Okay, so it’s technically a Grand Prairie story, but it’s a story that unfolded in Fort Worth periodicals; no doubt some Fort Worth people bought stock in the company; and the company had some parallels with a Fort Worth company.
In 1919 William S. Livezey of Maryland organized the Little Motor Kar Company with offices first in Wichita Falls and then in Dallas. He advertised heavily in Texas newspapers to sell stock at first $1, then $2, then $4 a share, claimed to have raised $100,000, then $1 million, then $3 million, bought land near the Fowler stop on the interurban line in Grand Prairie, and began construction of the first of five planned fireproof buildings that would keep three thousand workers busy in two shifts as they built the . . .
Texmobile, which looked like this:
The October 26, 1919 Star-Telegram ran this illustration of the Texmobile sports car, which would sell for $350 ($4,700 today). Livezey also planned to build a five-passenger touring car for $750.
As the name of the company implies, Texmobiles were to be little cars. The touring car, with wire wheels and two side-mounted spare tires, would have a wheel base of 106 inches (same as a 1932 Ford Model A). The four-cylinder engine—which William S. Livezey himself invented and self-named the “W.S.L.”—developed twenty-seven horsepower.
The Texmobile, named for Texas and built in Texas, clearly was marketed to appeal to Texans. In the October 26, 1919 Star-Telegram the company promised that the Texmobile would characterize “the rugged strength of the pioneers who first settled in this great Empire of the Southwest.”
In that respect the Texmobile was like the Texan, a line of cars and trucks built in Fort Worth by the Texas Motor Car Association in 1918-1922 and designed for Texas driving conditions.
The difference is that the Texan company produced what it promised: cars and trucks. About three thousand were built before the company went chassis up. The Little Motor Kar Company produced mostly full-page advertisements to attract investors.
The full-page ads were long on promises of profit and short on details about the cars. The ads always featured only artist’s renderings of the cars, never photos of real flesh-and-bumper cars. The ads implored investors to act quickly before the price of the stock increased and said, “One manufacturer of small automobiles has returned to early investors $2,500 for every dollar they invested.” This ad is from the December 7, 1919 Star-Telegram.
The company’s ads stressed the near certainty of big profits and the need for investors to act quickly. “We showed how a thousand dollars invested in common stock might grow into $100,000 in stock holdings and earn $70,000 in cash dividends in a period of six years.” Clips are from the September 14 and October 26, 1919 Star-Telegram. (These hard-sell ads were similar to those aimed at investors during the Ranger oil boom.)
The Little Motor Kar Company rolled out its first Texmobile in time to exhibit at the State Fair in Dallas in October 1919. The car featured three forward gears and reverse, a self-starter. Clip is from the October 15 Star-Telegram.
This ad in the October 26, 1919 Star-Telegram claimed that the company was going to build assembly buildings, an administration building, bungalows for employees, a generating plant, a railroad spur, and a sewage disposal plant.
This ad in the December 1919 Texas Railway Journal, published in Fort Worth, shows that the Little Motor Kar Company had a stock sales agent in Fort Worth. The clip-out coupon states that the buyer understands “I am to share in the profits of all the company’s many branch factories.”
Of which there was none.
Livezey claimed to own the tools—valued at $40,000—necessary to build the Texmobile engines and claimed to have contracted with manufacturers in the North to deliver ten thousand engines the first year for sports cars, touring cars, tractors, and trucks. In early March 1920 sales manager J. H. Judge claimed to have orders for 100,000 Texmobiles. The company claimed to have thirty thousand stockholders.
Also in March 1920 the Star-Telegram printed photos of “the first standard automobile to be turned out by the Little Motor Kar Company” and a photo of Livezey.
Then, at 1 a.m. April 13, 1920 Livezey’s grandiose promises caught up with him. He was arrested and charged with fraud. Stockholders accused him of mismanagement. Clip is from the April 13 Dallas Morning News.
Livezey was tried in Dallas in February 1921. The prosecution established that Livezey’s promotional material promised investors $1,000 for $1. The prosecution also claimed that for all the money the company had taken in, the Texmobile plant had produced only a handful of complete cars. Clip is from the February 10 Star-Telegram.
And where did all that money go?
On February 12, 1921 the Star-Telegram reported that the prosecution concentrated on gifts that Livezey had given to Miss Nellie Preston, age nineteen, of Maryland, including two cars, two squirrel coats, jewelry, a horse, and “much silk underfinery.”
On February 26, 1921 the Star-Telegram reported that Livezey was convicted. He was sentenced to five years in Leavenworth as inmate 18598. The Little Motor Kar Company closed for a year, then elected new officers and resumed production in 1922. But the dream of the Texmobile was dead. The Little Motor Kar Company instead produced a little truck called . . . wait for it . . . the “Little.” But in 1928 the company filed for bankruptcy. The Little was too little too late.