182 – A New Office

Acquisitions were booming. Investment sales were booming. Home office staff was booming.

Public Utility Investment Company invested in a much larger office. It was on the second floor of businesses along Santa Fe Avenue, the main street in Salina.

Public Utility Investment Company – new offices – 1927

By the end of 1927, PUIC was moving into the new office space.

Nathan Jones, ever the promoter, ordered a 22-page special edition of The Salina Journal to evangelize the company and its accomplishments.

And the accomplishments were impressive! The company was just three years old. Here are some highlights.

The Salina Journal – Special Supplement – December 14, 1927

Here’s the page of the company officers.

The page for the General Engineering and Construction Company.

And a good overview of what the company does, and some operation statistics.

Here are some of the other pages, just to get a sense of the promotional impact.

Can you believe it?

The growth of the company is unbelievable. It had been just three years since Nathan Jones moved to Salina and opened an office. It had been just four years since Jones and Ralph Jarvis organized the United Power of Oklahoma.

Now there was a company of 700 employees serving 35,000 utility customers in 100 towns. And hundreds of investors holding bonds and preferred stock.

Nathan Jones was age 35. Ralph Jarvis was 33.

Nibbles Extra Credit – The Roaring Twenties

Automobiles and mass production

In our stories this far, we’ve already seen the impact of the automobile on the 1920s. The auto arguably had the most impact in the 20s, though some might choose electricity as the top dog.

The big three were Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. Their size was staggering. They employed 7% of all factory workers. They accounted for 12% of all business revenue in the country.

They produced cars in huge numbers and therefore more cheaply. The price of a car dropped from $940 in 1920 to $290 in 1929.

Impact on other industries

Advertisement showcasing the new “identification tag,” more often referred to as the paper “plume” for the Hershey’s KISSES wrapper, 1921

We’ve already seen the automobile’s influence on other industries, like steel production, road building, service stations, and the oil and gas industry.

Mass production was begun for other products, like Coca-Cola, radios, chocolates (eventually 25 million Hershey’s Kisses® per day).  These other companies applied mass-production assembly lines and built global businesses. Most had five-day, 40-hour weeks and paid fair wages in a safe workplace. 

But in this story, let’s talk about the automobile itself.

Before WWI, cars were a luxury good

The number of autos more than tripled during the 1920s, to some 26 million registered in 1929. For the first half of the decade, Henry Ford’s Model T accounted for nearly half of car sales.

Ford Model T

The first Model T rolled off the production line in 1908. It was an instant success, even at the exorbitant price of almost $900.

Henry Ford knew a good thing. Don’t mess with success. Year after year, the Model T accounted for more than half of all cars sold. The design didn’t change much. Ford said, “You can have the car in any color you want, as long as it’s black.”

By 1923, Ford’s crew could bang out a Model T every 30 seconds, with each car taking about 90 minutes to build. 

Between 1908 and 1927, 15 million “Tin Lizzies” rolled off the assembly line.

Because of efficiency of scale, the price plummeted from $850 to $260, making it affordable for the middle-classes. By the mid-20’s there was a market in used cars, offering mobility to the lower middle-classes.


The Model T chassis could be converted into pickups, delivery trucks, etc.  Farmers and businesses were early adopters. The Model T as a truck could transport farm products, animals, and other cargo. It could even be used by utility companies to build transmission lines.

Model T truck – c 1920

Other manufacturers

GM and Chrysler gained ground on Ford during the 20s. The Model T had never changed, while GM and Chrysler were introducing new technology, like hydraulic brakes and electric starters. GM introduced different colors and yearly model changes.

Ford Model A

Finally, in 1927, Ford executives held an intervention with Henry Ford. They insisted that the company needed to offer a more modern product. Henry finally relented.

The Ford Model A was the company’s second success. Model A production ran four years, 1928 to 1931. The price range was $500 to $1,200.

Here’s Ralph Jarvis and his 1928 or 1929 Ford Model A roadster. Although as the article notes, Ralph had upgraded from a Model A to a Lincoln.

Ed. Note: Coincidentally, my first car was a 1929 Ford Model A roadster, just like Ralph’s.

The Parade – Public Utility Investment Company newsletter – January 1929

Women in cars

Chevrolet ad – 1920s

Advertisers targeted women in car ads. The majority of buyers and drivers were men, but advertisers recognized a huge additional market.

Women in cars hit the art market too. Here’s one of artist Tamara de Lempicka’s most recognizable works, a self-portrait of her in a green Bugatti in 1929.

Self-portrait in a green Bugatti – Tamara de Lempicka – 1929

Timeline – 1927


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