The Speculations of Jefferson Thorpe recounts when “everybody went simply crazy” (27) over mining stocks. Jefferson Thorpe, Mariposa’s barber, becomes rich by stubbornly holding onto a stock in the Northern Star mine. However, just as quickly as Jeff becomes rich he loses his fortune on a bad investment in a Cuban plantation.
1. As the chapter opens, we learn that Jefferson Thorpe’s barber shop does not make very much money. We also learn that Jeff lost money selling his egg-producing hens to buy wheat futures. Yet “Jeff’s specialty in the way of conversation was finance and the money market” (31).
a) From where does Jeff get most of his financial information?
b) Does this qualify him to be an expert in finance?
2. Talking about mining country, Jeff says “if a feller knows the country and keeps a level head, he can’t lose” (34).
a) Who is the person in Mariposa who “had come down from there, and he knew all about rocks and mining and canoes and the north country” (33)?
b) How does this person profit from the mining craze?
3. What is Jeff’s investment strategy for his stock in the Northern Star mine? Is this the sign of a financial genius or just pure luck?
4. Jeff reinvests his money in a Cuban plantation. What does Jeff intend to do with his anticipated fortune from the plantation investment?
5. When Jeff loses his money, how does Josh Smith help out? What do you think is being said about the importance of small, local business?
6. “I may say in parentheses that it was a favourite method in Mariposa if you wanted to get at the real worth of a man, to imagine him clean sold up, put up for auction, as it were. It was the only way to test him” (42). Is wealth the true measure of a person?