April 14, 2010

Bridges and tunnels will stay

Thanks to everyone who replied to my questions about keeping tunnel and bridge companies in the railroad database. I conducted a similar poll ten or twelve years ago and the answer was exactly the same. Most collectors want me to keep those kinds of companies in the catalog, so I will.

Collectors constantly send inquiries asking me to add all sorts of near-topic companies to the project. I completely understand their rationale, because that is why I started this project in the first place. Simply put, they have certificates that are not covered by any other price guide.

The problem is that adding new companies is a monstrous task and greatly dilutes my efforts at cataloging railroad certificates. Not to mention, that off-topic companies do not help the vast majority of collector who specialize strictly in railroad certificates. As a matter of policy, the only companies I now add to the project are railroad companies and manufacturers which were extremely close to railroading.

For those of you interested in my selection criteria, I ask you to visit my completely re-written page concerning Types of companies included in this guide. I have been fighting an exhausting battle against project expansion for fifteen years and this is the latest attempt at strengthening the lines.

(The picture at the top is from a stereo view card from around 1900. It shows a Pennsylvania Railroad bridge across the Potomac River at Washington DC.)

April 05, 2010

Savage's plea for more money

Here is an interesting page sent by a Mr. Corey Phelps, a long-time collector. It is a hand-typed letter on letterhead from the Minneapolis St Paul & Dubuque Electric Traction Co. This was the "Dan Patch Electric Line" tirelessly promoted by Marion Savage and named after his famous race horse. (The horse owned the world pacer record for either 32 or 54 years, depending on information source.)

Savage was one of the first promoters to attempt to sell railroad stock to average people. He advertised heavily in magazines, where he relied on the strength of the famous "Dan Patch" name to secure promises to buy stock in the railroad company.

The company was organized in 1907 and had 7,980 stockholders by 1914. Bob Kerstein of Scripophily.com cites the company had about 8,500 stockholders at its peak, an astounding number for a company of its size. Common stockholders had voting rights, but preferred stockholders did not. The company was only minimally profitable and was in receivership by 1918. The owner and I agree that this undated letter was probably written about 1914.

This letter, autographed by Savage, was a plea to the subscriber to pay for his or her stock. The letter is complete in itself, but is clearly labeled as page two. Page one is missing and I suspect it may have been some sort of flashier company promo. Obviously, whoever kept this letter over the decades thought the second page more important than the first.

"This is a personal letter that I am sending to you and I want you to write to me personally today -- use the enclosed envelope which I have stamped for your convenience. Your letter will then come directly to my desk. I will expect to find some money in it. Please Don't disappoint me.

"Send what you owe use and I promise I will personally attend to the immediate mailing of your certificates and I will also personally promise to bring our road to completion at once and won't have to again urge you for more money. Write me today and don't forget to send me the balance due on your contract. I will look for your immediate reply -- Remember the fulfillment of my plans depends upon you as one of my partners.

"Your very truly,
(signed M W Savage)

"P.S. I think I have showed you how it is to your interest to pay what you are owing on your contract, but in order to make it practically certain that you will send me the balance at once, I am going to allow you a liberal discount for your immediate payment. If you will send me the balance due at once you may deduct FIVE PER CENT from the amount. Now, this certainly makes it well worth you while to pay us at once. Even if you have to borrow the amount it will pay you to do this, so as to get this Extra liberal discount. It will be a benefit to you and your company -- let's complete our road and get it started to earn big money right away.

"Do this and I promise you I won't have to again urge you to send us more money. Send us your remittance, deduct FIVE PER CENT, and I will send your certificates at once, and I will bring our road to completion by January 1st.

"M. W. S."