“All students of outrageous humbug will be indebted to Lyell Henry for a difficult job well done. Alfred Lawson’s whole incredible story is here, in one of the most amusing biographies of the last few decades.”—Martin Gardner
Alfred W. Lawson (1869–1954) was a professional baseball player, inventor of the airliner, leader of a movement in the 1930s calling for the abolition of banks and interest, and founder of a utopian community, the so-called Des Moines University of Lawsonomy. This unusual institution, constantly embroiled in controversy in the 1940s and early 1950s, was dedicated not only to teaching Lawson’s novel religious and scientific ideas but also to initiating a reform of human nature.
Throughout this multifaceted and colorful biography Henry gives special attention to Lawson’s development as a utopian thinker and reformer, providing a thorough treatment of the poignant saga of the controversial and doomed community in Des Moines. Every phase of Lawson’s incredible career is linked to main currents of American life and culture, resulting in an entertaining and sympathetic account that reveals how the self-styled Magic Man of Baseball, Columbus of the Air, Wizard of Reason, and First Knowledgian, for all his claimed and actual uniqueness, was nonetheless a product clearly “Made in America.”