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Sam the Banana Man
June 7, 2012 6:16 AM   Subscribe

Sam the Banana Man - Samuel Zemurray - saw opportunity in a pile of discarded bananas. As his empire grew he moved up the supply chain and eventually installed friendly governments to protect his interests. His former home at 2 Audubon Place, New Orleans, is now the residence for the President of Tulane University.
posted by Joe in Australia (16 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Two years I lived in Zemurray Hall and never really thought about its eponym. We were more concerned about the (probably urban legend) that we were being housed in a condemned building that the University had to pay extra for to keep open...
posted by Hal Mumkin at 6:34 AM on June 7, 2012

Chiquita, United Fruit's Successor, reports on its current liability for supporting Colombian paramilitaries.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:42 AM on June 7, 2012

Zemurray's go-to guys for overthrowing governments were two mercenaries named Lee Christmas and 'Machine Gun' Guy Molony.

Lee Christmas was a failed railroad engineer with color blindness and a death wish. Guy Molony would later become New Orleans Chief of Police.
In 1910 four men strolled down a New Orleans street and into a whorehouse. They were being tailed by two Secret Service men. It was an open secret that these men were plotting a revolution in Honduras and the government wanted to make sure that the invasion wasn't launched from American soil.
posted by zamboni at 6:58 AM on June 7, 2012

Also in banana news, a new documentary called Big Boys Gone Bananas*! provides a further exposé on the industry.
posted by fairmettle at 7:03 AM on June 7, 2012

This story never ceases to amaze me. If you tried to make this sort of thing up, no one would believe you.
posted by jquinby at 7:09 AM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

You know, until I read this, the words 'banana' and 'sinister' never really had an association. Very interesting reading; it sort of confirms for me something I've always known intellectually but still haven't learned: one person can change the world.

Thanks for posting it!
posted by Mooski at 7:11 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you tried to make this sort of thing up, no one would believe you.

No need to make anything up, though. There's no shortage or real-life stuff like this going on right now, under guises like "the War on Terror" and "the War on Drugs", and millions of Americans won't believe it when you tell them that it's not really about those things, but about economic interests. Like this story, it will take a few decades for the truth to be gradually revealed. Then everybody will believe it. But also by then, most of the major players will be dead or retired, and nobody will really care about it all that much. It might get the occasional discussion on the internet, but that'll be about it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:23 AM on June 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

A Coup Made In America, youtube
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:27 AM on June 7, 2012

Always a good reason to summon '100 years of solitude' stories about the 'United banana wars'
posted by growabrain at 7:32 AM on June 7, 2012

Interestingly, the bananas that Zemurray would have been selling were most likely Gros Michel, which succumbed to Panama disease, a fungal blight. This disease has since spread to the current Cavendish strain, which may prove disastrous for an important global crop.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:43 AM on June 7, 2012

Cool! Love stories like this... thanks for sharing it.
posted by ph00dz at 7:51 AM on June 7, 2012

Well, there's always money in the banana stand.
posted by Madamina at 8:06 AM on June 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

This man seems like a composite of a dozen Warren Zevon songs.
posted by weinbot at 8:38 AM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Great story, thanks for posting Joe.
posted by arcticseal at 8:35 PM on June 7, 2012

If you tried to make this sort of thing up, no one would believe you.

I can't quite believe it either. You would think somebody would have said, "Hang on - we're going to do what now?" But no, you had coups and gunboats and high-level USAn threats against several sovereign nations, all to protect the USA's supply of cheap bananas.

And then there's Zemurray himself - I just can't imagine a situation where a reasonable business response involves hiring mercenaries to assault a foreign government. None the less, that's what happened. Heaven knows how they accounted for it in the ledgers - "To overthrow of government in Honduras, $5,000"?
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:58 PM on June 7, 2012

"Petty cash."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:00 PM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

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