“Mr. Scott will see you now,” announces a pencil-thin brunette. J. Hiram Scott, master of industry; inventor and marketer of Scott’s 99 – The Clean All Solution Used by Industry, Farms, and Households Everywhere. In just a few years he went from barnyard chemist to an industrial power and was listed in 1908 as one of the fifty richest men in America. That’s the Mr. Scott the brunette is referring to. As if on cue a pair of twelve-foot oak doors swings open.
A hawk-nosed butler in full livery steps into the doorway. “This way please Mr. Larson, Mr. Scott is waiting for you in the Executive Boardroom.” The butler provides a running commentary of the doors we are passing, Mr. Scott’s Private Secretary, Mr. Scott’s Private Laboratory, Mr. Scott’s Personnel Office. “Here sir is the Executive Washroom if you would like to freshen up before dining.” While the reception area and hallway are lined with carved oak, the washroom is all marble and gold. After running my hands under a golden faucet, and drying them on the softest towel I’ve ever felt I glance at my reflection in the beveled and etched mirror. Tie straight, hair in place. “Well Mr. Larson, inventor of Larson’s No. 9 are you ready to meet your idol?” The man in the mirror asks. I nod in reply.
“Right this way sir,” the butler says as I exit the washroom. He leads me to the end of the hall where another set of double doors swing open as we approach. “Mr. James Larson of Summerville Connecticut,” the butler announces. The room is darkly appointed with a dark reddish wood that I can’t quite place that has been trimmed in gold leaf. In the center of the room is a large conference table of polished ebony which is illuminated by four lamps hanging from the high ceiling. The table has two place settings but enough food for a family Thanksgiving. At the head of the table stands J. Hiram Scott, in a perfectly fitted and expensive double-breasted suit.
Extending my hand I stutter, “Nice to meet you, sir.” He perfectly and properly accepts the offered hand. “Please sit down Mr. Larson, what may I offer you to drink? My cellar is open to you. Or would you prefer something stiffer, I have a superb single malt waiting to be opened.”
“Thank you for the offer,” I reply. “You wouldn’t happen to have a Coca-Cola? I’m afraid that I don’t often drink spirits.”
“Jameson, bring us two Coca-Colas.” Mr. Scott ordered. “It seems that Mr. Larson is something of a teetotaler. I’ll have to speak with Sweeney about that.” Turning to me he adds, “I admire a man of conviction, please fill your plate with whatever looks good to you. There’s a roast duck, Virginia ham, some delightful pheasant…”
We chit-chat through the meal which ends with a large slice of cheesecake and coffee. “No one in New York seems to be able to master the cheesecake, I have these brought in from Boston,” Mr. Scott says. “Now, let’s get down to business. Jameson, show in Sweeney and Williams.” The table is quickly cleared by several assistants as Jameson opens a side door. The first new guest is a tall and spidery gray-haired man in a double-breasted that matches Mr. Scott’s. He is also carrying a leather satchel. The second gentleman is shorter and broader, his suit looks wrinkled by a long train ride. He seems, however, to be more observant of his surroundings than the other gentleman. “Mr. Larson allow me to introduce Mr. Jacob Williams of Williams, Cutler, and Brown. Mr. Williams is my attorney. This other rather rumpled fellow is Mr. Todd Sweeney, formerly with Pinkertons but is now in my employ. Simply put, he watches things for me. Be seated gentleman and we’ll begin.”
“Mr. Larson,” Mr. Scott begins, “it has come to my attention that you have filed a patent for something called Larson’s No. 9, a solvent that appears to be is better than my own formula. This simply will not do. Mr. Williams, please present Mr. Larson with the contract.” From a leather satchel, the lawyer retrieves a document and hands copies to Mr. Scott and me. Turning to me Mr. Scott says, “Essentially this is a contract whereby you become my employee for life in exchange for the ownership of all previous and future creations and inventions. You could concentrate on research and leave the business to me.”
“What would happen to my formula?”
“Would that matter? It may never be marketed or it could become the new and improved Scott’s 99, either way, you’ll be well compensated. Have you sold any of it yet?”
“A bit here and there, mostly to hometown folks.”
“What about your trip to Dearborn Michigan?” Mr. Sweeney interjects. “Sell any there?”
“I went there to visit family. How did you know…”
“Mr. Sweeney has his ways. So, do we have a deal? If you look on the last page you will see that you will be well compensated.”
As I stare at the papers three pairs of eyes stare at me. With a sigh, I say, “I appreciate the offer, but I’d rather try this on my own, kind of follow in your path Mr. Scott. I mean, you took a simple solvent and rode it to the top, why can’t I?”
“You can’t because I’m already there and no upstart is going to change that. Mr. Williams, inform Mr. Larson what will happen if he refuses.”
“Very simply, we will sue you out of existence. We will probably lose the case in the end but you will be bankrupt and your solvent will never see the light of day.” Mr. Williams droned. “By the time I’m through you will have less than the Biblical character Job.”
“You see Mr. Larson,” Mr. Scott said. “I don’t care if I give the money to you or use it to ruin you, all I care about is that Scott’s 99 stays where it is.
The sweetness of the cheesecake turns to bile. This show, the meal, it was all designed to protect his empire. “I don’t feel very well, may I have a few days to consider this,” I ask.
“Certainly,” Mr. Scott said.
“I’ll be watching you,” adds Sweeney.
“Any move to sell your formula will be seen as turning down Mr. Scott’s generous offer,” Mr. Williams concludes.
“Jameson, please show Mr. Larson out and get him a hansom cab to his hotel,” Mr. Scott orders.
Once at the hotel I check the front desk for messages. The manager hands me a telegram, “this came in while you were out.” Sitting in my room I read,
-Will buy all you can make-
-come and see me-
-don’t worry about Scott-
-H. Ford –
Inspired by – “Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, Or desire his delicacies; For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the morsel you have eaten, And waste your compliments.” (Proverbs 23:6–8, NASB95)