Tuesday, May 5, 1936

“Old Bill” Suggests—

In 1837, as a boy of 16, Iver Lawson, the father of Victor F. Lawson, founder of The Daily News, came to Illinois from the Voss district in Norway. Iver’s parents and Stephen, his younger brother, came with him. An older brother, Knud, a carpenter, had preceded them and was working in Chicago.

The family joined a Norwegian colony in the Fox river valley, but young Iver, restless on the farm, came to Chicago, where the 1839 directory lists him as a laborer boarding at 240 Superior street. In 1843 he was still a laborer.

Later, as Charles Dennis recounts in his life of Victor F. Lawson, Iver opened a small store, sold steamship tickets, dealt shrewdly in real estate.

Before the great fire he was considered worth $1,000,000. He died in 1872, trying to rebuild the fortune burned in the Chicago fire of 1871.

Victor F. Lawson, on the remains of his father’s estate, built up a newspaper which after his death was sold to a group of employees and leading citizens for $14,000,000—and that was not the highest bid.

Meanwhile, also in 1837, Ferdinand F. W. Peck bought a cow pasture for $294. It was the block bounded by LaSalle, Jackson, Clark and Adams, where the Continental Illinois National Bank and other buildings now stand. The site of the cow pasture also is now worth $14,000,000.

This is not an argument for the exploded fallacy of “single tax.” The land would have eaten up its entire present value in taxes if allowed to lie idle. Assuming that it had been made productive enough to carry itself, a man shrewd enough to hold would have made as much as the man who built a great enterprise.

But the Lawsons had more fun and did more to build Chicago. What you get out of life comes from what you do, not what you have.


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