MEET MR. PONZI, THE CHAMPION GET-RICH-QUICK WALLINGFORD OF AMERICA
Ponzi is the guy who put the crease in Croesus," wrote Neal O'Hara for the Boston Traveler toward the end of July, 1920. "He is the guy that ran up millions from a two-cent stamp. If five-spots were snowflakes, Ponzi would be a three day blizzard."
"You've got to hand it to his credit. He makes your money gain 50 percent in 45 days, which is as much as the landlords do. He delivers the goods with postage stamps, which is more than Burleson does. The way Ponzi juggles the reds and the greens, he makes Post Office look like a child's game. He simply buys stamps in Europe while the rest of the boys are buying souvenir post cards. And a postage stamp is still worth two cents in spite of the service you get for it, and any yap knows that you cannot get stuck on postage stamps unless you sit on the gluey side up."
"Ponzi's way is cheaper than making money with your own sextuple press. The way he's got it fixed with postage stamps, the Government does the printing for him. He stretches a dollar into a million with all his sleeves rolled up. You furnish the dollar and Ponzi tosses in the six zeros in back of it. This baby can turn decimal points into commas on almost any bank-book. The way that Ponzi has money here and in Europe goes to prove that half of the world are squirrels and the other half nuts. The only thing that's got 'em worried is that they don't know which side is furnishing the nuts."
"Worried" isn't the half of it. According to Miss Marguerite Mooers Marshall, a staff writer for the New York Evening World, Ponzi had them in a frenzy. Listen to what she said:â€”
"Whoever said that proud old New Englanders are conservative, undoubtedly made that statement before the advent of Charles Ponzi. To-day all Boston is get-rich-quick mad over him, the creator of fortunes, the modern King Midas who doubles your money in ninety days. Did I say Boston? My mistake. I should have said the entire New England, from Calais, Maine to Lake Champlain, from the Canadian border to New Jersey."
"At every corner, on the street-cars, behind the department store counters, from luxurious parlors to humble kitchens, to the very outskirts of New England, Ponzi is making more hope, more anxiety, than any conquering general of old. Mary Pickford, Sir Thomas Lipton and smuggling booze over the Canadian border aren't in it any more."
"For Ponzi makes everybody rich quick. Loan him your money, from fifty dollars to fifty thousand dollars, and in 180 days he gives you back twice as much as you gave him. He has been doing it for eight months and he is still at it."
"With no other security than his personal note, Boston is pouring all its savings into Ponzi's hands. Like a tidal wave, the passion for investment with the new Italian banker has swept over Boston folk until it took half of the Boston's police force to subdue the enthusiasm of a throng of prospective investors overflowing from the banking office, through the corridors, down the stairs, and into the street, blocking the traffic."
In the opinion of Miss Marshall, "Ponzi belongs to America, the land of the 520 per cent Miller, of the man who cornered wheat, of all the other get-rich-quick Wallingfords."
Regardless of what may develop as to the "righteousness and legality of the methods by which Ponzi, according to his own admission, has cleaned up in six months a fortune for himself, has given thousands of investors 50 per cent on their money, has operated from a central office of two rooms attended by twelve clerks and has done the whole blessed thing with postage stamps, plus a knowledge of the world postage regulations and of foreign exchange, plus an idea of magnificent simplicity and apparently bombproof consistency, plus all the nerve there is to it," she thought the world would agree with her that Ponzi "would be wasted anywhere else than in America."
"Ponzi stands as the premier get-rich-quick financier of the age," conceded the Washington Post.
When, according to the Rochester Times-Union, "a man untaught in finance shows Wall Street and the greatest financiers in the world that they are pikers, whether the Ponzi bubble bursts or not, the American people will take off their hats to a fellow so clever as he," because as Arthur B. Reeve explained it, although Ponzi might be "a product of conditions" his success is nevertheless the result of his own remarkable personality. Not every one can step out on a street cornel and persuade the passersby by the thousands to give him their pay envelopes ”even on a chance of a return as great as 400 percent a year." And the Washington Evening Star agreed that "whether he retires a millionaire or is finally detected as a swindler, Ponzi must stand as a remarkable figure" and "it must be said of him that whatever his game, he has certainly played it well."