There has been a lot of buzz since Bill Gates (and Warren Buffett) stated that Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street by John Brooks is the best book on investing he ever read. The book is out of print and selling for $1500 on Amazon (slightler cheaper than Margin of Safety). We have scoured the web looking for a copy and have been unable to locate anything but we were able to find the full chapter 5. If anyone has the full book please contact us as tips(@)valuewalk.com to send us a confidential email.
Below is an excerpt followed by the PDF to the full version.
Xerox: Chapter 5 in Business Adventures
by John Brooks
WHEN THE ORIGINAL mimeograph machine — the first mechanical duplicator of written pages that was practical for office use — was put on the market by the A. B. Dick Company, of Chicago, in 1887, it did not take the country by storm. On the contrary, Mr. Dick — a former lumberman who had become bored with copying his price lists by hand, had tried to invent a duplicating machine himself, and had finally obtained rights to produce the mimeograph from its inventor, Thomas Alva Edison — found himself faced with a formidable marketing problem. “People didn’t want to make lots of copies of office documents,” says his grandson C. Matthews Dick, Jr., currently a vice-president of the A. B. Dick Company, which now manufactures a whole line of office copiers and duplicators, including mimeograph machines. “By and large, the first users of the thing were non-business organizations like churches, schools, and Boy Scout troops. To attract companies and professional men, Grandfather and his associates had to undertake an enormous missionary effort. Office duplicating by machine was a new and unsettling idea that upset long-established office patterns. In 1887, after all, the typewriter had been on the market only a little over a decade and wasn’t yet in widespread use, and neither was carbon paper. If a businessman or a lawyer wanted five copies of a document, he’d have a clerk make five copies — by hand. People would say to Grandfather, ‘Why should I want to have a lot of copies of this and that lying around? Nothing but clutter in the office, a temptation to prying eyes, and a waste of good paper.’”
On another level, the troubles that the elder Mr. Dick encountered were perhaps connected with the generally bad repute that the notion of making copies of graphic material had been held in for a number of centuries — a bad repute reflected in the various overtones of the English noun and verb “copy.” The Oxford English Dictionary makes it clear that during those centuries there was an aura of deceit associated with the word; indeed, from the late sixteenth century until Victorian times “copy” and “counterfeit” were nearly synonymous. (By the middle of the seventeenth century, the medieval use of the noun “copy” in the robust sense of “plenty” or “abundance” had faded out, leaving behind nothing but its adjective form, “copious.”) “The only good copies are those which exhibit the defects of bad originals,” La Rochefoucauld wrote in his “Maxims” in 1665. “Never buy a copy of a picture,” Ruskin pronounced dogmatically in 1857, warning not against chicanery but against debasement. And the copying of written documents was often suspect, too. “Though the attested Copy of a Record be good proof, yet the Copy of a Copy never so well attested …will not be admitted as proof in Judicature,” John Locke wrote in 1690. At about the same time, the printing trade contributed to the language the suggestive expression “foul copy,” and it was a favorite Victorian habit to call one object, or person, a pale copy of another.
Practical necessity arising out of increasing industrialization was doubtless chiefly responsible for a twentieth-century reversal of these attitudes. In any case, office reproduction began to grow very rapidly. (It may seem paradoxical that this growth coincided with the rise of the telephone, but perhaps it isn’t. All the evidence suggests that communication between people by whatever means, far from simply accomplishing its purpose, invariably breeds the need for more.) The typewriter and carbon paper came into common use after 1890, and mimeographing became a standard office procedure soon after 1900.