Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Did You Know That Household Service Is A Problem?

From January 8, 1911


DID YOU KNOW THAT HOUSEHOLD SERVICE IS A PROBLEM? It Is, and a Government Official Marshals Some Impressive Facts to Prove That It Is Not the Less a Labor Question Because There Is No Housekeepers’ Union. (PDF)

According to the article, housekeepers were “the largest occupational group outside of farmers and agricultural laborers; that is more than four times as large as the total number of miners” and yet nobody had studied the conditions of housekeepers as the other industries had been studied. Their living conditions, working hours, days off, etc, were all unregulated.

The article is interesting, but I especially enjoyed the illustrations which depict a servant’s “palatial apartment” and imagines the awkwardness of a maid dining with her employers. The bottom drawing shows “The Breakfast Table Of the Future,” where a servant has been replaced by a machine.

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Written by David

January 7th, 2011 at 9:00 am

Posted in Business,Life

$163,197,125 Given In 1910 For Philanthropy

From January 1, 1911



1910 had some generous donors, including David Rankin, Jr., who this article describes as “giver of the year.” The 75 year old bachelor donated $3 million — his entire life savings — to a school in his name. It wasn’t the highest amount given by a millionaire, but it was everything he had.

2010 was no slouch, either. This year Bill Gates and Warren Buffet asked their fellow billionaires to pledge at least half their net worth to charity. Some who have agreed to do so include George Lucas, Ted Turner, Michael Bloomberg, Larry Ellison, and Mark Zuckerberg.

Today is the last day you can make a donation to a non-profit and have it be tax deductible for 2010. If you haven’t already done so, and you want to actually see your donation make a difference, check out where you can read about schools in need of help, and pick a specific classroom with a specific project that you want to see funded.

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Written by David

December 31st, 2010 at 10:30 am

A Skyscraper Built By The Nickels Of Millions

From January 1, 1911


A SKYSCRAPER BUILT BY THE NICKELS OF MILLIONS: The Wooworth Building Tells the Romance of a Business — How a Farmer’s Boy Started a Little Five and Ten Cent Store and Now Has 286 Big Ones. (PDF)

The Woolworth Building is one of New York City’s oldest skyscrapers, and its gothic architecture suggests an older era, so it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t even around 100 years ago. In anticipation of its planned erection, the Times Magazine published this retrospective on Frank W. Woolworth, the man behind the Woolworth’s five and dime stores.

Readers of The Times have already learned about the skyscraper. It is to look like a vast tower in the Gothic style, extending 105 feet along Broadway and 197 feet on Park Place. With forty-five stories, it will rise into the air to a height of 625 feet, or thirteen feet higher than the Singer Building. The skyscraper will cost $5,000,000. It will bear the name of its projector — the Woolworth Building.

“Do you mean to say,” you ask, “that this is to be built by the 5 and 10 cent store man?”

It is the same man — Frank W. Woolworth.

The building eventually surpassed its originally planned height, and is now 792 feet tall. You can visit to see how the Woolworth Building compares to other notable structures of the past and today.

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Written by David

December 31st, 2010 at 9:30 am

Inventors Who Take No Profits From Their Work

From December 4, 1910


INVENTORS WHO TAKE NO PROFITS FROM THEIR WORK: Give the Results of their Skill and Study Without Charge for the Good of Mankind, Declining Royalties. (PDF)

Fans and practitioners of open source intellectual property and creative commons licensing can look to these inventors as their predecessors in spirit. Each of them donated their inventions to the public. In fact, if you look at the patent for Logan Waller Page’s new form of concrete, discussed in this article, you will see that it boasts on the first page “DEDICATED TO THE PUBLIC.” In the text it elaborates:

…the invention herein described and claimed may be used by the Government of the United States or any of its officers or employees… or by any person in the United States, without the payment of any royalty thereon.

So why get a patent at all? The article explains:

Patents for the public are becoming more numerous and important each year. It is only within the last few months that the Patent Office has established the official classification of “Dedicated to the Public” in its official gazette of patents, and has attempted to assemble the records of those discoveries and inventions that have been taken out for the benefit of the people of the United States.

These patents are secured to insure the free use of the patented object by the public. If such action were not taken the principle of the invention or discovery might at once be incorporated ins ome other invention and patented by another person, with the result that the benefits intended for the public would go to some private corporation.

*ahem* Speaking of open source inventions, allow me to tell you about one of my own: the Bulbdial Clock. It’s a new kind of clock original envisioned by me, developed by Evil Mad Science Labs, and now available as an open source hardware kit that makes an excellent gift for the holidays.

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Written by David

December 3rd, 2010 at 9:30 am

Mottoes That Have Guided Prominent Men To Success

From November 27, 1910


MOTTOES THAT HAVE GUIDED PROMINENT MEN TO SUCCESS: “Never Complain, Never Explain” Is President Taft’s Favorite — Rules of Life of Carnegie, Bishop Greer, W. C. Brown, and Others (PDF)

Mottoes from the article:

“The American people like to be humbugged.” – P. T. Barnum

“Don’t keep a rag-bag.” – A. T. Stewart

“Never write letters.” – Martin Van Buren

“Fair play and half the road.” – “Uncle” David Gray

“Never complain, never explain.” – William H. Taft

“If you want business, you’ve got to go after it.” – John W. Gates

“The highest product possible at the smallest cost of manufacture.” – Andrew Carnegie

“Perfect organization will accomplish all things.” – James Stillman

“Know the people, know the country, know the markets.” – W. C. Brown

“If you first find out what the people want and then give them what they want at a price they will pay, the people will do the rest.” – Frank A. Munsey

Admittedly, some of those make more sense in the context provided in the article, so if you’re wondering what the heck a rag-bag is, give it a read.

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Written by David

November 26th, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Business,Life

The Secret Of Success — Intellectual Concentration

From November 20, 1910


THE SECRET OF SUCCESS — INTELLECTUAL CONCENTRATION: Notable Cases Where Men Won Fame and Fortune Through Absorbing Self-Communing — Edison, Keene, Pupin, Hewitt, Westinghouse and Gould as Examples (PDF)

The point of this article is that the most successful people spend periods of time in silent concentration without interruption. As described, it seems like meditation for some, or just some quiet thinking time for others. These days it’s hard to find a prolonged period of silence in which to concentrate, with so many beeping, buzzing, and ringing distractions coming from the computers in our pockets and on our desks.

It reminds me that I’ve been meaning to try out the Freedom app, available for Mac and Windows computers. It costs a few dollars to purchase, and it has one function: it disables your computer’s network ability for a predetermined set of time. With no internet, you can concentrate without distractions, and without temptation to browse around the web procrastinating. I think I’ll give it a try, and see if I too can win fame and fortune through concentration.

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Written by David

November 19th, 2010 at 10:00 am

Posted in Business,Life

Odd Things That Happen In Hunting For Autographs

From October 23, 1910


ODD THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN HUNTING FOR AUTOGRAPHS: Treasure That Is Sometimes Worth Thousands of Dollars and How It Is Obtained — Ingenious Tricks Played on Public Men — Finds in Ash-Barrels (PDF)

This article was inspired by a book on autograph collecting called Chats on Autographs by A. M. Broadley. You can read the book online thanks to Google Books.

The article begins as the book does, exploding the myth that autograph collectors are just trying to get signatures:

“Those who deliberately cut signatures from important letters are in reality the worst enemies both of the autograph collector and the historian. Vandalism of this kind (often committed in happy unconsciousness of the consequences) brings with it its own punishment, for detached signatures are almost worthless.

“Many years ago a dealer was offered sixteen genuine signatures of Samuel Pepys, their owner naively remarking that ‘he had cut them from the letters to save trouble.’ As a matter of fact he had, in the course of a few seconds, depreciated the value of his property to the extent of at least £15. The letters, if intact, would have fetched from £15 to £20 each!”

The article goes on to describe the methods autograph collectors employed to get intact letters from famous people. Today, autograph hounds can make themselves nuisances, stalking celebrities for mementos to sell on eBay. And the practice can even be dangerous.

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Written by David

October 22nd, 2010 at 9:45 am

Posted in Art,Business

The Supreme Court And The Anti-Trust Act

From October 9, 1910


THE SUPREME COURT AND THE ANTI-TRUST ACT: Victor Morawetz Discusses the Interpretation and Effect of the Sherman Law — The Sugar Trust Case. (PDF)

This rather lengthy piece will be of primary interest to the business-law-minded of you. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act went into affect in 1890, and just a couple years later the Sugar Trust Case came before the Supreme Court, in which The American Sugar Refining Company defended itself against accusations of monopolistic practices for controlling almost all the sugar production in the United States. The issue in this case was whether or not a company can really have a monopoly on manufacturing a product, as opposed to distribution. Nearly 20 years after the Sherman Act passed, the Times Magazine enlisted Victor Morawetz, an expert on anti-trust law, to discuss how the Act has been interpreted and effected business. He uses the Sugar Trust Case and others as examples.

And if you’re really, really business-law-minded, you might enjoy reading the complete Sugar Trust Case decision.

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Written by David

October 8th, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Business,Politics

How New York City Spends Its Money Every Year

From October 2, 1910


HOW NEW YORK CITY SPENDS ITS MONEY EVERY YEAR: For the First Time the Public Is Informed by a Novel Budget Exhibit Just Where Its Millions Go. (PDF)

The annual budget of New York City 100 years ago was $163 million. For the first time, the city revealed just where that money goes, in a public exhibition about the 1910 budget.

“The purpose of the exhibit will be to acquaint taxpayers and interested citizens with every item of expense, and disseminate information regarding the management of the city’s business affairs. It will be a revelation to know that the City of New York performs a broader variety of work than any other city in the world, and that the benefits it distributes are many times more numerous than the ordinary citizen supposes.”

For comparison, you can find the city’s current budget online at the Office of Management and Budget.

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Written by David

October 6th, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Street Faker King Tells Some Tricks Of The Trade

From September 25, 1910


STREET FAKER KING TELLS SOME TRICKS OF THE TRADE: Cunningham of Ann Street Introduces Sporting John Mack, Provider of Literature; Maggie the Fly King, and Others. (PDF)

The word “faker” here doesn’t mean a person who pretends to do something. It means a street vendor who sells meaningless trinkets. We still have them around town, hawking cheap souvenirs and toys. A man named Mr. Cunningham ran a novelty shop on Ann Street in 1910, and he hired fakers to hawk his wares:

“If a faker hasn’t got some smartness about him, he’ll be pushed out of the business quick. You see, a faker’s not like a peddler, not at all! Your peddler sells things that there’s a demand for, like shoestrings.

“Now people always needed shoestrings. They were on the market 300 years before Christ was born. [Upon reflection it rather seems as if Mr. Cunningham’s enthusiasm got the better of his judgment here.]

“But a faker hands things to the public that really aren’t wanted. He doesn’t supply a demand. He creates it. Nobody needs a little dog with a spring tail, for instance, and yet these dogs are the most popular things on the street today.”

As he spoke Mr. Cunningham held up a creation about as big as your hand, with very stiff legs and a melancholy expression.

“Pull its tail,” said Mr. Cunningham in an awed tone.

The reporter pulled. The tail, being a spring one, kept on vibrating after the pulling had stopped.

“That dog,” said Mr. Cunningham in a slow, solemn undertone, “has made a fortune for its inventor. A fortune! It’s selling like hot cakes.”

We all gazed with admiration at the dog for about five minutes, after which Mr. Cunningham heaved a sigh and reverently deposited him in his box again.

The best fakers were good showmen. One of them reckons he could have been a vaudevillian. They worked their own hours, and some of them made an excellent living.

Here’s a bit more from the article:

“Badges and buttons are the staples… But the real sport of the trade is in selling novelties. What’s a novelty? Ah, anything new that anybody thinks up.”

The angry mother-in-law is a scream. It comes in a small box and consists of two beads and two pieces of rubber. You make a fist of your hand, stick the two beads at the top, the long piece of rubber in the middle in a vertical position and the short piece of rubber at the bottom in a horizontal position. Then you tie a handkerchief about the whole and wriggle your fingers.

The result is really killingly funny. The beads are eyes, the piece of rubber in the center is a nose, the piece of rubber at the bottom is a mouth, the handkerchief is hair, and the whole effect, without using much imagination, either, is that of an awfully ugly old woman who’s making faces.

You can’t help laughing as you look at it. The little brown dog seems rather inadequate considering the burst of enthusiasm it has aroused, but the angry mother-in-law is really funny.

“To see Maggie work that mother-in-law!” exclaimed Mr. Cunningham.

“Who’s Maggie?” asked the reporter.

“What! You don’t know Maggie, the belle of the trade? Maggie, the fly king? Maggie’s as well known in Wall Street as Pierpont Morgan. He’s as clever a man as there is in New York City.”

“Yes, every one knows that Mr. Morgan is –”

“No, no. I mean Maggie. Maggie, short for Mary Ellen, nickname for Edward Joseph!”

Maggie, it appears, is a gentleman about 50 years of age, who weighs 250 pounds, hasn’t a tooth in his head, and is known from the Bronx to the Battery for his fun and cleverness. Just for the sake of curiosity, the reporter asked a policeman on Broadway, a newsboy on Fourteenth Street, a postal card man on Fifth Avenue, and a broker in Wall Street if they’d ever met Maggie. They all broke into an irrepressible grin at the sound of the name, and said of course they had.

There is a story that one day when Maggie was feeling particularly “smart and sassy,” he induced Mr. Russell Sage to buy a tin doll that turned somersaults. Maggie considers this day the high water mark of his career.

These fakers sound far more interesting than the street peddlers we have today, although we do still have some genuine characters. I’m reminded of Joe Ades, who sold his vegetable peeler in Union Square until he died last year at 76. His product was more useful than these trinkets, but he kept up the tradition of being a street salesman who was also a showman.

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Written by David

September 24th, 2010 at 9:45 am

Posted in Business

How Popular Song Factories Manufacture A Hit

From September 18, 1910


HOW POPULAR SONG FACTORIES MANUFACTURE A HIT: The Original Score Is Sometimes Hardly Recognizable After the Tinkering Is Completed — Luck a Big Factor in the Business (PDF)

100 years ago, music radio stations did not yet exist. But record players were around, so people could purchase music to play at home. So now the music industry had to figure out what kind of records people would buy. Is it the same kind of music they would go hear in a performance hall?

In America the popular song is of comparatively recent introduction. Its prototype was a composition with monotonous refrain and elaborate setting, which could only be rendered by a trained voice after laborious practice. It was seldom heard outside of drawing rooms, where it was sung with due ceremony and technical precision by prim young maidens in fresh white gowns and dapper swains in swallowtails. The only part of it that ever impressed the unfamiliar ear was the insistent refrain, which always ran something after this fashion: “Evangeline, where wendest thou? Where wendest thou, Evangeline — where wendest thou — where wendest thou — wendest thou — wendest thou-thou-t-h-o-u!!”

The song always left you in doubt and wonderment. You never learned where fair Evangeline wended, nor why she wended; nor, indeed, any single fact of interest or consequence regarding her.

That sort of song could never have become popular. You couldn’t expect the messenger boy and the shopgirl to take a very keen interest in Evangeline’s wendings when they led to nowhere. The masses need something more direct — something with a more human appeal. One of the chief secrets of popular song writing is to tell a simple story and to tell it completely.

At that time no attempt was made to cater to the musical tastes of the people. It was not supposed that they had any. Almost the only approach to popular ballads were a few well-worn war songs and plantation ditties. But two or three American song writers were trying to get a hearing with the kind of appeal to the people which in England, where the music halls afforded a ready avenue for reaching the masses, had been successfully made for many years.

The article goes on to describe the elements of a popular song. What should it be called? What should it be about? I found this article a delightful read. Today, of course, songwriters have the same challenges, but manufacturing a hit has become as much a technical and business endeavor as a creative one.

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Written by David

September 17th, 2010 at 9:15 am

Crusading Against The City’s “Unethical” Dentists

From September 18, 1910


CRUSADING AGAINST THE CITY’S “UNETHICAL” DENTISTS: The Day of the Bargain Dental Parlor Where Patients Were Maltreated and Fleeced Is Passing. (PDF)

What’s an unethical dentist?

The unethical dentists at present may be roughly divided into three groups, the first of which may be more technically than actually unethical. Because the New York State laws require more of a general education preceding the dental studies than is demanded elsewhere, some perfectly reputable graduates of schools outside the State find themselves unable to meet the Regents’ requirements. While it is of course illegal for a man in that position to practice in this city, still some of the men under this heading are good and capable dentists even if they can’t pass in German or algebra.

Next comes the foreign offenders, a large group, working chiefly among their own countrymen and consequently not easily to be detected. In Russia, students and professionals are allowed greater freedom in their comings and goings than the ordinary mortal, so that many young men and women avail themselves of this opportunity, although they may not intend to follow the profession in after life.

The dentistry course is the easiest in this direction. Opportunity to practice, though, is rather meagre, for in the country regions of that land of distress the village blacksmith is said to be frequently the sole representative of dental science.

Should the Russian emigrate to this country, however, he immediately finds out that dentistry here is a remunerative occupation and his Russian diploma looks sufficiently impressive to those of his patients who know enough to ask for one…

But while the unlicensed and unregistered foreigners frequently do individual harm they seldom descend to anything like the wholesale bungling and swindling perpetrated by some of the large “parlors.” Under the laws a man who hasn’t the slightest knowledge of the profession can open a parlor providing he hires duly licensed assistants. Sometimes he does, and in this case the men will be either young graduates trying to save enough money to set up in business themselves, or older men, who for some reason or other have not made a success of their practice. The hours are long, many times including night work, and the pay sometimes runs as low as $20 a week, so that this sort of employment has little to offer the competent or ambitious…

Men in no wise connected with the science of dentistry start offices purely as a commercial venture, and until recently these have been veritable silver mines. Sometimes one man owns a string of them… A clear proof of the prosperity of these places has been the cheerfulness with which the old offenders have paid repeated fines of $300 or $500, only to open again in another location or under another name.

For comparison, see Wikipedia’s entry on modern street dentistry, and also read about one of the most notorious street dentists of the early 1900s, Edgar “Painless” Parker.

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Written by David

September 17th, 2010 at 9:00 am

By Separate Paths Four Brothers Win Millions

From August 21, 1910


BY SEPARATE PATHS FOUR BROTHERS WIN MILLIONS: Starting with $700 Each, the Miller Boys of Connecticut Weave an Amazing Modern Fairy Tale of Finance. (PDF)

It is well to begin a story at the beginning, and as the tale of the Miller family is interesting in every part, even before the brothers themselves come on the scene, there is no reason for slighting the opening. They were born in Middletown, Conn.; their forbears had been born there for 250 years. There is the Miller pond, Miller’s farms, and the old mill itself to remind later generations of the stalwart Tom, first of his name to come to this country, who settled in Middletown on the promise from the town that if he did all ther milling they would give him $700. The town never kept its word.

The Millers eventually made a good living as farmers, which brings us to the four brothers in this story. Their mother had urged their father to “Get them out into the world to see what they can do,” and so he gave them each $700 (approximately $16,000 in today’s dollar) and sent them on their way.

50 years later, all four sons were millionaires. On the occasion of one son’s golden wedding anniversary, they reunited, and the New York Times Sunday Magazine wrote this profile. You can read how each one managed to turn their father’s gift into a full fledged business.

But the brothers had a sister, too. What happened to her?

Kate Miller, who became Mrs. Strickland, was the only girl in the family, and did not get $700 and sent out, but she made her fortune just the same. She was left a widow some twenty or twenty-five years ago. She took her husband’s life insurance and without asking anybody’s advice proceeded to make the shrewdest investments. She has big profits on some of her stock, and all her purchases prove that she has just the same business acumen that marks her brothers.

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Written by David

August 20th, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Business