Wilbur B. Foshay builds a 32-floor headquarters for his utilities empire in downtown Minneapolis. The Foshay Tower is the tallest building in Minnesota for half a century.
The stock market crash, scarcely a month after the tower’s dedication, puts an end to Foshay’s fortune and the giddy speculation of the 1920s. The next year, the tower is put on the auction block. There are no buyers.*
Foshay was a vigorous young man who started as a gas pipefitter and electrician. By 1916, he worked his way up to owning a public utilities holding company. (A holding company is created to buy and possess the shares of other companies, which it then controls.) *** “By 1928, he was a prosperous man, at least on paper. His company owned utilities in thirty states, the then-territory of Alaska, Canada, and Central America.” **
“Foshay built the Foshay Tower in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which opened in August 1929. In 1932 he was convicted of conducting a “pyramid scheme” with shares of his own stock. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. President Franklin Roosevelt commuted 10 years from Foshay’s sentence, but Foshay only actually served three years in Leavenworth because of “good behavior.” President Harry Truman granted Foshay a full and unconditional pardon in 1947.” ****
What do You wish to say through Foshay’s tower story, Eternal Father? Let us listen and reflect with You, and more completely know Your heart. What is it that You affirm about this man and his age, and what is it that You wish to correct?
To begin, I see a man who started simply working hard in the field he loved; providing utilities. It seems to fit his character as an entrepreneur and a man of enthusiasm. Was it this same vitality that created the conditions for his downfall?
Like Foshay, we are drawn to play to our strengths, but sometimes are blinded by our own glory. We lose our ability to harness our zeal, and do not operate with the self- control required to better use our giftings. Will You forgive Foshay the excesses of his spiritedness against Your will? Will You forgive us where we resist You today, not yielding an inch to be called out of the comforts of our best attributes if it means humbling ourselves before You or others?
Conversely, will You forgive the judgements of Foshay’s detractors? Will You forgive any jealousies of his competitors in public utilities? Will You forgive those who modeled or endorsed the corrupt practices of his “pyramid scheme”?
All of us, high to low, have fallen prey to greed at some level. Men like Foshay inflate the value of their stock, bankers and politicians hide debt by devaluing currency, and the poor commit fraud against all kinds of social services overdrawing on the charity of society. We have negated fair rules and have sought a deck stacked for us and against our neighbor; have mercy!
All of us, low to high, have taken the bait of envy. We have made ourselves look better than we really are, and have underscored the flaws of our equals to get ahead. Will You forgive us this debt to give honor back to our peers? Will You forgive our lack of gratitude for our competitors, or the awareness that You have uniquely positioned them (by Your wisdom) in our lives?
Regardless of internal motives, we acknowledge the work of Mr. Foshay, and the iconic tower still bearing his name. We are grateful that You understand us: whether we build empires with bad hearts, or have a poor work ethic with good hearts. We honor Your acceptance as the highest tower over our city. You are the Master Builder. Amen!
And then he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I’ll store all my grain and goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat drink and be merry.” ‘
But G-d said to him, ‘You fool! this very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward G-d.” ***** Luke 12:16-21 NIV
* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
** An excellent summary of Foshay’s life by Britt Aamodt. http://www.mnopedia.org/person/foshay-wilbur-1881-1957 *** https://www.bing.com/search?q=definition+of+holding+company&form=APMCS1&PC=APMC
**** Excerpt from the Salida, Colorado museum where Foshay palyed a key role in the Chamber of Commerce after pardon. https://salidamuseum.org/history/wibur-foshay/