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...

1 comment: