This one's fairly long. But here are the highlights:
1) The Eagle found out that the "Alaska" wheat followed the same pattern: A person finds a plausible "miraculous" wheat that at first glance will produce a lot more, makes an amazing story about it, sends the story and a circular to newspapers, starts selling it to whomever believes it, until the Post Office or the USDA stop the fraud. EXACTLY THE SAME THING HAPPENED WITH MIRACLE WHEAT AND K.B. STONER. The Alaska wheat sold for $20 a bushel (20 times more than regular wheat), and THAT was a scandal. Even more so with Russell foolishly selling this fraudulent wheat at $60 a bushel. Everyone knew the huge implications of finding a wheat that produced a lot, including becoming very rich.
If the WT was "divinely guided", then why did the entire society fall prey to a con artist?
September 27, 1911
MIRACLE WHEAT HAS AN ALASKAN COUSIN
Brought $20 a Bushel Until Petulant Government Got Out Fraud Stamp.
FARMER ADAMS' BONANZA.
30,000,000 Acres Still Waiting for Marvelous Seed Found by Mysterious Stranger.
Eagle Bureau, 608 Fourteenth Street.
Washington, September 26—This is the sad story of a little grain of wheat. No, that's wrong. Not a little grain—a whopping big grain—a whole head of whopping big grains. To quote Holmes' Dr. Watson, it was “simply marvellous." [sic] Not as marvelous, perhaps, as Pastor Russell's Miracle wheat, because that sells for $60 a bushel, whereas the wheat of this tale brought only $20, and was, therefore, only one-third as marvelous. But it was wheat with a big W; wheat that was going to revolutionize husbandry, make a multi-millionaire out of the humble farmer and fill the grain elevators of the world until they groaned in agony and finally burst scattering their golden bounty to the four winds and feeding the wide, wide world forever and ever. All these benevolent things might it have done had not the United States Government, in a moment of petulance, stamped “Fraud” in big letter all over the rosy dawn of a new agricultural era and turned a Utopian future into a pathetic past.
This was “Alaska Wheat” – near relative of the “Seven Headed Wonder,” “Egyptian Mummy” and other wheats of high degree, which perform all kinds of feats except when the experts of the Agricultural Department come to watch, in which case they seem to become victims of stage fright and are unable to give any better account of themselves than the plain farm varieties that go into our daily bread. Alaska wheat had fine prospects until the government stepped in. Its discoverer and promoter is said to have reaped several thousand dollars from it, at the rate of $20 per bushel. His tale had a pleasing beginning in mystery. His head of wheat came to him out of the great and little known Northland, where everything is big – the nuggets of gold, the beds of coal, the trees of the forests, the Kodiak bears and the mountain that was not climbed by “Doc” Cook.
Mysterious Stranger Gives Marvelous Wheat to Farmer Adams of Idaho.
Abram Adams, farmer, of Julietta. Ida., is
the hero. Farmer Adams had been raising wheat off and on for years down home,
but when he met a mysterious stranger while returning from a trip to British Columbia,
and when that stranger handed him a single head of wheat, his eyes grew big
with wonder and admiration. “I just picked it up in Alaska,” said the stranger.
The year was 1904, a memorable one for Farmer Adams, for he carefully carried
that head of wheat back to Idaho, put it in the earth in the fall of the year
and then paced up and down restlessly until the springtime should read the
riddle for him.
The history of that mysterious head of what is told in the records of the Postoffice [sic] Department, in that particularbureau [sic] which Is devoted to detecting fraudulent users of the mails. In the year 1908 articles began to appear in newspapers here and there, and that in at least one widely circulated weekly from the pen of Oscar F. Day, concerning a "marvelous" wheat discovered by Farmer Adams. Two hundred and twenty-two and a half bushels to the acre was its record! Agricultural folks who read these articles wrote by next mail to Farmer Adams, asking how about it. In return they received printed circulars, with halftone engravings and big type and the word "Alaska," with an exclamation point after it, and the information that a limited supply of this prodigy of nature could be obtained from the Adams-Hobe Seed Grain Company, price $20 per bushel. It was the “cereal marvel of the world," to quote from this Idaho farmer's literature. According to his tale he had devoted a lot of time to perfecting this wheat. Afterward he admitted to the Government that he had not, but had simply planted the single head received from the mysterious stranger in British Columbia.
53,000 Pounds of Wheat at $20 a Bushel.
Now, what happened to that head of wheat was this, according to the circular: It harvested seven pounds in 1905. Farmer Adams treasured that seven pounds until the spring of 1906. Then back to the soil it went. Presto! In the fall of 1908 he reaped 1,545 pounds. Step up, gentlemen! This is the marvel of the age. Only a few left, etc., etc.! Into the earth (always according to the circular, went that 1.545 pounds of cereal marvel, so that the year 1907 yielded 53,000 pounds. Not quite such a good record, gentlemen, we admit. But think of the hailstorms we had. Besides, 53,000 pounds at $20 a bushel was a pretty good little nucleus for a mail-order business.
By this time Farmer Adams' wheat was attracting not only bucolic, but scientific attention. The Department of Agriculture. the Ohio Agricultural Station, the Colorado Agricultural College and Professor Elliott of Washington State College all addressed themselves to the American farmer on the subject. Unfortunately, they all said it was a fraud. On September 28, 1908, the Agricultural Department was unkind enough to write to the Postoffice Department: “This wheat is an ordinary variety, grown in numerous places in mountain valleys, and is of low grade for flour and is only an ordinary yielder."
Post Office Department Takes a Hand
So the Postoffice Department sleuths investigated. They found that the Adams-Hobe concern was owned by Farmer Adams and his son-In-law, O. K. Hobe—who was perfectly willing to put his O. K. on Alaska wheat. The first two crops, it also appeared, had been planted in Farmer Adams' garden, where the soil was very fertile and drilled thin. For the two years the wheat had been sown in ordinary fields the yield had been no better than that of other varieties, and in some places not so good. Farmer Adams admitted in an affidavit that when the wheat was sown outside of his magic little garden it yielded from 25 to 30 bushels per acre—not 222½ . It also developed that his circulars had been prepared by Mr. Day, who had written the newspaper and magazine articles, and that the Adams-Hobe Company was doing its mail order business with the East and South; practically none in the West.
On November 25, 1908, the Postoffice Department told the postmaster at Julietta to hold up any more mail that might come for Farmer Adam’s concern, and then notified the farmer that it was from Missouri and would have to be shown a few things about the cereal marvel before he could get his letters.
Farmer Adams came to Washington in a hurry and began to admit things. He admitted that his wheat, planted under ordinary farm conditions, yielded only about thirty bushels per acre, and that it was “not what was hoped for” He admitted that the claim of 222½ bushels per acre in “large tracts” was not true, and that the only large yield was the crop of 1906. But to back up his claims for Alaska wheat he brought down from Brookline. Mass., F. M. Slagle, who averred that he had knowledge of wheat, and believed that the Alaska grain would be a great yielder; better than other varieties.
Experts Find Nothing Marvelous in Alaska Wheat
They sent Adams and Slagle over to the Bureau of Plant industry, in Tama, Jim Wilson's department, to show Dr. Galloway and his experts what the cereal marvel could do. Now, it takes a mightyiIndustrious plant to startle the Plant Industry Bureau, which on January 20, 1909, advised the Postoffice Department that there was no evidence to show that Alaska wheat was anything but the well-known Seven-Headed Egyptian, or Mummy, wheat, already cultivated in a small way in the Northwest. It appeared to be analagous [sic] to Little Club in yielding qualities, which at best is ranked about half way between the best and the poorest of milling wheats. Farmer Adams was told that if he could give Alaska wheat its right name, state that it was to be ranked with Little Club, both in quality, average yield and breadmaking properties, the department would have no objection to his selling it.
On February 25, Adams made an affidavit to the Postoffice Department, in which he agreed to allow the mail that had accumulated at Julietta to be confiscated, promised to destroy the circulars that he had on hand and also promised that if any new ones should be issued they should be in accordance with the views of the Agricultural Department.
Bobs Up Again at Rate of 206 Bushels to the Acre.
But Alaska wheat was not to be thus summarily cheated of its bright future—as a mail order proposition. On April 5 following, the Agricultural Department tipped off the Postoffice Department that a circular was going out over the name of the Alaska Wheat Seed Grain Company, of Julietta, Idaho, and St. Paul, Minn. It was the same old friend—Alaska wheat, now running as high as 206 bushels to the acre in Idaho, and selling, gentlemen, for the small sum of $20 per bushel. E. H. Hobe, brother to son-in-law O. K. Hobe, was running the St. Paul office. It was a perfectly good circular, with pictures and promises and injunctions like this:
DON'T WASTE TIME
Start Your Fields to Bringing You Big Money.
30,000,000 of Acres are Waiting for Alaska Wheat Seed.
Well, the Post Office Department acted sort of short and suddenlike. On April 19, 1909, it clapped a fraud order on the company and put an end to the mail business. The 30.000,000 acres are still waiting. Not only was it a fraud, declared Assistant Attorney General R. P. Goodwin, but it was a violation of promises made to the department, because the company had submitted one innocuous circular to the Government authorities and then issued an entirely different one to the public. Mr. Goodwin decided that the scheme could be treated "only as a deliberate and intentional scheme to defraud a credulous public."
So ends the story of Farmer Adams and the bead of wheat presented to him by the mysterious stranger from British Columbia. In one of his circulars Farmer Adams admitted that he had heard of such a thing as Miracle Wheat, and Seven Headed Wonder, and Egyptian Mummy, but he did not claim to know anything about them. All he knew was Alaska wheat. Simple arithmetic shows that Miracle Wheat must be three times as good as Alaska wheat, because it costs three times as much. Just what the Post Office Department may or may not do to Miracle Wheat its hard hearted officials will not say. But over in the Bureau of Plant Industry even the stenographers giggle when you ask about it.