26 September 2012

Clement Clawson's "Capitalism", Part Two

When his father and business partner, Henry T. Clawson, passed away on August 15, 1897, Newark based inventor Clement Clawson might have had better luck consulting one of his own coin operated fortune-telling machines than relying on the promises made by first his father, and then his stepmother Aurelia.


Clawson Fortune Telling Machine, circa 1890

"Business partner" might be too kind an attribution for the senior Clawson, as it was later proved in court that by the mid 1890s he had little to do with the running of the business.  The profitable factory where the Clawson Slot Machine Company could barely keep up with the demand for its coin operated vending and gambling machines was in Henry Clawson's name, as was the Newark home that he and his second wife shared with Clement and his young family and nanny Ella Hood - but all of the success of the business was due to the inventions and business acumen of his son.

On several occasions during the last decade of his life, Henry acknowledged this - promising to leave the factory, all of the equipment, and the Clawson homestead to Clement.  Imagine the son's surprise then to find that his father had made a will in 1893, four years before his death, leaving all to Clement's stepmother - with the provision that Clement would be allowed to occupy the factory at a rent she determined.

Foreshadowing what would happen upon his stepmother's death five years later, the young Mr. Clawson demanded satisfaction, refusing to leave the attorney's office where the will was read until all agreed that he had been done wrong.  He threatened to contest the will and bring immediate legal action to prevent the dissemination of any property, and to recover other monies owed to him by his father through their business dealings - a not inconsiderable sum of perhaps $7,000 or more.

The widow Clawson assured Clement that in exchange for his not pressing the matter, she would make a will leaving everything to him upon her death - which she did in March 1898.

All was well for about a year.  The family was joined by Aurelia Clawson's grandniece, Aurelia Lee, and by all accounts everyone got on well at their Halsey Street residence, and at the recently purchased country house in Flagtown - even after the death of  Clement's wife Lillie on March 10, 1899. 

It was around this time that Clement moved permanently to Flagtown, and Aurelia Clawson suspected that he had taken up with the children's nanny, Ella.  Mrs. Clawson disapproved very strongly of this relationship - so strongly that she secretly changed her will on July 17, 1900, including the new provision stating that if Clement and Ella should marry, all the property promised to Clement by his father would instead go to her niece!


to be concluded tomorrow.....

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