Doc Flower: One of Old Arizona’s Great Con Men
Excerpt from Arizoniana by Marshall Trimble, the state’s official historian.
Today’s disreputable land promoters selling lake shore lots on edges of mirages are mere amateurs when compared to the wheeler dealers of yesteryear. The lawless Arizona territory attracted the wide gamut of frontier con men ranging from tin horn gamblers to stock swindlers.
One was Doctor Richard Flower. Doc Flower wasn’t really a doctor. He earned his living for a time selling cure-all bottled medicine. Although Doc Flower claimed his recipe could cure everything from baldness to toothaches, it really had no redeeming medicinal value. It did contain enough alcohol to mellow its imbibers enough that nobody felt ripped off. Anyhow, that’s how he came to be called Doctor Flower.
Doc Flower eventually grew weary of small-time scheming and decided to play for higher stakes. Fortunes were being made in the Arizona mines and since Doc Flower didn’t have a bonafide mine of his own, he decided to create one.
He’d never been to Arizona and wouldn’t have known a nugget from rolled oats but that didn’t stop him. He erected a phony, movie-set looking mine east of Globe, bought a few samples of ore from a producing mine and headed back east to promote his strike.
He called the company the Spendazuma, something that indicates ol’ Doc Flower did at least have a wry sense of humor. Mazuma was a slang for money; so in effect he was promoting the “Spend-yer-money” mine and nobody caught on. Would-be millionaires were waiting in line to buy stock in Doc’s mine.
The balloon burst when a reporter from the Arizona Republican (today’s Arizona Republic), named George Smalley, rode out to have a look at this mine. The property was being guarded by one of Doc’s hirelings, a hard-bitten character named Alkali Tom. Tom tried his best to keep the snoopy reporter from getting too close to Doc’s imaginary gold mine but Smalley was not to be denied. Workers were about as scarce as horse flies in December and Smalley became suspicious. A closer examination revealed the whole setup was a phony.
When Smalley’s expose made the papers, Doc’s lawyer indignantly threatened to sue for $100,000 and demanded a retraction. Smalley could hardly keep from laughing, so they offered him $5,000 to rewrite the story and admit he made a mistake. When the spunky reporter assumed a pugilist’s pose, the lawyer retreated and Doc Flower’s blossoming Spendazuma scheme withered away.