Monday, May 01, 2006

The New Columbia, or, The Re-United States (1909)

Today's addition to the Libertarian Labyrinth is an obscure gem, The New Columbia, or, The Re-United States. It was originally published in Findlay, Ohio, by the the New Columbia Publishing Co., and written by attorney George H. Phelps, under the pseudonym "Patrick Quinn Tangent." Phelps had been something of a cipher to me, despite the fact he lived just down the road a piece. Some recent researches have turned up some very interesting material. The New Columbia was published in 1909. At that time, Phelps was known, along with his law partner, William L. David, as something of a crusader against big business. In 1906-7, Phelps and David were involved in lawsuits against Standard Oil and John D. Rockefeller. Phelps was active again in various suits of this sort through at least 1919. Findlay had been an oil-and-gas-boomtown. In the early days of the boom, jets of burning gas blazed all night as a symbol of prosperity and businesses were lured in with the promise of free utilities. The boom did not last, of course, and northwest Ohio was the theater for "oil wars" and "gas wars." One of the latter furnished one of the key episodes (half-proofed and coming soon to the Labyrinth) of Henry Demarest Lloyd's Wealth Against Commonwealth. The story of Phelps' crusade will take some more research before it can be told, but I'll close with a particularly amusing episode, taken from the New York Times, November 8, 1907.
STANDARD OIL FOE INSANE______________________
Lawyer Who Worked Up Ohio Case
Causes Scene In Court
COLUMBUS, Ohio. Nov. 7.—George Hamilton Phelps, an attorney of Findlay, Ohio, who prepared much of the evidence in the case against the Standard Oil Company, created a scene in the Supreme Court to-day when his mind suddenly gave way.
He was arguing the case of the Amity Oil Company against E. V. Wyssrod and others. He was later taken to Findlay. It is said that Mr. Phelps has been affected by overwork.


Jonathan said...

A very interesting piece. Thanks for making it available.

Shawn P. Wilbur said...

Thanks, Jonathan. Best of luck with the new blog.