179 – The States Power Company

By January 1924, Pawnee Power and Water Company and all the other C.L. Brown companies were merged into United Light and Power Company.

Nathan Jones had risen to assistant treasurer, and Ralph Jarvis had moved up to head the construction division.

But there was an opportunity in Oklahoma.

The States Power Company had been organized by John D. Bomford and had contracted to supply transmission lines and electricity to nine towns in north central Oklahoma.

States Power Company – Service Towns

Bomford had failed to perform. Some towns didn’t yet have the transmission lines. Those that did had spotty electrical service, and the company gave poor customer service.

Opportunity knocks

Robert Johnston of Oklahoma City proposed taking over the failed company. He wanted Jones to help him organize the deal.

Nathan Jones had contracted to work for C.L. Brown for one year. Now that year was over. Jones quit his position.

The Jet Visitor – June 12, 1924

Bomford was happy to rid himself of States Power. Nathan Jones was appointed trustee of States Power to audit its finances and equipment.

Jones talked Ralph Jarvis into joining him. Ralph quit C.L. Brown and followed Nathan Jones.

Jones would do the financial audit, and Jarvis would audit the lines and equipment.

As Trustee, Jones was effectively running the States Power Company. He began a program to fix and upgrade the lines. Ralph Jarvis oversaw the work.

It was a great PR move. The improvements were quickly noticed.

The Jet Visitor – June 5, 1924

Public Utility Investment Company

Nathan Jones organized the Public Utility Investment Company (PUIC). The PUIC acquired the assets of States Power Company.

We will see the PUIC often in the ensuing years. It was one of Jones’ main holding companies. Jones was the primary stockholder. Perhaps Ralph Jarvis and Robert Johnston had some shares.

The United Power Company

Next Jones proposed forming the United Power Company, which would buy the assets from PUIC, and form contracts with the nine towns to take over responsibility to supply electricity.

The corporation was to be formed by Jones, Jarvis, and Robert Johnston. I assume each had a substantial share.

Nathan Jones was age 32. Ralph Jarvis was 30.

The Pawhuska Daily Capital – August 8, 1924

A contract with each town

The next job was to agree to franchise contracts with each town. Jones proposed that United Power would pay off $67,000 indebtedness and assume $21,000 of ongoing contracts. In return, each town would turn over all city-owned poles, meters, and equipment.

United Power would be the retailer of electricity, and the rates would be guaranteed. The contract was to be for 25 years.

Each town held a special election. They really didn’t have much choice. If they didn’t approve Jones’ proposal, they would have to start from scratch.

Special Election for Meno, Oklahoma –
The Ringwood Recorder – August 22, 1924

Two factors helped win the day. First, people knew that Jones and Jarvis had experience, and had done a good job in their previous endeavors. Second, the improvements that Jones had implemented as trustee were noticed, and service had improved.

Every town voted in favor, passing its resolution by a large margin.

Let’s get to work

The negotiations were over, the resolutions were passed. Now it was time to make good on the promises.

Ralph Jarvis oversaw the repair and building of the electrical infrastructure.

Ralph was made general manager of United Power.

The improvements weren’t only building and repairing lines. Ralph also assigned customer service reps, and invited customers to let their rep know of any problems.

More towns sign on

The Independent – December 3, 1925

In May 1925, Ringwood, Oklahoma residents voted to contract with United Power.

And in December 1925, Medford contracted with United. United Power bought Medford’s electric generating plant for $12,000 and connected it into their system. It saved Medford from maintenance and operating costs.

Oklahoma Gas & Electric buys United Power

The Enid Events May 27, 1926

Oklahoma Gas & Electric was on a buying spree.

In May 1926, OG&E bought United Power. It was two years after Jones, Jarvis, and Johnston had organized United Power.

In the 1890s, before Oklahoma was a state, entrepreneurs were investigating an emerging technology – electrification. Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company was the first in the state to implement this sought-after technology and, by 1928, was Oklahoma’s largest electric company.

Oklahoma Gas and Electric website

OG&E acquisitions in the 1920s made it the largest electricity company in the state. During that decade, OG&E acquired 12 regional utilities.

Nathan Jones was a rich man. Let’s hope Ralph Jarvis and Robert Johnston shared in the good fortune.


Nibbles Extra Credit – The Roaring Twenties

Social Issues

The Roaring Twenties represented a significant shift in American cultural values, morals, and social roles. There were certainly socialites whose lifestyles were immortalized by F. Scott Fitzgerald. But there were many who resented the materialism and greed and inequality.

For many Americans, the 1920s was a decade of poverty. More than 60 per cent of Americans lived just below the poverty line.

Generally, groups such as farmers, black Americans, immigrants, workers in the traditional industries and working class women did not enjoy the prosperity of the ‘Roaring Twenties’.

Social Critics

Many social critics voiced their disgust in magazines and books and plays.

Main Street – Sinclair Lewis – 1920

Sinclair Lewis was a popular social critic. He wrote about working men and women and criticized American capitalism and materialism. Lewis was the first American writer to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Lewis’ book Main Street, published in 1920, was a huge success. Lewis’s agent made an optimistic projection the book would sell 25,000 copies. In its first six months, Main Street sold 180,000 copies. Total sales topped two million. The book made Lewis very rich, somewhat of a contradiction to his contempt of capitalism.

Other social critics were Edith Wharton, H.L. Mencken, and more.

Racism

Racism wasn’t new. Jim Crow laws and segregation and violence had been common since Reconstruction. But anti-black sentiment was increasing.

The advertising industry was racist, depicting whites as professionals, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, while showing blacks in secondary roles like servants or mammies.

In 1919, race riots broke out in 25 cities. In 1922, the House of Representatives passed an anti-lynching bill, but the bill was defeated in the Senate by Southern Democrats.

Tulsa Greenwood massacre

Greenwood was a very successful African American section of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

On May 31, 1921, a white girl accused a colored boy of assaulting her in a public elevator. Without trying to find out if the accusation was true, a mob began a wild rampage through Greenwood.

They burned and looted homes and businesses and killed 300 people.

Aftermath of Tulsa Greenwood riot – 1921

Religion

Racism wasn’t limited to anti-black prejudice. There was growing anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic sentiment.

Religious fundamentalists sought to enforce Christian Protestant orthodoxy to stave off progressive social thought. In 1925, John T. Scopes, a biology teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, was charged with teaching the theory of evolution. The “Scopes Monkey Trial” attracted national attention. Scopes was found guilty, but the fundamentalist beliefs became an object of national ridicule.

H.L. Mencken’s on-site reporting on the Scopes Trial was widely read. Dayton citizens were outraged. On July 17, 1925, the Dayton newspaper had stories with these headlines: “Mencken Epithets Rouse Dayton’s Ire,” “Citizens Resent Being Called ‘Babbitts,’ ‘Morons,’ ‘Peasants,’ ‘Hill-Billies,’ and ‘Yokels,'” and “Talk of Beating Him Up.”

Anti-Immigration

The Afro-American – Baltimore – February 20, 1926

Anti-immigration sentiment grew. There were movements against immigrants from non-European countries.

The open-door policies of past decades would close in 1921. The Emergency Quota Act of 1921 was passed to restrict the large influx of Southern and Eastern Europeans. It put low quotas on immigration from non-Western-European countries.

The Immigration Act of 1924 limited immigration to a fraction proportionate to that ethnic group in the United States in 1890. The goal was to freeze the pattern of European ethnic composition, and to exclude almost all Asians. Hispanics were not restricted

The Immigration Act of 1924 prevented immigration from Asia and set quotas on the number of immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere. The quotas were an 80% reduction from pre-WWI numbers.

China, Bulgaria, Palestine and the African nations could send no more than 100 people. England and Northern Ireland could send 34,000, while Italy could send just under 4,000.

History of American Journalism – The 1920s

Ku Klux Klan

All these feelings of racism, anti-Semitism, and anti-immigration fueled the membership of the Ku Klux Klan. In the early 20s, Klan membership exceeded five million. Besides illegal and terrorist activities, Klan members were elected to local and state political office.

Ku Klux Klan march – Washington, D.C. – August 9, 1925

Timeline – 1924


Sources

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