Saturday, April 11, 2015

Part 2: The Soldiers' Business Messenger and Dispatch Company

This is the second installment, although delayed, of my research of The Soldiers' Business, Messenger and Dispatch Company executive team. If you want to read my first article on the messenger service please click here.
For me, real excitement starts with the drive home after finding the Scripophily gem. I have experienced this maybe a handful of times over the last several years. You know the feeling, although verification of my suspicions is necessary, a feeling of calm washes over me as I imagine the hours of research, digging for explanations by learning the details of these long forgotten investments. My goal for this blog entry is to wrap up my research of the rare stock certificate found at the local flea market in New Jersey.

Almost every evening, for several weeks after this find, I settled in on my comfy couch searching for more information about the company. The certificate is signed by four (4) different Generals, two from the civil war and two promoted after the war when they enlisted with the New York War Staff soon know as the National Guard of New York, including one recipient of the Medal of Honor from the Civil War, Major-General Alexander Shaler - signed as President (Recipient of the Medal of Honor and Founder and President of the National Rifle Association).

The certificate is issued to Brigadier General, New York War Staff Seldon E. Marvin (Major 1861-5 U.S.V.) (1835-1899)  served as a U.S. Army paymaster. Marvin had previously served as the Adjutant of the 112th New York Volunteers. Photo by Addis Washington D.C. After the War Marvin served as the Adjutant General for the State of New York.

Brigadier General,
New York War Staff
Seldon E. Marvin

1862-1896 Army Version
Medal of Honor

General J. Henry Liebenau was a distinguished adjutants of the Seventh Regiment enlisted in the Second Company joining in 1849.  He was regularly promoted unti he resigned in 1863 and in 1864 was reappointed adjutant of the Seventh Regiment After a brief service in 1866 as aide de camp for the staff of Governor Fenton he was appointed commissary general of subsistence. Later in 1870 he was appointed division inspector upon the staff of the First Division and was for two years acting chief of staff and he resigned and finally retired from the military service in 1874. General Liebenau died in New York in 1878.

Major-General Alexander Shaler, Recipient of the Medal of Honor -  was born on March 19, 1827 in Haddam, Connecticut whose family immigrated from Stratford-on-Avon, England, to Boston in 1662, and organized the town of Haddam. Alexander grew up in New York City and married Mary McMurray on March 31, 1847. Shaler joined the New York Militia as a Private in 1848, and by 1860 was promoted to Major. Deploying briefly to the Defense of Washington, D.C. with the Seventh Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, Shaler became Lieutenant Colonel in the 65th New York, receiving the promotion to full Colonel in time to lead the 65th during the Second Battle of Fredericksburg, at Marye's Heights. 

During this battle, in a most critical moment during the attack, the Union charged in columns up two main roads after mortally wounding the highest ranking officer to gunfire and was about to be over taken by the severe fire of the enemy's artillery and infantry. At that moment, Colonel Shaler pushed forward with a supporting column, into the Confederate lines and turned the Confederate flanks. Shaler personally took up the colors and led his men into the fortifications of General Jubal.

Early capturing the position and an officer, earned a promotion to General and the Medal of Honor. Shaler’s unit would also see battle at Salem Church, Gettysburg, and the Overland Campaign, and Shaler personally would ascend to the rank of Brevet Major General, spend time commanding a Union prisoner of war camp also spent time as an inmate at Libby Prison following his capture at the Battle of the Wilderness, and then spent the remainder of the War in the Department of the Gulf.

After the end of the War, Shaler returned to New York City, where he immersed himself in civic activities.
1867-1870       President of the New York fire department between
1870-1873       Fire commissioner
1874-1875       Reorganized the fire department of Chicago after the great fire of 1874 and serving as consulting engineer to the board of fire and police.
1883-1887       President of the health department of New York City
1883-1887       One of the founders and president of the National Rifle Association and an incorporator/club commander of the Army and Navy New York Commandery of the   Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.
1883 and 1884 President of the Association of Union Ex-Prisoners of War New York City
1887-1896       Member of the Union League Club the GAR the New York Historical Society the American Geographical Society the American Museum of Natural History the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen and the Society for the Preservation of Scenic and Historical Places and Objects.
1867-1869       President of the Soldiers' Business Messenger and Dispatch Company, President and Director of the National Rifle Association
1899-1900       Mayor of Ridgefield New Jersey and President of the board of health and the board of education and of the Improvement association.

Alexander Shaler died December 28, 1911 in New York City, interred in Ridgefield, New Jersey.

After several attempts, I was able to find a copy of the bylaws listed as an item located in the Library of Congress (LOC). A trip to the nations capital was not practical so while I continued to explore the LOC website I discovered a web form intended for submitting questions about ongoing research. So I drafted a brief explanation of my research to date asking for any assistance. To my absolute amazement, a response email was received five hours later from Eric Frazier, Reference Librarian in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress. Eric emailed a copy of the company bylaws including a link to the copyright holders I am certain I will be visiting the Library of Congress website soon. THANK YOU Eric!

J. Henry Liebenau
Discovered in the by-laws was the accessible requirement of ownership of the stock required for all officers and directors. Each director was required to own at least 25 shares of stock. An additional round of financing was assessed in 1868 and since the shares were proportionally assigned, current shareholders were required to contribute a total $100,000 of additional capital. For those that did not pay, an advert was placed in the newspaper containing their name, the amount owed and the number of shares held. In some cases it was a matter of .43c but that was still considered an unpaid debt.

On most share certificates issued since that time period are marked "Non-accessible" as the investment made did not obligate the investor to future contributions. Non-accessible stocks typically had the words "fully paid and non-accessible" printed on the stock certificate. Investopedia explains 'Non-accessible Stock' as accessible stocks proved unpopular, and most companies switched over to issuing non-accessible stock in the late 1880s . Although equity was no longer sold at a discount compared to its share price, investors were more confident about buying non-accessible stocks because they no longer had to be concerned about the possibility that the issuer would show up sometime in the future and force them to make additional investments after the initial transaction.

Major-General Alexander Shaler
Recipient of the Medal of Honor
A lawsuit against The Soldiers' Business, Messenger and Dispatch Company was based on a mortgage for consideration of goods and chattels part of which were in the State of New York and part in New Jersey. The mortgage was filed in the former but not in the latter state. Details of the suit held that the mortgage was valid and operative against creditors in New York but not valid in New Jersey. Testimony documented from court records shows what portions of the mortgaged property were severally in New York and New Jersey when the mortgage was delivered.

In the spirit of the law, the court upheld the idea that the assets geographically located in both states were intended to be included in the original mortgage and as a result the assignee had an expectation that those asset would be included in the dismantling of the company.

The end of The Soldiers' Business, Messenger and Dispatch Company came in the form of bankruptcy filed in April 1869 which resulted in a challenge over a dispute of which assets could be used to discharge the filing in Smith v. The Soldiers' Business, Messenger and Dispatch Company.

Pittston Gazette July 25,1900 Pittston, PA 
Library of Congress - Bylaws of The Soldiers' Business, Messenger and Dispatch Company
Investopedia 'Non-Assessable Stock'

January's event at the National Stocks and Bond Show was exciting, educational and well, just pure fun. I presented Internet Excavations by a New Scripophilist. I shared some of my search techniques locating corners of the internet where old certificates go to hide. Please consider for a day learning about old stocks and bonds. Send any comments, suggestions, funny stories or confessions to Well... maybe not confessions.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Warner Company - Web Search in Practice

Larry Kachelriess, a newly minted member of the International Bond and Share Society (IBSS written out for all of those robot search engines that have a hard time translating abbreviations), signed up at the National Stock and Bond show in Herndon VA. Larry had limited success finding references to the Warner Company online and contacted me asking if I could find any information about the company, one of the five specimens he purchased at the show from Tom Lareau. We are always excited to have new members and was intrigued by the challenge. I spent the next evening digging into what turned out to be a fascinating company with a significant history in Pennsylvania related to William Penn, credited with establishing Pennsylvania, I know, really. During my research an interesting fact, good trivia for your next dinner party, turned up from Wikipedia that the name Pennsylvania originates from the combination of Sylvania, one of the first proposed names for the area being land granted (Latin for "forests" or "woods"), which King Charles II changed to "Pennsylvania" in honor of Penn.

Starting with the elements on the certificate I started my review searching for its many clues. First, this certificate is a specimen of Common stock $10 par value of the Warner Company. Other observations are the imprint in the lower center on the certificate, the incorporation from Delaware in 1929 and a closer inspection of the vignette at the top of the certificate shows a water-front scene in the printed the text, "Warner 1794" on the side of the warehouse and is bracketed by classic profile images of William Warner and John Warner wearing vintage clothing. So this company appears to be a re-creation of an older company using the history of the family as part of the brand. The president of the company was printed clearly as John Curtin Jr. and Treasurer, Charles Warner, Jr. Printed by Security-Columbian Banknote Company.

Putting those facts to work, using Google, documents were found with the date January 1, 1948 listing John Curtin, Jr. as being named President of the Warner Company. I am fairly certain the Specimen is most likely from that time period. Chasing that thread of information, main offices of the Warner Company, were published as 219 North Broad Street in Philadelphia, PA.  Business interests primarily dealt in the quarrying and transport of limestone and distributing sand and cement. Warner Company had branch offices maintained at New York, Pittsburgh, and Wilmington. Operations appear rather widespread focused on the eastern seaboard in the North Atlantic area and through the Pittsburgh office reached westward.

Searched: “1948 "warner company" philadelphia -time” 

Results: http://

Uncovered the specific file date of incorporation: March 25, 1929.

Searched: “219 North Broad Street Philadelphia” 


The building that was used by John Curtin for the re-created Warner Company had its own interesting history. George Flint, local entrepreneur, being a major partner and later President of the REO Motor Company in Philadelphia chose to place his personal headquarters in Philadelphia on Automobile Row. In early 1920, Flint purchased a couple of 1850s-era structures at 219-225 North Broad Street and announced that he would construct a 15-story, $750,000 office/factory in the 80′ x 100′ space later reduced to 11 floors at a cost of $350,000. It was known as the Flint Building. The building officially opened on April 1, 1922 and was occupied by Flint through the explosive growth period of the auto industry. In the 1940s and 50s, with Automobile Row completely removed to the northern end of the building and the upper floors, along with Mr. Flint’s empire vacant, the space was occupied by the Warner Company, fast forward to 2003, a year after Tenet Healthcare, then tenants, began a 20-year merger with the Drexel University School of Medicine, the old Flint Building was purchased by Drexel University for $4.2 million, fully refurbished now named the Arnold T. Berman, M.D. Building.
My search continued looking for references to the Warner Company in the digitized repository within Below is the syntax to target the search to the specific site.

Search: "warner company" +pennsylvania 

Results: BzY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=tTPQVNDTL8KhNoC1gZgG&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22John%20Curtin%20Jr.%22%20warner&f=false 

The next search was just for "John Curtin Jr." Warner with the name in quotes to force an exact match on the name yielding this document that after reading, was the real key to researching the Warner Company. A comprehensive section of a book dedicated to the creation and history of the company.

Search: "John Curtin Jr." Warner 

Results: Pennsylvania Titan of Industry by SYLVESTER K. STEVENS, Ph.D State Historian; Executive Secretary, Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies - Volume Three LEWIS HISTORICAL PUBLISHING COMPANY, INC. New York 1948 

Wrapping up the recent history, I turned my search engines on the older Warner Company’s activities.

Expanding the search into the history of the name, the search into the Warner Company yielded Charles Warner which returned a number of results as Charles holds an interesting linkage with William Penn, the English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, early Quaker and founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, the English North American colony and the future Commonwealth of Pennsylvania at the turn of the 16th century.

Once a thread could be established between the Warner family and William Penn, the Manor house was added to my search request unveiling a family history of the Warner family and their expansion into the new American west.

Search: history of pennsbury manor "charles warner" 

Results: provided by Hayward Dare Warner in 1971

History paints the early Warner family as pioneers coming to America even before the land grant to Penn was established. Joseph Warner, born in 1742, a distant relation to Charles, was one of the founders of the Bank of Delaware. He and his sons, John and William, (pictured on the certificate) operated a line of boats between Wilmington, Delaware and Philadelphia and had a trading business along the coast and with the West Indies. Some of this family settled around Wilmington.

(Source: Quaker and Special Collections, Haverford College)
In 1794, descendants of William, Jr. , organized The Warner Company of Philadelphia that operated as a large firm dealing in sand, gravel and other construction materials. At some time during that period they acquired deserted land where William Penn's "Pennsbury Manor" once stood. The manor construction started and opened in 1683 and had since fallen into disrepair and destroyed. After some convincing by local politicians, on Sunday, October 23, 1932, the 250th anniversary of Penn's arrival, a ceremony was held at the site of William Penn's home. Charles Warner, President of the Warner Company, presented the deed for nine and eight tenths acres-the portion of their 5,000 acre property on which the buildings had stood to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in a deed to the tract of land on the river north of Philadelphia as a permanent memorial site to the Quaker statesman and benefactor of mankind. Administered by The Pennsylvania Historical Commission who assumed the responsibility for that which then became known as The Pennsbury Memorial as the manor was not yet envisioned. The exact location of the original manor house was on this property was not to be rediscovered for many decades. 

Turns out Larry has a pretty good eye, finding a company that has a real connection to our nation’s history for the reasonable price of $32. 

I am always looking for other companies to research at no cost, so please contact me via email at As closing thought, I would like to thank all of the people responsible for providing this material online and allowing me access, as this blog entry is a compilation of these sources listed above. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Central New York Peat & Marl Company

       Henry A. Barnum - Medal of Honor Recipient           

In my downtime, I enjoy reviewing my collection of certificates while sitting in my family room deciphering signatures and exploring the Internet for details about who the certificate was issued to and who signed it. It should be noted that the collection of famous signatures is referred to as Philography not Scripophily.

When signatures appear on old stock certificates, it can increase the value and cross interest of the certificate. I find that in my hunt for a great hidden gems, almost famous people including Jay Gould's son, George and Abe Lincoln's son Robert Todd are easily overlooked and available at reasonable prices. My primary mission is focused on the certificate so if I score a decent historical signature in the process than lucky me.

I acquired a cache of certificates last year, many issued to Seldon E. Marvin and his son. What was so interesting is that many of the certificates were signed by other military leaders from the Civil War. I assume that many of the Generals and other officers, who went into business after the war, approached their comrades in arms from their past military time to become partners in new business ventures.  One certificate is The Central New York Peat & Marl Company. These post civil war certificates are some of the only instances where multiple Generals sign the same document.

The Central New York Peat & Marl Company certificate is issued to Seldon E. Marvin (1835 - 1899), Vice President, New York War Staff (Major 1861-5 U. S. Volunteers). Marvin had previously served as the Adjutant of the 112th New York Volunteers and signed by H.A. Barnum as President and Joseph F. Franklin Esq., Secretary printed by Francis & Loutrel, 45 Maiden Lane, N.Y. and dated Valentine’s Day 1866. That’s February 14th, for those guys that still need the Hallmark advertisements to remind them.
The Central New York Peat & Marl Company - 1866

Henry A. Barnum, Brigadier-General, U.S. Army, recipient of the Medal of Honor, was born September 24, 1833 in Onondaga County, New York. He attended public schools in Syracuse, and in 1856 became a tutor at the Syracuse Institute.  He continued his studies in Law and was admitted to the New York bar.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, he worked tirelessly raising troops in Onondaga county; having just passed the bar exam, Henry Alanson Barnum enlisted in the Twelfth New York Regiment as a private. Before the end of his first day, May 13, 1861, he was elected captain of his company. He worked to raise troops which was one of the earliest regiments organized in New York state. On November 1, 1861 he was promoted to Major, served after that a short time as a member of General Wadsworth's staff, and then rejoined his regiment and fought in the Peninsular campaign.

At Malvern Hill he was shot with a musket ball which passed through his left lower abdomen inflicting a wound from which he never fully recovered. At the time the injury was typically fatal, and at the Colonel's own request the American flag was wrapped about his person, his body was abandoned but soon fell into the hands of the enemy.

A body, supposed to be his, was buried, while at his home a funeral oration was delivered. He, in fact was taken to Libby prison, remaining there until July 18, 1862 released in a prisoner exchange. Two years later, an infection set in, under the care of his personal physician, Dr. March, General Barnum survived. Dr. March took a unique approach to prevent the infection from spreading. He passed an oakum cord through the bullet wound to keep it open so the infection could drain. Over the years, General Barnum kept the cord in place himself, while gradually reducing its size to a finer thread. He continued his war service, never allowing the wound to close using the cord to keep it open.

Henry A. Barnum - Pension File 
After a six months' leave of absence, Barnum returned to the war as a Colonel, leading his regiment at Gettysburg, and at Lookout Mountain, where he was wounded again earning a flesh wound in his right forearm. At that same battle, his command took 5 of the eleven flags and was asked to convey all the captured flags to Washington, with permission to display them at the great Sanitary fair at Cincinnati, at Syracuse, and before the Legislature of the State of New York and to deliver them to Washington for deposit in the War department. As a result of that action, he was nominated for the Medal of Honor, which was finally presented to him in July 1889.

He was again wounded in the Atlanta campaign, being again wounded by a fragment of a shell in the right breast, at the battle of Peach Tree Creek, before Atlanta, July 20th, 1864. While in command of a brigade in Sherman's march to the sea, Barnum had the distinction of being the first officer to enter Savannah Georgia. He commanded his brigade in the great review at the close of the war, in Washington. On March 13, 1865, he was brevetted a Major-General of volunteers, and soon promoted to a full Brigadier General on May 31st of that same year.

The following January he resigned, having declined a colonelcy in the regular army, and became inspector of prisons in New York and President of The Central New York Peat & Marl Company. Henry Barnum caught a severe cold at an Old Guard Ball and developed into pneumonia and died on January 29, 1892.

Now it's time to take a longer look at those older or even newer certificates as there might be a great story found buried in an old signature.

1 Prospectus The Central New York Peat & Merl Company - PRINTED BY SUMMERS & BRO., 22 EAST RAILROAD STREET - 1866
3 From Civil War Curiosities, by Webb Garrison; 1994: Henry A. Barnum
4 Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson and John Fiske. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 & edited Stanley L. Klos, 1999

Sunday, January 4, 2015


NATIONAL STOCK CERTIFICATE & BOND SHOW is Friday, January 23th from 9am - 6pm and Saturday, 24th, 2015 from 9am - 4pm. Plan on attending. Check out Bob's website for directions and details:

Bring the family and enjoy a fun day. While you are there, learn about collecting old Stocks and Bonds from the experts from around the globe. These incredible certificates can be purchased at all price levels starting at just a few dollars.

Displayed below is an adaptation of my recent article published in a recent Scripophily, The Journal of the International Bond & Share Society. This is why I collect, history is fascinating.

The Long Distance Telephone Co.

As collectors mature in the hobby, including Scripophily, we tend to start to recognize deals and bargains vs. common material that is always for sale at the same price. So personally I have started looking for places to buy and sell materials in places other than Ebay. Not that it is not a great marketplace to buy and sell but it occurred to me that we are all buying and selling from/to the same audience.

I started looking at other places on the internet and during one of my online excursions, found an established collector that decided to call it quits after many years of buying quality items. His eye for the special certificate was obvious. So I started an online conversation with "Bert"* and after several months he revealed a secret, that I will share here. Turns out his name is not Bert at all and that he uses that name in communications until he can trust that the person on the other end of the conversation is who they claim to be. Sheer brilliance. I purchased several pieces, one was a stock certificate from the Insurance Company of Columbia South Carolina issued in 1837, the same year as the fire destroyed two thirds of the city of Charleston South Carolina. That amazing architecture that has become such a tourist attraction was the created during the rebuilding of the city.

After a few more back-and-fourths, we agreed on terms to acquire the balance of the collection. It was arranged to meet half-way between our homes and after a few minutes on Google maps was able to find an antique center nearly at the mid-point that I had not visited before. I put the collection aside focusing on my full-time job and it was several weeks later I discovered another certificate of historical interest buried in the pile of certificates.

The Long Distance Telephone Co. was issued in New York during August of 1885. What made it interesting was that AT&T, then referred to as the Bell System had just incorporated in New York a few months earlier.

Was this the first long distance company of AT&T?
I started my research in earnest and found a few veiled references to the company being affiliated with AT&T, my excitement growing. In the beginning the corporate structure of the Bell System was quite complex based on the incorporation rules of the day. I hit a dead-end on my research and contacted our friend, Max Hensley to ask if this certificate had ever been sold before.
"...found only one sale of a co. with the same name (NY co 1887), Smythe200:5927 for $121 incl. premium.  No pic and no real description in the catalog, altogether a too-often occurrence."
Thanks Max, my search continued...
Max closed his message with an idea of checking the AT&T website and after a review of the history section on the AT&T website:, I had another thought and contacted the person listed as public relations explaining my struggle of  tying the two companies together. In just two days I was contacted by William "Bill" Caughlin - Corporate Archivist - Manager of the AT&T Archives and History Center.
Bills' Initial response, in part: "American Telephone and Telegraph Company’s (AT&T Co.) certificate of incorporation was filed with the New York State Department, on March 3, 1885.  Formed as a subsidiary of its parent holding company, American Bell Telephone Company (of Boston), AT&T Co. was originally nicknamed “The Long Distance Company” and charged with building a network to interconnect the far-flung local exchanges of the early Bell Telephone System.  Later, on December 30, 1899, AT&T Co. acquired the assets of its former parent and became the new owner of the Bell System.

... Early on it was called the Long Distance Lines Department, when headquarters staffs were consolidated in New York City in 1907.  Because of strict incorporation laws, the Long Lines properties were often owned by separate corporations in many states, and these legal entities were ultimately owned by AT&T Co.  I would bet your certificate represents the New York State firm. "

As you can only imagine, my excitement continued to grow unabated. I might have something.

I received a follow-up email message from Bill the very next day.

"The Long Distance Telephone Company was not a subsidiary of AT&T Co., but rather a short-lived competitor.  I first consulted a number of classic secondary works on the early telephone industry, and none mentioned the company.  I then examined early American Bell Telephone Company annuals reports.  According to the 1886 report, American Bell filed suit and received a decree against “the Long Distance Telephone Co. ... in New York.”

Furthermore, I found corroborating information in a final report written by a patent attorney to the president of American Bell, dated Dec. 21, 1895.  Nearly 600 suits were filed against infringers of the Bell patents, over the course of 15 years.  The following is the pertinent excerpt:

Long Distance Telephone Co.                                   So. Dist. of New York.

Final decree June 12, 1889, for one dollar damages and for costs.  The costs would amount to perhaps $250, and in 1894 the question of collecting them was considered; but as several of the defendants were in the New York city government, it did not seem worth while [sic] to agitate the matter.

So the mystery of The Long Distance Telephone Co. is solved thanks to the work of William D. Caughlin "Bill", Corporate Archivist. At my request, Bill provided me with more information about his role and the use of the Archives of AT&T for Scholarly use.
AT&T Archives and History Center is tasked with preserving rare and irreplaceable materials while documenting the rich history of AT&T.

Seems they have two goals, one is to help support AT&T business and marketing requests and two, provide information for scholarly research, like my request for information about the Long Distance Telephone Co. Within the archives are documents dating from 1869 to the present forming a Corporate memory all accessible from the History Center. Imagine the effort required to manage the volume of documents and artifacts. It should be noted that this type of service is expensive to maintain and demonstrates AT&T's community commitment to history and their place in it.

AT&T's historical archives are represented in over 45,000 cubic feet of documents, books, periodicals, photographs, moving images, sound recordings and microforms, as well as approximately 15,000 artifacts.

The collection is stored in two locations, one in San Antonio, TX,  centered on the holding companies and their predecessors and subsidiaries, which primarily trace the evolution of local landline and wireless phone service in 22 states (1878-present)., and The Warren, NJ location, holdings that comprise records of the legacy of AT&T Corp. and its predecessors going back to the original Bell Telephone Co. in 1877. 

I would like to publicly thank Bill for his insight and prompt response to my research request. Speaking to THE EXPERT on the subject of AT&T and the development of the Telcom industry was pretty cool. Bill can be reached via email on or on LinkedIn. You can find more information about the Online Historical Resources. Requests from outside researchers are handled on a case-by-case basis, and include historians of science and business, documentary filmmakers, museum curators, and authors and publishers.

To learn more about AT&T’s past and to view interesting films and photographs from the collection, I highly recommend a visit to the URLs listed below if you possess any telephone related certificates.

AT&T History:
AT&T Archives Historical Films:

Although this certificate is not part of the AT&T network it does represent an early telephone company attempt and earned a prominent place in my personal collection. I am now looking for an AT&T certificate from one of the many state formed long distance companies dated between 1880s- and early 1900's.

* specific names have been omitted to protect "Bert's" identity. Gotcha covered...

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Soldiers' Business Messenger and Dispatch Co. Creating luck.

As part of my ongoing quest for the next amazing Scripophily gem, I have started considering where material of interest might be in larger concentrations. My home is in New Jersey and from here I have spent hundreds of hours crawling around every antique center in at least a 200 mile radius. Sure, there might be a few towns I overlooked but for the most part, I pretty much covered it. I have found that the inventories of these places does not turn-over at any frequent basis so repeat visits rarely yield a significant return. The only exception to this rule is when I re-discover a certificate and find it is not ready to be added to my collection. So I make a note where I found it and return when I feel it's a better fit. So far, it appears that the North East has a rich history of manufacturing and company headquarters along with a major financial center. I have not yet traveled west of the Mississippi searching for more items but hope to get there someday. My trips to the south as far as South Carolina have not uncovered any items of historical interest. It seems any significant family papers that make it to market are swarmed by historians looking for famous people in history.       

Medal of Honor Recipient 
Major-General Alexander Shaler can I create more "luck" finding those rare, I mean really rare, certificates? I have proven that sweat and determination are two key characteristics necessary to uncover hidden treasures. I heard a funny comment earlier this week, that if you skip a flea market that you usually attend on any given Sunday, that will be the day that a real gem will be available and you'll miss it. Last Sunday I was debating with myself and decided after a few minutes to roll out of bed early to get to the flea market. Words cannot express how glad I am that I decided to travel the 45 minutes on a clear sunny day. I was strolling though the isles and was told by one of the vendors about another table with stock certificates. What I found had the combination of age, beauty, condition and relevance for truly desirable certificates. One gem caught my attention.

The Soldiers' Business Messenger and Dispatch Company certificate is dated 1868 issued and not cancelled signed by Medal of Honor Recipient Major-General Alexander Shaler, President and Secretary Col. S. Truesdell and Treasurer Brigadier General J. Henry Liebenau. The condition is extra fine with a revenue stamp tied in the lower right corner dated March 7, 1868. I have not seen one of these certificates before and am interested to hear from anyone with more information about the company beyond the basic material found on the Internet.  

The Soldiers' Business Messenger and Dispatch Company Issued 1868

The Soldiers' Business Messenger and Dispatch Company was created on April 15, 1867 as a way to provide gainful employment for maimed veterans that lived in New York and the orphan boys of soldiers that either died or were injured after while serving in the volunteer army of the United States. These soldiers were able to receive and deliver packages, bundles, property, and messages by sealed envelopes and magnetic telegraph within the territory known as the Metropolitan Police District made up of New York counties Kings, Westchester and Richmond headquartered at 2 Park-place. Messengers were paid $35 per month.

Basic costs for the messenger service;

10 blocks .10c
15 blocks .12c
20 blocks .15c
25 blocks .17c
30 blocks .20c
35 blocks .22c
40 blocks .24c
45-140 blocks  .25c

Additional fees were charged for excessive weight and ferry crossings.
The executives of the company and the board of directors were very prominent military officers.

Officers and Directors
Major-General Alexander Shaler - President  (Medal of Honor)
Major-General Henry A. Barnum - Vice-President (Medal of Honor)  
Brigadier General J. Henry Liebenau - Treasurer          
Brigadier General P. H. Jones - Secretary (Future Postmaster of New York) replaced by
Colonel Samuel Truesdell        

Board of Directors
General Alexander Shaler
General C. W. Darling
General P. H. Jones
Colonel E. A. Ludwick
General J. E. Hamblin
Colonel J. Henry Liebenau
General Henry A. Barnum
General G. S. Batcheller
General C. H. Young

The company planned on placing  a total of 800 booths between Brooklyn starting with 300 in New York City except on Broadway. Each booth was used for advertising and as a shop for newspapers, stationary, magazines and cutlery.  Booths were maned by a maimed soldier in charge given the rank of Corporal as they were unable to handle the typical messenger tasks. Corporals that manned the booth were able to keep the profit from their sales and if it the profit did not meet the $35, the difference was made up by the company. Salaries varied after the organization got off the ground. Special wagons were used on the railroad at regular intervals to carry heavy packages and groceries. Capital was also identified to lay telegraph lines and agreements were made with a telegraph company to use their poles throughout the city.

For full disclosure, in addition to the certificate above, I also found that day, two New York coal companies, a Gas Light company from 1865, 1868 and 1869 and an Atlantic and Great Western Railroad stock (ALT-536b-S30) in excellent condition from 1862. Yes, it was one heck of a day!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Brief Look at the History of Corporations in America

History of Corporations in US
Where do you prefer to get your News? Me, I get my information from Yahoo home page and occasionally John Stewart's Daily Show. I figure if it gets mentioned there, it must be newsworthy. I even have friends that read a daily newspaper, can you believe it? Yes George G. I'm calling you out. No matter where you look, current events are littered with news about corporations lifting their veil of secrecy and revealing malfeasance, from the office of the CEO and disenfranchised Board of Directors to the unsupervised staff with the ability to lose billions of other people's money.

Corporations have been in existence for centuries starting from very humble beginnings. Religious orders and governments were the first to incorporate like the Benedictine Order of the Catholic Church, founded circa 529 AD identified as the oldest surviving corporation referenced by Bruce Brown in his book The History of the Corporation, Volume 1. Another thousand year continuously operated business was the Japanese temple construction company, Kongo Gumi, established in 578 AD that shut down in 2009 after a run of over 14 centuries. Image the CEO's decision knowing that he was responsible for the liquidation of that kind of dynasty. His parents must be proud but I guess building temples is a talent gone the way of the cooper. Kongo Gumi illustrates the primary need solved by incorporation.

Corporations were created as a means to outlive individual members of an organization.

While searching for a better understanding of the origins of corporations in America, I learned that as are typical with cycles, it appears the maturity of the large corporation has past its pinnacle of effectiveness and is in decline, being replaced by smaller agile disruptive businesses run by innovators. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. For more information please visit my long list of sources at the bottom of this blog entry.

For background, prior to the 1600s in European corporations were established for the public good and violation to the charters was punishable by law. In England a review by Parliament uncovered in 1721 systemic fraud perpetrated by the Directors of the South Sea Company.
South Sea Company
South Sea Company - 1721
Parliament confiscated the estates of the Directors and used the proceeds as a payout to the victims. Also during the1600s the first notion of a For Profit company appeared as a way to build the economic power within Europe and finance colonial expansion. At its origin, people who wanted to create a company had to have at least three people working together to form a corporation. A single person corporation was not even envisioned by the early lawmakers as liability remained with the managers of the corporation.
Many safeguards were established intended to keep control over the influence of companies when corporations were reinvented in the United States after our independence was won. How much tea can you throw into the Boston harbor anyway? Initially, the privilege of incorporation within the United States was granted by a vote from the State Legislators.  In 1811, New York was the first state to sign a bill into law creating the first Corporate statute allowing some form of Limited Liability Corporations thereby reducing the risk to the individuals responsible for the actions of the corporation. Eastern states battled for years to be considered the friendliest state to establish or move businesses to their states hoping to claim a larger proportion of the exploding commerce brought about by the expansion of the railroads and commerce. These early company regulations were so restrictive that industry tycoons like Andrew Carnegie created his Steel Company using a Limited Partnership and John D. Rockefeller structured Standard Oil as a Corporate Trust.

During the early days, corporations were designed in silos and operated as a individual entities. Directorates were not permitted to participate on multiple boards which is common practice in today's chase for personal notoriety and a few dollars. As reported by relying on a special screen generated by GMI Ratings, in 2011, the top 10 companies paid directors an average annual stipend in excess of $500,000. I imagine they also receive some pretty good travel and entertainment perks.  

Jane Anne Morris is a corporate anthropologist and creator of the Democracy Theme Park Her research into the history of the Wisconsin legislator found the following provisions:1
  • Corporations were required to have a clear purpose, to be fulfilled but not exceeded.
  • The state legislature could revoke a corporation’s charter if it misbehaved.
  • Corporations’ licenses to do business were revocable by the state legislature if they exceeded or did not fulfill their charter.
  • The act of incorporation did not relieve corporate management or stockholders/owners of responsibility or liability for corporate acts.
  • State (not federal) courts heard cases where corporations or their agents were accused of breaking the law or harming the public.
  • Directors of the corporation were required to come from among stockholders.
  • Corporations had to have their headquarters and meetings in the state where their principal place of business was located.
  • Corporation charters were granted for a specific period of time, such as twenty or thirty years.
  • Corporations were prohibited from owning stock in other corporations, to prevent them from extending their power inappropriately.
  • Corporations’ real estate holdings were limited to what was necessary to carry out their specific purpose(s).
  • Corporations were prohibited from making any political contributions, direct or indirect.
  • Corporations were prohibited from making charitable donations outside of their specific purposes.
  • State legislatures could set the rates that some monopoly corporations could charge for their products or services.
  • All corporation records and documents were open to the legislature or the state attorney general.
As an example of governmental control, in 1832, President Andrew Jackson refused to extend the charter of the Second Bank of the United States and the State of Pennsylvania revoked 10 banks’ charters. In 1819 in Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward the U.S. the state attempted to remove the school's corporate status and failed. Supreme Court ruled in Dartmouth College's favor and upheld a contract issued by King George III in advance of the creation of the state. At its core, the decision was based on the fact that the contract did not allow for a termination by the state legislator. Citizen's in many states responded quickly viewing the verdict as an attack on state sovereignty. New laws were created or existing laws enhanced amending state constitutions allowing states to circumvent the (Dartmouth College v Woodward) ruling. By 1844, 19 states passed amendments making corporate charters subject to the whim of the state legislators.
Over time, companies gathered greater resources and began chipping away at the restrictive statutes placed on them at the creation of their charter. Back across the pond, an 1844, British law allowed companies to define their own reason for existence. Eleven years later, managers within corporations were awarded material limited liability from their corporate actions. From that date, personal property owned by company executives were protected from the consequences of their corporate behavior. Back in America, the turning point was the Civil War. This was a time where companies could exert significant influence in the political process as the Union was in desperate need of goods and services. Laws restricting trade with the confederacy were ignored if it helped with the war effort. Wm. Seligman & Co. and J. Seligman & Co. had many Union contracts producing uniforms, chevrons, and shoulder boards to designate rank. Seligman had existing relationships with cotton producers in the south that supplied raw cotton for their Dry Goods store, J. & H. Seligman. After the war broke out, Seligman continued with those relationships engaged in very risky arrangements and successfully delivered on the government contracts generating proceeds of $1,437,483.61 between August 1861 and July 1862.Abraham Lincoln wrote,
Abraham Lincoln
 "I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."
Although debated as a fictitious entry attributed to Abe, research conducted by Rick Crawford, found the full entry in a letter from Lincoln to (Col.) William F. Elkins, Nov. 21, 1864.

The legal case in the United States that set corporations on the path to untouchable status arose out of the 1886 Supreme Court case between Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. Based on misleading summary notes of a court reporter, the documents from the decision subsequently were used as precedent to hold that a corporation was a "natural person." From there, companies used the newly drafted 14th Amendment enacted to protect the rights of freed slaves as leverage to grant corporations constitutional "person hood".

Since then, Justices have eliminated hundreds of local, state and federal laws enacted to protect people from corporate harm based on this illegitimate premise. Armed with this new status, corporations increased control over all of the areas that they were once prohibited including free speech, protection from illegal searches and seizures and free from discrimination just like a real person, Geppetto would be proud. This trend continues to this day. A 2013 Montana Legislature HOUSE BILL NO. 486 was introduced by Montana state Rep. Steve Lavin that would give corporations the right to vote in municipal elections. His response "I made a mistake of not paying enough attention to this bill," Lavin said. "It came through with that in there. This kind of surprised me in a way..." To the committee's credit, the bill was tabled shortly after it was submitted and is unlikely to ever become law. This type of political fodder would be comical if not for the careless nature of public concern by our elected officials.8

Once the camel's nose was under the proverbial tent, other rights and restrictions built into corporate charters continued to erode faster than a Russian Polecat racing down the Ural Mountains the morning of February 15, 2013.

New Jersey was the first state, in 1889, to allow one company to own the assets of another. From there, the rules on the books were erased at an even faster rate. New Jersey continued to lead the country in legislation when, in 1896, the “General Revision Act” was passed removing the restrictions on company size and market share, creating perpetual corporate charters, reducing shareholder powers, and allowing any purchase, mergers or acquisition demanded by a company. As if it were a competition, Delaware first got into the game in 1883 and, with indecision from New Jersey, passed the “General Incorporation Law” in 1899 setting the standard for companies to establish their own rules of governance held to this day as the friendliest state to businesses. 

I found the following paragraph on the web and like the way it describes the events around the errant 1886 legal decision. Excerpted from Culture Jam: The Uncooling of America (Kalle Lasn, William Morrow/Eaglebrook, 1999) 
“This 1886 decision ostensibly gave corporations the same powers as private citizens. But considering their vast financial resources, corporations thereafter actually had far more power than any private citizen. They could defend and exploit their rights and freedoms more vigorously than any individual and therefore they were more free. In a single legal stroke, the whole intent of the American Constitution -- that all citizens have one vote, and exercise an equal voice in public debates -- had been undermined. Sixty years after it was inked, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas concluded of Santa Clara that it "could not be supported by history, logic or reason." One of the great legal blunders of the nineteenth century changed the whole idea of democratic government.”3
Except for a temporary reprieve during Roosevelt's New Deal, the United States has since been governed by big business. Post-World War II corporations continued to build on the gains of the past. They evolved into mega global conglomerates exceeding the economical power of many third world countries. Gradually, many of the ideals created by the founding fathers were simply eliminated and soon forgotten.

Recent news of rogue trades and Ponzi schemes in the financial services industry have left their mark on the global economy. Again confirming the generally accepted principle that, left unattended, corporations lack basic morality and ethics in the constant search for greater profits answering only to shareholders. These executives are blinded by the idea of a higher stock price as their quest tied to their legacy as business magnates.

So today there are many different types of corporate structures in the United States. Popular company forms include the C-Corp, S-Corp, Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) and a newly designed Benefit Corporation “B Corp” created in New Jersey in November 2011 and now available in five other states. Although they all serve a specific purpose, perhaps the B Corps are the most interesting. These companies harness the power of business resources to solve social and environmental problems. Perhaps the creation of this type of corporation and Occupy Wall Street activism are positive signs that the old ideas of corporate immunity and single minded profit goals have come full circle as the pendulum of reasonableness has return.

Contemporary business leaders are beginning to see the benefits of the balanced approach to profits with an eye towards a positive corporate citizenship.

Enron & Worldcom“As corporate citizens of the world, it is our responsibility – our duty – to serve communities where we do business … by helping to improve, for example, the quality of citizens’ education, employment, health care, safety, and overall daily life, plus future prospects,”5 CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz

Can the problem of corporations betraying the public trust placing profits ahead of humanity be solved and if so where should society's resources be focused creating the largest impact of change and accountability?

I humbly suggest that the simple, grass roots efforts akin to Occupy Wall Street do not have the necessary leverage or long term effect necessary to bring about this cataclysmic change. Others suggest the complete removal of PACs and special interest groups used to finance legislation reversing the cycle promoting the good for the few at the cost of the many. An idea of broad based incentive programs placed in the proper hands would level the democratic playing field. I am interested to hear other thoughts how today's capitalism can return to our version invented by early pioneers, industrialist and politicians using corporations to enhance our quality of life in this decade. When I write my blog entries I receive insight and guidance from a number of people. For this perspective on the history of corporations in the United States, I would like to thank my long-time friend, Steven Miyao - CEO and founder of kasina for an alternative point of view and for providing a perfect sounding board.

kasina is a trusted advisor to the leaders of the asset management and insurance industries. They are innovators in the distribution of Financial Services products through consulting, research, and benchmarking data.

My research continues. Check back soon.

The History of the Corporation, Volume 1 by Bruce Brown
p. 40 of The Lincoln Encyclopedia, by Archer H. Shaw (Macmillan, 1950, NY). That traces the quote's lineage to p. 954 of Abraham Lincoln: A New Portrait, (Vol. 2) by Emanuel Hertz (Horace Liveright Inc, 1931, NY).
1. Jane Anne Morris “Fixing Corporations: The Legacy of the Founding Parents” at
2 .Unequal Protection: The Early Role of Corporations in America by: Thom Hartmann, Berrett-Koehler Publishers | Serialized Book
3. Excerpted from Culture Jam: The Uncooling of America (Kalle Lasn,William Morrow/Eaglebrook, 1999)
4. Rick Crawford, letter from Lincoln to (Col.) William F. Elkins, Nov. 21, 1864.

5. Nicholas Confessore, New York Times - Policy-Making Billionaires Published: November 26, 2011
6. Ross L Muir and Carl J. White, Over the Long Term... the Story of J. & W. Seligman & Co. 1964