The World’s Littlest Skyscraper: How to Scam the Rich, in Style

Always read the fine print

J.J. Pryor


A scale model of three skyscrapers
Photo by Heitor Carvalho Jorge, CC BY-SA 3.0

“What is this, a skyscraper for ants?!”

A huge petroleum reservoir was discovered just over 100 years ago in Wichita County, Texas. Much like the Klondike Gold Rush way up north, people flooded the area, increasing the surrounding population by 20,000 seemingly overnight by 1918.

Oil men, riggers, and all sorts of would-be fortune finders headed straight to the reservoir to set up camp.

Nearby was the formerly quiet town of Wichita Falls, the seat of the spacious county. It was here the people decided would be the perfect place to set up the logistical hub to operate the oil boom.

Space was short. Would-be oilmen filled the streets with tables, tents, and shanties to make any deal they could under the sun. And profiteering businessmen were lurking on the edges eager to find any one-up they could.

Enter J.D. McMahon, a petroleum land owner and engineer.

Building an addition

Near the main train depot of Wichita Falls was a building officially called the Newby–McMahon Building. One of its tenants, J.D. McMahon, saw the crazy lack of office space and proposed an addition on the side of the building — an…



J.J. Pryor

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