Saturday, June 15, 2013

Willis E. Learned 1852-1943

Checking for your ancestors on Genealogy Bank can turn up some very unusual items.  My paternal great grandfather, Willis Learned, was born in Watertown, MA in 1852, married to Mary Louise Decker in NYC in 1873 and they lived in Westfield, NJ.  Mary died in 1924 and Willis lived with his son and daughter-in-law - also in Westfield.  I knew that at some point they moved to Florida and were there for the 1930 census.  I had vaguely heard that Willis had been involved in some shady land deals in Florida but I don't know the details about that.  Now to my surprise, I found an article in the Tampa Tribune in April, 1927 citing NEW YORK, March 31 that stated:

 "The alleged sale of Epsom Salts, chewing gum and soap as fat reducing remedies has resulted in the indictment of Willis E. Learned of Westfield, N.J. and Earl F. Callan, on charges of using the mails to defraud.
    The "Learned Enterprises" Assistant United States Attorney Webster told the federal grand jury, made an annual profit of $500,000 through the national sale of spurious patent medicines supposed to possess almost magical reducing powers.  The chewing gum was described the the United States attorney as "only something to chew on" and the soap as "just a good soap."

I guess he was just a hustler at heart.