Samuel Spahr Laws invented the Laws Gold Indicator, a predecessor of the ticker tape machine, and made a fortune. Once wealthy he indulged his interest in higher education. He became University of Missouri president in 1876.

His interest in science led to the establishment of the School of Engineering and Laws Observatory, the first observatory west of the Mississippi. He also personally oversaw the creation of his beloved natural history museum in Academic Hall. 

Laws purchased a dead elephant for the College of Agriculture, but lost his fortune and couldn’t pay the bill. He submitted the bill to the curators, who promptly fired him. The fire at Mizzou in 1892 would consume most of the elephant.

This post was contributed by Ross Malone. A historian and a retired school teacher, Ross has authored many books about Missouri’s history, weird facts, and folk tales. He has also written children’s historical fiction. Visit his website, and buy his books in the Missouri Life store.

Photo credit: Kaffebart HTI, Unsplash