Obvious Adams – Chapter 1

Read it for me

A lone man sat at a table by a window in the Dickens Room of the Tip Top Inn, Chicago. He had finished his dinner and was apparently waiting for his black coffee to be served.

Two men entered and were shown to a table near by. Presently one of them glanced at the man by the window.

“See that man over there?” he whispered to his companion.

“Yes,” said the latter, looking disinterestedly in the direction indicated.

“Well, that is Obvious Adams.”

“Is that so?” And he almost turned in his chair this time to get a good look at the most-talked-of man in the advertising business. “Ordinary-looking man, isn’t he?”

“Yes, to look at him you would never think he was the famous Obvious Adams of the biggest advertising agency in New York. And to tell the truth, I can’t see why he is such a little tin god in the business world.”

“I’ve heard him speak two or three times at the Adleague meetings, but he never said anything that we didn’t know already. He seems to have a lot of people buffaloed, though. I confess he was a disappointment to me.”

It is funny, but that is the way most outsiders talk about Adams.

And yet this same Adams has been an important factor in the success of more well-known businesses than perhaps any other one man.

Even at this moment, while the two men were talking about him, he was making business history. He had turned the menu card face down and was drawing lines and making notes on the back. To any one looking over his shoulder the result of his work would have been meaningless, but it seemed to please Adams, for he nodded his head earnestly to himself and put the menu into his pocket as the obsequious waiter came to help him into his overcoat.

Half an hour later a telephone bell jingled in the library of a sumptuous home in an Iowa city. It rang a second time before the man lounging in the big mahogany chair in front of the fireplace arose and picked up the receiver.

“Hello!” he snapped, and he scowled at the intrusion. “Hello! Hello ! Oh, it’s you, Mr. Adams. I didn’t expect to hear from you so soon. Where are you? Chicago? You’ve got a plan? You have? Well, I’ve just been sitting here thinking about it myself, and I’ve chewed three cigars to a pulp trying to figure out what we ought to do about it.”

Then silence in the sumptuous library. Then a series of what sounded like approving grunts.

“I see your idea. Yes, I think they will do it, all right! I’m sure they will—they’ve got to. It’s a bully idea and I believe it will turn the trick! All right; take the night train and I’ll send my car down to the station to meet you in the morning. Good night.”

For a long minute the man in the library stood and looked into the fireplace thoughtfully. “Now, why in thunder couldn’t some of us have thought of that? It’s the most natural thing in the world to do, but we had to bring a man clear from New York to show us. That Adams is a wonder, anyway!” And having addressed these remarks to the andirons, he pulled out a fourth cigar, which he smoked.

But that is another story. We are beginning back end to. To know Obvious Adams, and to understand the secret of his success, we must begin at the front end of his life. It is interesting, this story of a poor boy who began life as Oliver B. Adams in a little grocery store in a small New England town, and has grown to be known everywhere in the business world as ” Obvious Adams.”

It seems that Adams came of very poor, hard—working parents, that he had only a meager country—school education, and that when Oliver was twelve years of age his father died and he started working in a grocery store. He was a very ordinary sort of boy. He had no particular initiative and he seldom had any particularly bright ideas, and yet in some strange way business grew steadily in that store, and it continued to grow year by year. Any one who knew old Ned Snow, the grocer, would tell you that none of the growth was his fault, for he was not of the growing kind–unless you mean ingrowing. Well, things ran along uneventfully until old Snow was taken ill and died. Then the store was sold out and Oliver was without a job.

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