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Monday, May 4, 2009

Steelman Mick- New Gretna's Barney Madoff

Inventive genius, free enterprise, and capitalism have always been strengths of this country. However, that should always be tempered by the familiar slogan, "Let the buyer beware!" Unfortunately, that simple warning obviously was not heeded in the events that have led us to our present economic situation in this country. Greed and our government's blind faith in the ability of capitalism to monitor itself for the good of our country have gotten us into one awful mess. 

I suspect that those same circumstances were also present in New Gretna in the early 1890's when an enterprising young gentleman named Steelman Mick held out the promises of riches to those residents of New Gretna who had enough foresight and faith in his great new invention to buy stock in a business proposition (i.e. - scheme) that was sure to make them rich. 

The following October 24, 1892 article from the Mount Holly Herald documents Steelman Mick's great invention and the sure fire business opportunity that he offered the good citizens of New Gretna.

NEW GRETNA - This town is delighted to become as famous as did the home of the famous inventor, Thomas A. Edison, and it is all on account of the wonderful invention of Steelman Mick, which has fairly stirred the town from centre to circimference [sic] Everybody is talking about it, and a majority of the people believe that it is destined to revolutionize business throughout the world. 

A stock company will soon be formed and it will probably be no trouble to secure subscriptions to all the stock right here is Bass River. Naturally there has been a good deal of mystery about the invention, which is a sort of perpetual motion arrangement by which a certain amount of power can be secured, and communicated to other machines. It is a sort of a revolving wheel so arranged that it will keep on moving forever after it has once been started. It is just as easy as rolling off a log, although the attempt to solve the mystery of perpetual motion has often been made, in fact, it has been puzzling the heads of inventors for centuries. Inventor Mick has succeeded in getting a patent for his invention from the Patent office at Washington, and is justly proud of it, as he has a right to be. And the townspeople are also proud of the fact that the greatest mystery of the christian era has been solved right here in Bass River! Just think of it! 

After all these years the name of Bass River and Mr. Mick will occupy to top most position on the Temple of Fame. This is glory enough for one year. In addition to furnishing power, the invention will be supplied with an additional arrangement which will enable a person to tell at once the exact latitude and longitude of the place he may happen to be; it will also give the exact depth of water at any point in the ocean. This will give the invention a value that can hardly be computed. Those who are interested in it in a financial way are James R. Cramer, Mark Adams and John Gaskill. If this power is applied to boats sails will be done away with and every sneak box, garvey and other craft in this vicinity will be fit to dup with the Mick power generator, thereby revolutionizing business among the clammers and oystermen. The menhaden fishermen will then be able to have things their own way. Street cars can also be run all over town, and small ones can be used to propel wheelbarrows, tongs for oysters, run a baby coach or a sewing machine, catch crabs, wash dishes, sweep off the front porch and prevent a boat from swamping in heavy seas. 

Any one can see at a glance that such an invention would be invaluable after it has been in use a short time. There ought to be a fortune in it, not only for the inventor, who has been at work on it for seven years, but for the stockholders as well. So confident are the townspeople that it will be a success that they are willing to go their whole length financially on it, and the chances are the stock will be taken as fast as it is offered.

Mount Holly Herald - October 24, 1892

Unfortunately, I do not know of the outcome of the success of Mr. Mick's invention or stock sale and how many New Gretna residents other than James R. Cramer, Mark Adams and John Gaskill made investments. However, I suspect the situation can be summed up in two words - Barney Madoff. The results of the investments were probably the same. They say that if we don't learn lessons from our history, we are doomed to repeat it. Such seems to be the case here. 

Pete S.

PS- Any relatives of James R. Cramer, Mark Adams or John Gaskill out there in the Blog-O-Sphere that may have some Steelman Mick stock certificates in an old truck in the attic?

1 comment:

  1. Then there are a host of other obstacles. Like...

    Not to mention...