Monday, June 17, 2013

Alchemy, or Turning Swamps to Gold

Coral Gables Developer of the Early 1920's
Linked to Uranium Scam of the 1950's

Admiral Telfair Knight, a lawyer from Jacksonville, Florida, became an associate of a man previously researched here in connection with uranium stock scams of the 1950's in Canada to Robert Kennedy's nemesis Roy Cohn. This 1950's-era Canadian uranium stock broker Bryan W. Newkirk, appeared in a 1925 William Fishbaugh photograph, tagged 'portrait of real estate salesmen in Coral Gables, Florida.'

The QJ post from August 2011 contained a hodgepodge of information centered around Roy Cohn's indictment by Bobby Kennedy's Justice Department in October 1963, only a month before JFK's murder. Another QJ entry that same month delved more into the uranium stock scams being run out of Toronto, in which the following excerpt from a syndicated Red Smith sports column appeared six months prior to Kennedy's election as President:
APRIL 6, 1960 -DUCK KEY, Fla. — This is a sunny blob of coral and money 95 miles from Miami down the Overseas Highway toward Key West. The coral was here when Blackbeard sailed the Spanish Main; the money was trucked in by Bryan W. Newkirk, the wolf of Canada's penny stock market, who had a hand in developing Coral Gables, has one foot in Canadian gold mines and another in uranium. With his remaining hand he directs the Florida-Southern Land Corp., which has transformed this pelican roost into a flowering hideout for the over- privileged, complete with yacht harbor, fresh and salt water swimming pools, a nine-hole long-iron golf course, and a spang new hotel of simple elegance.
Shifting Gears

Following money trails mandates that a researcher have the ability to shift gears. When we first discovered Bryan Newkirk, the penny stock king of Toronto, involved in Roy Cohn's Florida empire at Duck Key, we were primarily concerned with figuring out how Florida land development fit into all the uranium hype in Texas the decade prior to the JFK assassination, if you recall, as we peered into the ins and outs of the Torbitt Document. At that time we researched David Copeland, alleged author of the document, pursuing what he knew and when he knew it about nuclear power in the Dallas and Fort Worth region and focused, in particular, on the Byrd Uranium Corporation, whose president, D. Harold Byrd, had sold stock in his corporations to Toronto scammers with whom Newkirk was somehow linked, before Newkirk returned to his established roots in southern Florida.

In the back of my mind, however, even before the curiosity about who killed JFK, there has always been the question of who engineered the savings and loan scandal in Texas in the late 1980's--the seminal series of events which led QJ's blogger into her initial conspiracy research. The two interests seemed inextricably intertwined; solving one would help to solve the other. It's the money behind the scene which lights up the trail. The conspirators are those who control the money, the knowledge about its illicit sources, and the plan for its ultimate use.

Click image to enlarge.
Since Bryan Winslow Newkirk II connects several sites of where such illicitly generated money emerged, it is helpful to track his entire life to see with whom he made contact. 

He had been born in 1888 in Wilmington, N.C., where he worked for awhile for the Atlantic Coast Railroad. He went to work in advertising for an Atlanta newspaper, married Lucile Rebecca King, a Georgia girl, in about 1913, and before long was handling financing for a car dealership in Atlanta (Newkirk-George Motor Co.), which sold Chalmers and Chandler cars--two up and coming models quickly submerged into the General Motors brand. 

 In today's digital economy, it's difficult for us to visualize the days when hardware was the king of modern technology. Car bodies, though designed by many different "brands," were almost all manufactured by the Fisher Body Corporation--60% of whose stock in 1919 was controlled by General Motors. William C. "Billy" Durant had advised GM to buy Fisher, just as John J. Raskob, who worked for E.I. Du Pont de Nemours, had advised his boss, Pierre S. du Pont, to purchase Durant's GM stock when the GM executive needed an infusion of capital just as World War I was ending. The du Pont family was loaded with cash from selling munitions throughout the war years.

In 1923 Pierre du Pont, who then held the controlling shares of GM, removed Durant as president of the company and replaced him with DuPont minion Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. It was during these transition years, we have been told, that Pierre's cousin Alfred was so incensed with his family's machinations that he moved all his many assets to Jacksonville, Florida.

Intriguingly, Bryan Newkirk left Atlanta for Jacksonville at about that same time. He switched from Chalmers-Chandler cars to Hupmobiles--acquiring  Black-Newkirk Motors (eventually called Thompson-Newkirk Motor Co.), located at 314 W. Monroe in downtown Jacksonville, facing the big federal Post Office Building across from the City of Jacksonville's office building, which bears the name of Alfred du Pont's brother-in-law, Edward Ball. (We found it by googling the address and looking at the street view, which makes one feel just like an NSA analyst sifting through its own software.)

Newkirk's interest in Hupmobiles apparently waned even before the Hupp Corporation, under its post-WWII chairman, William S. Knudsen (who had moved from Ford to General Motors in the early 1920s) diversified Hupp into electronics and kitchen appliances before its name faded away completely. 

Newkirk and Telfair Knight--
Land Sales in Florida

In the McLemore article inset above, Newkirk gave a brief biography of his life up to 1960, revealing that he was enticed into Coral Gables real estate sales by a man he met in Jacksonville--Telfair Knight--and says he went with Knight to work at George Merrick's Coral Gables development just outside Miami as early as 1921. But he apparently kept up his interest in his car dealership (see 1924 ad to the right) while he says he had 4,000 real estate salesmen working for him!

Coincidences like this make one wonder: Is there one overriding factor connecting Telfair Knight, George Merrick, Chalmers, Chandler, Hupmobile and Jacksonville, Florida? Of course. It's money, and Alfred I. duPont, who had more money than he could spend from munitions sales during WWI, suffered a brief dip in fortunes as a result of family disputes and business setbacks. Only five years after his third marriage, to Jessie Ball, he shifted from war to peacetime activities in Florida:
In 1926 Alfred and Jessie decided to move their principal residence from Nemours [in Delaware] to Epping Forest in Jacksonville, Florida. He opened offices in Jacksonville and founded Almours Securities, Inc. At this point his assets were reported to total over $34,000,000 and his business enterprises virtually dominated the economy of Florida [emphasis added].

Adm. Telfair Knight
Jacksonville attorney, Telfair Knight, to work for him. Merrick had become involved in land development after growing up on a citrus plantation and fruit packing plant, run by his father, which Merrick subdivided for residential development beginning in 1913, the same year Maude Fowler and her husband relocated from Oklahoma to Jacksonville, Florida. The Fowlers began selling real estate for Artesian Farms, a company linked to the Securities Underwriters corporation set up to finance the sale of swamp land in the Florida Everglades. 

There were several phases of development in Florida, and waves of investors from various locations who descended upon Florida with hopes of making many times their initial investment in marshy, virtually worthless lands. We have previously shown how Paul Helliwell's father had settled in Tampa, an area that grew before 1900 from the manufacture of cigars, to work as an inspector for U.S. Customs.

Flagler's Alchemy, a Model for
Turning Swampland into Gold

The land development model was set up in 1888 when Standard Oil magnate Henry M. Flagler completed Hotel Ponce de Leon in the northeast part of Florida. With the success of the hotel, he envisioned further travel along Florida's east coast by building a railroad down to West Palm Beach, across from the island of Palm Beach, where another hotel would be built--forming an American "Côte d'Azur," as it were. 

At the time the Royal Poinciana opened in 1894, soon supplemented by another hotel on the beach, called The Breakers, Flagler had become acquainted--possibly through Henry Walters, president of with the the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad--with the Kenan family from Wilmington, N.C., the city where the railroad was then headquartered. William Rand Kenan, Jr. was an 1894 graduate of the University of North Carolina and his sister, Mary Lily was 24 in 1891 when she and Flagler first met in Newport, R.I., while he was still married to his second wife. In 1901, two years prior to the death of her father, a Wilmington, N.C. broker, they were married.

Alchemists must have seen Florida as a way to turn, not lead, but swamp land into a gold mine. However, as Flagler quickly learned, the railroad was a necessary step before his hotels could be enjoyed by the wealthy vacationers in search of luxurious holidays without traveling abroad. After building the first two hotels Flagler moved into railroads as a means of bringing more travelers to them. One essayist in 1925 described the initial development in this way:
The unknown firm of Carrer and Hastings, New York, was awarded the job of building the Ponce de Leon and the spot Flagler picked for its location was typical of his developments along the East Coast. It was a swamp.

So his first hotel was rapidly built from below the ground up. Before it was completed in 1888 he had the Alcazar under course of construction. Two mammoth hotels, gorgeously appointed, were springing up in the marshes and no means by which the tourist might reach them except by river steamer, ocean voyage or over the ramshackle, narrow-gauge line running into St. Augustine from Jacksonville.

With $2,000,000 tied up in what he had announced would be the world’s finest hotel and another million being sunk in the Alcazar across the street, Flagler was precipitated by the course of events into railroad building. And it was in this field that he won fame as great as that of any captain of industry, not excepting James J. Hill, termed the empire builder of the West.

All negotiations with the owners of the Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Halifax River Railway Company failed to convince these men that their road should be standardized and enlarged to meet anticipated traffic requirements. So Flagler bought the road outright, made it standard gauge, rebuilt the track system, added better equipment and made a railroad of what had been a streak of rust through the wilderness.
Flagler's residence in Palm Beach
Construction of the hotels helped make the lumbermen of the Jacksonville area--which included most of Telfair Knight's relatives--wealthy. In the late 1890's Flagler decided to keep going farther south to Miami. The mansion built for Mary Lily Kenan Flagler was completed in Palm Beach a year after their marriage.  By then Flagler envisioned more wealth through Cuba and Panama, former Spanish possessions acquired as a result of the Spanish American War which ended in 1898.

W. M. Walker wrote in The Greatest Men of Florida, the essay quoted above:
Miami then had no port, and that was what Flagler sought--an outlet to the sea and a line of communication with South America. He also anticipated the construction of the Panama Canal several years. Key West was the nearest deepwater port--a key to the National defense and a communication point within six hours of Havana... In May, 1886, he had bought his first railroad in Florida; in 1888, the St. Augustine and Palatka line, with a twelve mile branch leading to Tocoi. The same year he acquired the St. Johns and Halifax running from East Palatka to Daytona--a narrow-gauge road which he standardized in 1889. The same year he bridged the St. Johns river at Palatka and the following year he spanned the same stream at Jacksonville with a bridge which is now being rebuilt and double-tracked....On January 22, 1912, the Key West extension was opened to traffic-with Flagler’s special train running from Jacksonville to Key West where a gigantic celebration had been prepared for “The Chief’s” birthday, celebrated twenty days late.... In May, 1913, Mr. Flagler died....
All the money that built his dream had been created out of air, of course--in the form of paper sold to others in the form of stock or bonds. It is not unlike the theme of the Kevin Costner flick, "Field of Dreams," which imparts the ideal: "If you build it, they will come." And of course the implication is that, if they come, they will bring money to pay off what you spent to build it.

Flagler and wife
It should be remembered that Henry Flagler had no formal education, but he did have "educated" friends. When he died, he also had an extremely young wife, his third, Mary Lily Kenan, whom he met in Newport, R.I. in 1891 while still married to second wife, Alice Ida Shrouds, his children's nanny, whom he married when the first wife died. 

Mary Kenan's family lived in Wilmington, N.C., then headquarters of the Atlantic Coast Railroad, operated then by Henry Walters, and later by Lyman Delano, whom we will return to shortly.

Flagler's marriage to Mary occurred in 1901, and as his surviving widow, she and her siblings in Wilmington were the chief recipients of the Flagler estate (apart from $5 million) that went to Kentucky attorney, Robert Worth Bingham, whom she married in 1916. Author David Leon Chandler in a book delayed by a copyright dispute with Bingham's son:
The Binghams of Louisville: The Dark History Behind One of America's Great Fortunes, theorizes that family patriarch Robert Worth Bingham founded the family fortune in 1917 when he "murdered his second wife for money," according to a statement by Crown [the publisher].
A second book, written by William Ellis, "charges that he contributed to the death of his second wife, an heiress whose bequest of five million dollars helped purchase the Louisville Courier-Journal and Times, followed him to the grave."

According to a blurb for the Ellis book:
In some accounts, Bingham drove his first wife to suicide and gave syphilis to the second before murdering her to gain control of her inheritance.
The things some people will do for money! But we digress. We'll attempt a new start in the next post.