcy 2, 1894
Wall St. Journal
October 15, 1976
Wall St. Journal
June 20, 1978
Wall St. Journal
December 8, 1977
incorporated in paper:
Bick, August Marcel (Bic
April 1, 1974
Bosch, Jose M. [Bacardi
April 15, 1974
Busch, August A.
June 1, 1974
Rogan, Lester (Fairchild
May 15, 1974
Farr, James R. (Avco)
November 1, 1974
"Bunkie" (Ford, GM and White)
August 1, 1974
Luce, Clare Booth
US News & World Report
June 24, 1974
Miller, J. Erwin
August 1, 1977
Moretti, Marge (cooked
February 19, 1953
Roman, Stephen (Uranium)
May 1, 1974