Easy Money: Oil Promoters and Investors in the Jazz Age

Roger M. Olien, Author, Diana Davids Olien, With University of North Carolina Press $32.5 (216p) ISBN 978-0-8078-1928-9
The Oliens' ( Life in the Oil Fields ) fourth book on American oil takes a lively and often astonishing look at oil investment promoters: their techniques, failures and clients. After World War I's ``forced frugality,'' Americans were ready to spend and speculate, and a boom in the teens made oil a conspicuous and tempting option. But it was no place for the inexperienced: even a relatively honest, albeit mismanaged, venture like Lubbock-Bridgeport's could dump its investors' money down a dry hole. Bleaker still were the chances of those whose savings went to ``General'' Robert A. Lee, ``the Miracle Man of Oildom,'' actually an aging dreamer and front man for two slick thieves, or to S.E.J. Cox, a brilliant entrepreneur whom the FTC called ``the most seductive and unreliable promoter in America.'' Although the government finally clamped down on illegal promotion (Lee and Cox ended up in Leavenworth), it took the 1929 crash to undercut the boom in ``suckers'' and then, not entirely: only recently ``fraud artist'' Stephen L. Smith raised $125 million for his SH Oil Company ``from 700 investors, including his grandmother.'' Photos not seen by PW . (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/1990
Release date: 11/01/1990
Paperback - 227 pages - 978-0-8078-4291-1
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