Businessman sentenced for selling too cheap

By: 
Hannah Gross

Hannah Gross

NLJ Correspondent 

With Leonard Cash, historian

 

Last week, Leonard Cash began a new series on the Weston County Bank that was once located on lot 1 of block 11. However, before it became the bank, it was a general store owned by I.H. Chase and managed by Jake Lang. However, Lang retired and started a new mercantile in partnership with J.P. Ost’s furniture store next to the Baird Drug store, and that’s where we pick up this week. 

According to an article from the April 12, 1895, local paper, Lang’s modern mercantile was officially ready for business and was in a position to “supply his customers with almost anything the mind may desire” from clothes, dry goods and groceries to flour, feed and baled hay. He was also willing to take orders for clothing, aiming to please the customer in both fitting and price. He wanted to run his business with up-to-date principles as a “one price business.” Lang purchased his other stock at very low prices, and his resell prices remained at the bottom and “will not deviate from those prices under
any circumstances.”

By Sept. 6, 1895, he had a “commodious” outdoor cellar and storeroom built to store vegetables. A few months later, he added a new sign, which read Lang Groceries, Clothing, Dry Goods and Shoes, announced the Nov. 25, 1895, paper.

The June 5, 1896, issue reported that Sheridan Steam Laundry established an agency at Lang’s store. 

“Leave your laundry with Lang and thus patronize with a Wyoming Institution,” the article said. 

According to a news report from June 26, 1896, a new front was being installed in
Lang’s building. 

It was announced in the July 3, 1896, paper that Lang’s former business partner, Chase, had established six stores in the Black Hills area (including the one in Newcastle where Lang was formerly employed). 

Adding yet another improvement to his store, Lang positioned a large warehouse, which allowed for “improved business,” reported an article from Oct. 2, 1896. It was especially beneficial to ranch customers because “now the result of their labors … will bring them the necessary articles for their comfort and happiness.” 

According to the Oct. 16, 1896, issue, a new display in Lang’s window grabbed the attention of passersby looking at the “elegance” of displayed goods, so that anyone “can well imagine he is in front of a metropolitan store. If he walks in, he will find the goods in stock are faithfully portrayed by
the display.” 

Lang evidently kept his promise to keep his prices low because the April 1, 1897, paper reported that Lang was arraigned before a judge in court where he “frankly” pleaded guilty for selling goods “way below competition.” 

Moving back to Chase’s store, an article from July 23, 1897, announced that Chase was closing out his Newcastle store and moving the stock to Lead, South Dakota.  

However, he was delayed in securing a building in Lead, reported the Aug. 6, 1897, paper, so he had not shipped his goods yet. But by Aug. 13, he was able to load his stock and ship it off. According to the Newcastle News Journal Aug. 20, 1897, Evans Pharmacy moved into Chase’s old building. 

According to the Dec. 16, 1898, paper, the Pioneer Feed Store was located in Lang’s store so customers could purchase baled hay.

By April 21, 1899, Lang was closing out his stock of ladies and children’s shoes, no matter the cost. 

The sound of wedding bells rang in Spencer, Iowa, on Aug. 23, 1899, to join together Jake Lang and Cora Parsons, according to an article from Sept. 15, 1899, for a very beautiful and impressive wedding at the First Baptist church. Parsons wore “a beautiful gown of steel-blue mummy cloth, trimmed in white silk and pearl trimmings,” while the groom was dressed in traditional black. Friends of the couple “profusely decorated” the church with a green and white flowered arch. 

Cora grew up in Spencer and “is an amiable and accomplished young lady, being one of the most successful teachers in the schools and an earnest and devoted Christian.” She was considered a leader and “esteemed most highly” in the Iowa community, and Jake was said to be “the most successful businessman of Wyoming.” As a prospector, miner and clerk, Lang was known for his “industry, integrity, honesty and square dealing.” Lang met Cora when she came to the Newcastle area while she attended and graduated from Spearfish Normal School. 

Cora received many “costly” wedding gifts, and their friends followed them to the train with old shoes and rice as the newly wedded couple headed west. They planned on living in the house Jake built on Seneca. 

“We wish them unalloyed happiness and abundance of prosperity,” the article says. 

A few months later, on Dec. 1, 1899, he conducted an accidental and “most unusual” method to prove the quality of goods. Evidently, Lang’s cat ate four cakes of yeast, causing him to weigh 48.5 pounds and measure 54 inches
in diameter. 

“The cat is certainly a great sight but with all of its sudden growth it seems to be in no agony whatever. Jake says that had it not been a superior quality of yeast, that Sunday would have witnessed a cat funeral,” the article says.

Around May 4, 1900, Lang sold his business to J.F. Summer, and in the following issue, Summer announced that within 60 days, he had to sell out Lang’s stock of shoes
and groceries. 

Lang and his new wife, Cora, decided to take a trip, according to the July 13, 1900, paper, where Cora was going to visit relatives while Lang was looking around the Big Horn Basin and Yellowstone National Park in search of a new “suitable business location.”

Cash will continue his series on Lang’s life and the Weston County Bank building in next week’s installment of “History on Main.” 

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