Bayswater's Find of the Week on the Used Book Floor Blog

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Joy of Cooking & Investing

     This week, our find on the used book floor” starts off with an innocent, 65 year-old cookbook, but ends in a tale of financial fraud and corporate greed. The keeper of our find was a 1953 printing of “The Joy of Cooking” and this is where our story begins.

     Hidden in the pages of the cookbook was a 1983 investment report from the Prudential-Bache Securities financial company. It belonged to a woman in Reading, Massachusetts, (the owner of the cookbook) and detailed how much her investments were earning. When our cookbook owner received this notice, however, she did not know that only three years later, Prudential-Bache would become the focus of the largest financial scandal of the decade. More than 300,000 individuals, most of them elderly and on fixed incomes, lost millions of dollars by investing in limited partnerships that were anything but safe, as Prudential-Bache assured that they would be.

 At the time that this investment report was printed, Prudential-Bache employed a wealthy and grandiose man by the name of Clifton S. Harrison. Harrison carried a hidden, troubled past unknown to Prudential-Bache investors such as our Reading, Massachusetts, woman: a past that included a financial fraud conviction. It was Harrison’s deals (sold by countless brokers to unsuspecting clients) that would line the pockets of Prudential-Bache to the tune of millions, while bankrupting the life savings of those who invested. According to the Chicago Tribune in 1995, Prudential-Bache, now known as simply, Prudential, “cracked the foundation of the marketplace” by taking advantage of the consumer and destroying the faith of its investors. Perhaps that could be why their company slogan in the 1990s stated that “the most important thing we earn is your trust”. Good plan!

     Was our Reading, Massachusetts, cookbook owner one of the over 300,000 people who lost their savings? We do not know, but we certainly hope not. Instead, we would like to think of her making plum pudding (the recipe page that the investment card seemed to be marking) and enjoying the dessert with her family on a carefree evening.

     On a lighter note, we also feel that we would be remiss if we did not draw your attention to a particular section of the cookbook, itself. Towards the back, there is a chapter introducing the reader to the newly invented electric blender. Originally created in 1922 thanks to the invention of the small motor, the electric blender was beginning to make its way into households across America in 1953 (when this version of “The Joy of Cooking” was printed). Novel as the electric blender was at the time, the cookbook states that “only the ghost of an old-time medicine man could do justice to its usefulness and fascination” and that it will do everything but “put out the cat” as the chapter sought to encourage the reader to try one out. Made you smile a little at least, right?

     The 1953 copy of “The Joy of Cooking” (with its investment report and antiquated charms) can be purchased here at Bayswater for the price of $5.00. You can catch up with our previous
finds of the week from the used book floor at and on facebook. Better yet, stop by our store in Center Harbor and check out the used book floor for yourself!

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