The Great Electric Sugar Swindle.
The New York correspondent of the 1 Hobart Mercury ’ says “It is now ten years since a very mysterious and apparently stupid old man moved to Harlem and set his immediate neighbors gossiping as to who he was, He was evidently poor, for he and his wife occupied a couple of rooms in a tenement house. But the question among the neighbors was: * How did they live ?’ In the expressive language of the grocery man at the corner: ‘The grey mare was the better horse,’ signifying that the old gent., whoever he was, was not half as good a man as his wife, and apparently he was not, for he was a quiet, retiring, diffident sort of person, while it was evident that if the grey mare, as the grocery man called her, ever got left, it would only be on an exceedingly cold day. There were all sorts of guesses as to what the old man did for a living, and it finally transpired that he was an inventor, but when the people tried to find out what he invented, aye, * there was the rub,’ and all they discovered was that it was a mighty secret, which, as Lord Dundreary says, ‘No fellow could find out.’ After a time visitors might occasionally be seen going in and out, and one of them was a gentleman of clerical appearance ; and at that time he was clean shaven and wore the regulation clerical dress and white choker, and was altogether as sanctimonious a looking person as you would meet in a day’s walk. This was the celebrated Parson Howard, who figures so extensively in the swindling sugar trust conspiracy, and who this week was sentenced to nine years’ in the State Prison for his share in that remarkable crime. The old gentleman spoken of in the first part of this letter was Professor Friend, the man who put up that gigantic sugar swindle, which for daring audacity on the one hand, and absolute blind folly and stupidity on the other, finds no parallel in our day except it be in the Keeley motor. How long the scheme was working in the professor’s mind before he publicly attempted to carry it out to a successful issue nobody but his wife knows, but there is no doubt that several years elapsed between the conception of the swindle and its fruition, Professor Friend had the ideas, but he could not work them out himself, and although his wife was what Americans call clever, that is cunning and crafty, she couldnot renderhim theassistance he required; but at last a man was found in Parson Howard, who had just the talents to fit him for the place. His pretentious piety gave him a high social position in the church, and his marked abilities as an exhorter made him a valuable assistant at all church meetings, in which he always assumed, wherever he was, a foremost place. Up to the time that Professor Friend met Howard he was only a petty swindler, playing for a small stake, just enough to keep the wolf from the door, but once in the hands of the unscrupulous parson he developed rapidly, till the day came at last when he wanted the earth and the fulness thereof. As soon as the connection was formed between Howard and Friend, Howard began to circulate among tho Wall street men, and by mysterious hints, nods, and winks he gave certain parties to understand, that he had a friend who possessed a secret beside which the wonderful stone in the toad’s head which could change brass or iron into gold was no more than a bit of glass. It was not a question of millions, but hundreds of millions. How ? Well, the professor had discovered a system of refining sugar different to anything ever known in the world before, and he could by hia process refine a ton for less money than any other manufacturer could for a hundred pounds. About this there could be no mistake, for the parson had personally seen the operation, and, moreover, ho had two or three small boxes of samples in his pockets, and if they were not experts themselves they could show them to those that were; and he was prepared to make affidavit that there was ten times the profit in their process that there was in any other known to the world, and of that he would give a written guarantee. Patient, plodding, persistent work told at last, as it always will, and finally quite a number of men who had loose capital that they wanted to invest became exceedingly anxious to get in on the ground floor. The more anxious they became the more Parson Howard held them oft', until at last he impressed them with the fact that it was a mighty favor to introduce them to Professor Friend. At length a committee of investigation was formed, for before they put in any large amount of capital they wanted to know something about the process, but the parson met them right on the threshold, and said: “ Gentlemen, you might as well understand, at the start, our secret is not for sale ; we will give you the result; we will make you all rich, but our secret for the present we will not divulge.” Then every one of the Committee brought a sample of sugar that he wanted refined. The professor took the samples into his private room, while Parson Howard mounted guard at the door, and in less time than you could say Jack, much less Robinson, the thing was done—the dirty, crude stuff that the Committee had entrusted to his care a few minutes before was turned out in beautiful, white, shining crystals. The thing was done ; they unlocked their money boxes, and they never turned key on them again till they had passed out nearly half a million of dollars. A factory was to be built, machinery was to be bought, and the thousand and one things done to put the concern in working order. Thousands upon thousands of dollars answered their requisitions, and all the time their faith was kept alive by occasional boxes of beautifully crystallised sugar made out of crude material which they themselves had furnished. All went on swimmingly till one bright morning about a year and a-half ago, when the professor was discovered as dead as a door nail. Then the trouble began, and Mrs Friend, the professor’s wife, became with Parson Howard the legitimate heir and custodian of her husband’s secret. The stockholders grew anxious to get the factory at work, so as to get some dividends from the hundreds of thousands they had invested. At last they grew clamorous, and the law was invoked to aid them. Then the whole band of swindlers fled to Michigan and settled quietly down to the enjoyment of their ill-gotten gains, but they were extradited from that State and brought to New York. The fight has been a desperate one between the swindlers on the one hand and the victims on the other. The first trial closed this week, and Parson Howard goes up for nine years. The trial disclosed the fact that the heavy boxes, which were brought into the laboratory and were supposed to contain machinery, were filled with the beet refined sugar, and that the crude sugar furnished by the stockbrokers was run down the waste pipe into the sewer, and tons upon tons were thus destroyed.
Permanent link to this item
The Great Electric Sugar Swindle., Evening Star, Issue 8034, 10 October 1889