FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH (1907) – Written by Thomas William Lawson, a writer and stock manipulator who made a fortune from shady stock deals … in between advocating for cleaning up Wall Street to shut down those fleece jobs. The reforms Lawson campaigned for were taken up decades later when Franklin Roosevelt appointed future Supreme Court Justice William O Douglas to head the Securities Exchange Commission.
Coincidentally enough the overall feel of Friday the Thirteenth put me in mind of FDR’s cousin, Theodore Roosevelt. The novel did that with its New York setting, with the way the story takes place late in T.R.’s presidency and most especially with the way it dealt with ethics in the marketplace.
Jim Randolph, one of the novel’s main characters, is in the T.R. mold: he may be a bloated rich pig but at least he’s a bloated rich pig with a sense of noblesse oblige. Jim shares Teddy Roosevelt’s disdain for the Trusts and for con men who use the stock market to rip off their clients.
It’s not as if Jim Randolph is as fiery as Teddy Forstmann was in his opposition to Leveraged Buy Outs during the 1980s, but like Forstmann he has a sense of what makes for a healthy economy and frowns upon the fly-by-night operators who thrive on irresponsible “frenzied finance” as Randolph calls it. Continue reading