Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hot Stocks in the 1950s

 MAY 25, 1954
Uranium Boom Hits
Salt Lake City Brokers
SALT LAKE CITY (AP)—A uranium boom swamped Salt Lake City brokerage firms yesterday, with an estimated five million shares of uranium stocks changing hands in over-the-counter trade—which accounts for most of the uranium stock business. Issues listed on the Salt Lake Stock Exchange also were active and made substantial price gains. E. N. Bagley, manager of the J. A. Hogle and Co.  office, attributed the brisk trade to demand that has been "building up for several days." He said "a lot of outside money," coming mostly from Texas, New York and California, boosted the volume and also the prices.
Old Hands Laughed at Charlie Steen's Ideas
On Uranium, but He Hit It Rich on Second Try

MOAB (AP) — Pockets are jingling on the Colorado Plateau today as miners, speculators, prospectors and a score of amateurs pour cash and sweat into a mushrooming uranium boom.

Mining men place the plateau, a desert area fanning out from the point where Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico come together, just behind Africa and ahead of Canada in uranium production. But they'll tell you that despite rosy prospects and a booming industry, putting money into uranium is speculative at best.
If you want to invest, you deal with men who are optimists, who feel that lady luck is just around the corner. But uranium ore isn't everywhere on the plateau. A section of land next to one major new strike reportedly sold for one million dollars. But nobody has found uranium on it yet.

Money is being made here in two major ways: Actual mining, or getting into a development at the prospecting stage and later selling or leasing land where a strike has been discovered. 

He Made A Fortune 
Charlie Steen made his fortune the first way. Until he made his strike, Steen was just another youthful prospector with visions of wealth, tramping through the sagebrush and scrambling up and down gulches. He had theories about ore deposits, based on his training at the Texas College of Mines. Old-timers listened to them—and shook their heads, or chuckled derisively.

But Steen, a smallish 34-year-old  Texan, stuck to his ideas. He rented a shack for $15 a month—it was home for him, his wife and four young sons. On his second try for uranium, Steen made his strike. His mother had grubstaked him to $1,000 and early in 1951 he staked out a dozen claims in the big Indian country, 40 miles from here.

He got some more backing and managed to build a crude road into the area so drilling equipment could move in. The core drill first bit into rock July 3, 1952. Three days later Steen struck ore. "It was July 16 before we knew what we had," Steen says. 

Things Happen Fast 
Production finally got under way in December, 1952. The first ore was shipped to mills two days later. Since then things have happened fast to Steen. "With his mother, Mrs. Roselie Shumaker, he formed the Utex Exploration Co. Later they set up three more: The Mi Vida Mine, Inc.. Big Indian Mines, Inc., and Moab Drilling Co.

Steen branched out into merchandising and banking and is prominent in a syndicate planning a new uranium mill to be built here. It will be the largest in the United States when completed. He's also in on a housing development, has an interest in an airport and is leveling and above Moab for a new home. Steen's fabulous mine, which he calls, with feeling, the "Mi-Vida" (my life) is turning out some 7,000 tons of high-grade ore every month. He envisions the day, not too far in the future, when it will yield 1,000 tons a day.

Causes Grief For
But the m i n e has brought Steen more harassment than happiness. "It was a lot of fun finding it," he says. "But I've had grief ever since." Steen has become a controversial figure here—mostly because of envy. And he is constantly badgered with potential backers and buyers. "I can't walk down the street without two or three people talking to me about one thing or another," he says. "A lot of their ideas are good ones, but I could use up 10 million dollars If I tried all of them."

In his neat, paneled office here, Steen tries to keep his fingers on his various enterprises. He keeps in touch by short wave radio with his mine and the planes he has flying around the area. He sees 39 to 40 people a day, darting from conference to conference and making frequent trips to a mining laboratory he maintains. 

Mechanical Operation
Steen considers mining "a mechanical operation." The actual recovery of ore bores him, and a lot of experienced miners think thousands of dollars are slipping through his fingers because of some of the methods at "Mi Vida."

Neither Steen nor the Atomic Energy Commission will agree to that. Both feel he knows what he's doing. It was a year after the strike, Steen says, "before I did any good financially." Money—in six figure amounts —goes through his hands every month. Only about 10 per cent of it stays with Steen.

"I'm getting enough to live on —damned well," he says. He refers to Uncle Sam as "my silent partner" because of taxes. "I don't think anyone in uranium has a bigger stake than I have," Steen argues earnestly. "I'm mining and paying most of it out in taxes. I could have sold and taken advantage of capital gains."

He Won't Sell Mine
But Steen makes it clear that Mi Vida "is not for sale for a million dollars, or 10 million or 150 million. I'll sell anything else I own, if the price is right, but not the mine."

While they're waiting for their new home to be built, Steen, his wife, "M.L." and their sons Mark, 4; Charles, 7; Andy, 5; and John, 8, live in a comfortable house here. He likes inexpensive shirts and trousers, and looks anything but a mining baron as he sits nervously in his office, clean shaven, bespectacled and serious. Most uranium men say Steen's case is something of an exception; more cash is being made trading claims and floating companies than from actual digging of ore and selling it to government-licensed buyers. 

Companies Being Formed
Mining and allied companies, they point out, are being organized by the dozen and assorted stocks are finding their way to the public. You can buy some of them for a dollar a share, or a dime, or even a penny. Demand is good. Many investments come from people who want either to make a quick profit or who want the thrill of being in on one of the great booms of our time. In a few years, some of this stock will be worth a lot of money. Other shares will be only worthless pieces of paper to recall faded dreams. More money is coming in from big business, looking for investments to cut immediate tax bills. It's a loose financial situation and a lot of reliable uranium men are worried about it. They caution prospective investors to go slowly.

Men like Steen are operating against a background of great tax pressures and the big promoter. Successful miners and prospectors are selling out to companies, many of them newly formed, because of the heavy burden of federal taxes. This gives the promoter a big chance. In a legitimate enterprise, the promoter plays a useful and necessary role. But there are complaints here that some promotions are running wild.

There's a story that one promoter asked to buy a few claims to get a couple of shipments of ore out of it so he could sell stock on the strength of the shipments. But the men who are striking it rich in uranium are, for the most part, plowing a lot of their earnings back into the industry. Because of expansion, many of them still owe money to banks, but it doesn't seem to bother them.

Many like the attitude of Steen. A geologist by training and a prospector at heart, Steen looks wistfully at the hills and says: "We've only scratched the potential of the Colorado Plateau."


AUGUST 3, 1954
Utah County, Utah DAILY HERALD
Restaurant Habitues Trade In Utah Uranium Securities
United Press Staff Correspondent

Boys in the back room?

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (UP)—When they see what the boys in the back room will have at a certain men's restaurant here, it's probably uranium stock, not food. The back room at the "Grabeteria" used to be adorned with pictures of bathing beauties. But it's been turned into a brokerage office, and where the pin ups used to hang you find lists of stock offerings.

These are less shapely than beauty queens, but just as exciting.

It's all part of the boom in "penny" uranium shares that has been sweeping Salt Lake City, the focal point of uranium production in the vast Colorado Plateau of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and Nevada.

At the Grabeteria you can order your coffee and doughnuts and take your change as a few shares of your favorite company. Hanging on the wall beside the menu is a list of 39, uranium companies offering shares from as little as two cents up to $1.62. Thousands of Salt Lake City residents have dug into their savings to buy stock. They are warned by federal and state stock exchange officials that their investments are extremely risky, but trading has boomed. 

As many as seven million shares have been sold in a single day. Most of the companies have never produced any uranium. They own mining claims in various parts of the Colorado Plateau, and it's yet to be seen whether their parcels of windswept land contain anything but rocks and rattlesnakes. The uranium which Uncle Sam is buying for atomic bombs and their nuclear projects is produced mostly by old, established companies whose stock is not for sale on the open market.

Even the more conservative stock brokers who take a dim view of the recent feverish buying and selling, admit uranium holds a terrific potential for the Colorado Plateau. They say a lot depends on the future use of uranium as a fuel for generating electric power. "It's just a question of separating the cats from the mink," one expert said.

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