If I told you about a man who, failed in previous careers, becomes an author with limited success, but uses his writings as the basis for a pseudo-religion with a near fanatical following, you would say, "that's L. Ron Hubbard." And you would be wrong.
Thousands of travelers along the busy I-94 corridor between Chicago and Milwaukee pass by this sign near Racine, Wisconsin, most of whom never give what it says a second thought. And yet the legend behind the name gives Mr. Hubbard a run for the money.
Lawson developed a philosophy based on his belief that banks were the root of all economic problems. He also wrote a novel and used it as the basis for a new, science and economics based religion called Lawsonomy. His message of calling for the abolition of banks with money controlled by the central government had resonance during the Great Depression, when banks were often seen to be the cause of so much suffering. So when most hucksters might turn to politics to gain power and money, Lawson chose instead to grow his religion and create a university to groom his acolytes. That didn't turn out so well, since his "students" lived in a military fashion, including wearing uniforms. The parallels to a rising star in pre-war Germany hit a bit close to home, and the university failed. And so, after failing in Iowa, Lawson moved back to Wisconsin, bought a tract of land, and tried his lot again. But alas, the University of Lawsonomy would all but disappear. Except for this sign.
Can you imagine what might have been if only Lawson enlisted some B-list actors to carry his flag? This similarities are almost uncanny. On that, Lawson was a generation ahead of Hubbard.
The research for this article turned out quite a fascinating story. I should hope a documentary producer out there might pick this up. I sprinkled links to source documents throughout this article. I'd like to leave you with a link to a Youtube video to a tour of the university campus. Don't worry, it's only a little more than 90 seconds long.
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