August 30, 2015

Recycled Securities

Jim Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Currency & Coins sent this email on August 29, 2015

Was advised to send you these images  - I collect Texas Civil War County Scrip, and alwasy interested in the paper that the printers would scrounge up in order to complete an order - it "appears" this two note sheet of 25 Cent notes is printed on the back portion of a Eastern Texas Rail Road Company bond - as it was also payable in Nacogdoches.

I'll check with some other collectors to see if there notes are also on the back of this company's bonds.

Nacogdoches County  25-cent fractional currency (note the bond image showing through from the back)

While only "The Easte" is visible on this fragment, it is reasonable to conclude this item was part of a bond from the Eastern Texas Railroad Company. It turns out, however, the Mr. Fitzgerald had previously spotted an unattributed stock certificate from the company on a site titled "CSA Railroads", maintained by David Bright, at (See below)

Note that the vignette and the text style are identical between the stock certificate and the bond fragment.

My reply:

Thanks for sending me images of both the fronts and backs of these fractional notes from Nacogdoches County. Back when I sold paper money, I used to see quite a few obsolete notes from southern states printed on the backs of recycled bonds. Normally, it was hard to determine what the original bonds might have been because it was rare to see more than a small part of a bond at any one time.

This particular railroad company was incorporated in 1856 and was sufficiently successful to have laid over 50 miles of track. The company lasted until about 1863 when its equipment was raided to fortify Fort Sabine, so I’m not entirely clear why its bonds were recycled into currency for Nacogdoches County. Nonetheless, it was a common practice in the Civil War South.

Followup for my readers:

Before we go any further, let me stress that:

  • I have no conclusive evidence that any complete bonds for the Eastern Texas Railroad Company survive. At the present, we have no existing documents with which to compare this fragment.
  • Records are not exact, but it is possible a bond from this company might reside in the collection of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (box 4-3/442). If anyone has access and can check out this source, I'd appreciate knowing. (See
  • Other than a passing reference in the source mentioned above, I can find no evidence that the Eastern Texas Railroad issued bonds. However...
  • Few railroads could have been constructed from the proceeds of stock sales alone. It was a near-necessity for railroad companies, large or small, to borrow money by selling bonds.
  • The majority of railroad companies seem to have issued bonds soon after incorporation.
Decent paper was in short supply practically everywhere across the Confederate states and grew worse as the Civil War wore on. It is extremely common to find obsolete currency printed on recycled documents of all types. Many of the notes of the time were uniface. Flip the notes over and you will often find evidence of invoices, receipts, stock certificates, bonds and, most commonly, other currency. Without a lot of work, it is usually impossible to identify the origin of the recycled documents.

In this case, it appears that Nacogdoches County needed to print fractional notes for local circulation because coins had all been hoarded after the outbreak of the Civil War. The County probably reached out to local businesses for any kind of usable paper and discovered that the railroad had a stash of bonds that it had been unable to sell.

Mr. Fitzgerald's example is HIGHLY unusual in that his uncut pair of 25-cent notes is large enough to be able for him to speculate about the company name on the original bonds. Look at the top image of the uncut pair of Nacogdoches notes and imagine if the two notes had been cut apart. There would have been NO possible way to identify the source of the printing on the other side!

I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Fitzgerald's conclusion about the origin of the paper. Outside of the Eastern Texas Rail Road, I doubt there were any companies near Nacodoches large enough to attempt to sell corporate bonds.

In an attempt to learn more about its bond issues, I looked a little more into the company. It appears that my source of the company incorporation date was wrong. In my experience, finding wrong dates in railroad literature is the rule, not the exception. So, let me clarify with more research. Also, let me warn my readers that any and all derivative sources of date information are open to suspicion. Unless you are looking at original documents, you must suspect every date and every so-called "fact" you find. 

According to the Texas State Historical Association (Handbook of Texas Online, the first incarnation of the company was the Henderson & Burkeville Railroad Company, chartered in 1852. That company changed its name to Mexican Gulf & Henderson Railroad Company in an 1856 charter amendment. The Eastern Texas Rail Road Company was chartered in January, 1860 and took over from the MG&H RR. The full text of the January 27, 1860 company charter appears in a section titled Special Laws of the Eighth Legislature Convened Nov. 7th, 1859 that appears in the General Laws of Texas.

Is the history of the company as clear as that? Of course not! 

According to the Transactions of the Texas Academy of Science for 1906 (published 1907), the Eastern Texas Railroad was chartered in 1858. Support for that earlier date is partially substantiated by a 2-page document, dated Jul 26, 1858, at which time Texas Governor Hardin Richard Runnels appointed commissioners for the Eastern Texas Railroad Company. The earlier date is further referenced in the Analytical Index to the Laws of Texas (1906) under legislation named 4-1239-1858 that chartered the company in 1858. Nonetheless, I have been stymied to find more robust clarification of the 1858 charter through online research.

So with this meager information in hand, I will guess that the company would have tried to sell bonds after both the 1858 and 1860 incorporations. 

My proof? None. So I will continue with my speculations.

There seems to be no evidence that the Eastern Texas Railroad (of 1858) laid any track in either 1858 or 1859, probably because of the lack of money.  

On the other hand, we know from numerous sources that the company had laid 15 to 20 miles of track from Sabine Pass to Beaumont by 1861. Obviously, it had acquired money from somewhere.

It turns out that the State Gazette (Austin) reported in its July 7, 1860 issue that investors had already subscribed to $301,000 in stock, presumably issued by the 1860 version of the company. As I said earlier, companies could rarely lay track without borrowing substantial amounts of money through the issuance of bonds. Therefore, it seems probable the source of 1861 construction funds came from 1860 or 1861 bond sales. 

In conclusion, if the company issued bonds in 1860 (or 1861) and they were still extant in 1861, there would have been no reason to recycle them into currency in 1862. It seems much more likely that Mr. Fitzgerald's Nacogdoches County notes were printed on recycled bonds that had been printed in 1858.

August 29, 2015

Autographs from Minor Celebrities

email from "M.S", January 13, 2015 —

I am a German collector of famous autographs on historic shares/bonds. Some month ago I contacted Matthias Schmitt from HWPH with a question about the Frederick Weyerhaeuser signature (junior or senior). He told me he mailed with you and finally we solved the issue. In the meantime I checked my whole database against your webpage, "Known autograph occurrences on collectible certificates“ and I found some in my opinion missing autographs (railway related) which I would like to provide you. I hope the information is helpful and I am happy to provide more information or copies from auction catalogues. If you are still interested in signature samples I can provide as well some signatures which are still missing on your page, just let me know.

My reply —

I finally found some time to work on the list of autographs you sent. It was impossible to add information about certificates from several companies (North American Co and Northern Pacific Railroad Co, for instance) because I could not determine specific varieties.

Still, I was able to add about 70% of the entries on your list to the database..

I must stress that I do not create separate listings for autographs of minor celebrities unless those autographs add at least $25 and 25% to the value of certificates.

It is my experience that autographs of all types, including minor celebrities, attract higher bids in Germany than they do in the United States. With some exceptions, autographs of minor celebrities attract little attention in the U.S.

It is equally apparent that German collectors place much higher values on rarity than average American collectors, especially if certificates have plain appearances. This was not always true, but the fascination for vignetted certificates is currently very high (in the U.S.).

Note to blog readers —

I always ask contributors to send images when contributing information. Without images, I usually cannot ascribe information to correct varieties.

August 16, 2015

Printer/engraver for Baltimore & Ohio certificates

G.A. is a long-time correspondent and contributor and asked another great question on August 15. I spent an overly long time on trying to answer his question, so decided to share it here.

Hi Terry - I picked up an 1846 B&O stock certificate recently (BAL-662a-S-25) and it's been bugging me that there is no imprint by the bank note printer anywhere on it. Your database lists the very first B&O stock (a proof, actually) as printed by Stacy & Richardson of Boston. However, that's appears to be a different certificate and doesn't include the "maidens" on the later stock, or a photo to compare.

Do you have any further information? I was able to locate an image of a fractional banknote with one of the same "maidens" as the stock -- however, it has no printer's imprint either. This one of those mysteries that OCD collectors should stay clear of, but alas, it's too late for me. And since this is might possibly be the earliest issued railroad stock, it would be nice to nail it down.

There is little I can add, other than to correct the printer name. This listing was among my earliest listings, at a time when I merely recorded printer/engraver names as three-letter abbreviations. I later went back and tried to clarify all abbreviations, but it was such a monumental job that I had to give up before completion.

At any rate, according to Smythe catalog listings, the real printer on the certificate was Edward Stabler (hence the ‘Sta’ abbreviation). Please note that Gene Hessler (in The Engraver’s Line) failed to make any mention of an Edward Stabler.

I then searched censuses and found an Edward Stabler as head of a 13-member household in Washington DC in the 1830 census. That man probably died in January, 1831.

The 1840 census shows two Edward Stablers and one E. H. Stabler, all of whom were heads of households in Baltimore. Unfortunately, neither the 1830 nor 1840 census elaborated any crucial details. Interestingly, ‘Edward Stabler’ has never been a popular name in the United States, so it appears possible that one of these men was a printer/engraver.

The 1850 census was the first to list occupations and family members. By that time, two of the earlier Stablers had died. One Edward Stabler, age 55 was found in Montgomery County, Maryland, but was listed as a farmer. I suspect this man died in 1883 and is buried at Sandy Spring, Maryland. A few additional Edward Stablers had appeared by 1850, but all were too young to have been a printer/engraver in the early 1830s.

As for Stabler's proof certificate, small images appear in two R.M. Smythe sale catalogs. (Sale 102, lot 127 and sale 172, lot 1081.) The later image is slightly larger than the first. I have included a 600 dpi scan of the image.

By comparing the image for the S-15 proof with the earliest issued B&O certificates (S-25b), you will notice that the top half of the certificates are nearly identical down to the company name in the middle. The only obvious differences are the two medallions on S-15 are later occupied by vignettes of two females on S-25, S-25a and S-25b.

In 1992, Smythe described the S-15 certificate as “probably the earliest American railroad certificate proof known.” I fully agree. It appears this certificate was offered for sale again in 1998, with its origin suggest as “ca. 1930.

It appears to me that the earliest certificates issued by the Baltimore & Ohio Rail Road were slight modifications of Stabler’s proof. At this time, the earliest issued B&O certificates (starting with #51) come from July, 1835. The B&O issued over 1,200 certificates that year, so I strongly suspect the first certificate was issued in July, 1835 possibly June.

Based on the large number of serial numbers now recorded for early Baltimore & Ohio certificates, I think I would push the date of engraving forward to either 1834 or 1835. We must observe that Mr. Stabler’s vignette and certificate was extremely well-executed and quite advanced for such an early effort.

In my first edition, I lumped all the certificates that resemble Mr. Stabler’s proof into one variety named S-25. Since that time, I subdivided S-25 into three sub-varieties dependent on a notification that indicated how many dollars per share had been paid. The numbers of available images has increased dramatically, so I now can attribute serial numbers to sub-varieties fairly well.

Based on your question, I went back through all the images of B&O certificates I could find, both in my digital images and those in catalogs. It now appears there are clear demarcations between dates and dollars per share notification. I had always assumed a better relationship would emerge and that now seems to be the case.

The earliest variety now appears to be S-25b, the variety that reads, ‘on which $75 have been paid.’ Those all seem to date from 1835 and 1836.

No dated certificates have yet been reported to me for certificates dated between September 29, 1836 and November 17, 1837. Missing are serial numbers 1815 through 2142. Sometime during that period, the company switched from S-25b to S-25a.

S-25a is the variety that allowed variable payment per share. Those all now appear to date from 1837 to 1844.

Bringing up the late-date variety is S-25, the variety that states, ‘on which one hundred dollars have been paid.’ Those now seem to occupy the period from 1845 to 1853.

Other than the dollars per share notification, I can detect absolutely NO differences when comparing images of the earliest reported certificates to the latest. Nowhere can I see any hint of printer/engraver names on the front of any certificates.

G.A. followed up with another email on August 16.

Armed with the name Edward Stabler I did a little Googling and discovered on Wikipedia that there was a postmaster by that name in Sandy Spring, Maryland, who went on to engrave the seal of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1830 and the U.S. Senate in 1831. And I must say, the style looks very similar to the maidens on my B&O stock.

It gets better. According to an article in Smithsonian, Stabler also helped design the presidential seal in 1850:
"...Born in Maryland in 1794, Edward Stabler was self-taught and began his career engraving jewelry at the age of 16.  By the time he retired in 1863, Stabler had designed seals for nearly every department in the Federal Government, several states, cities, and many businesses."

This is quite a treasure hunt! I still would like to definitively tie one of the B&O vignettes to Stabler's work. I wonder how Smythe made the connection.

As a post-script, did you notice the text on the little flag over the locomotive boiler? "Praesto Et Presto" -- roughly translated "Here is the Pressure"

To answer your question, no I had NOT seen the flag.

I checked further into the meaning of the “praesto et presso” phrase and strongly suspect there is another meaning. Yes, I did see reference to the translation in Cointalk. And yes, “praesto” can be used as the adverb “here.” However, I’m afraid I prefer to view the two words as verb forms. My guess is a simpler and less strained translation, something like, “I excel and press” or more likely, “Excel and Press On.” If we only had a genuine Latin expert make the call.

As for the Smythe reference to production by Edward Stabler, I can only assume that the inscription was on the original proof certificate and later removed for the subsequent production runs.

And then, another followup from G.A.

I do know a Latin teacher and I will ask her. But I like your interpretation.

You know, the more I think about it the more I believe Stabler only did the vignette engraving.  To produce that entire certificate you would need a geometric lathe, a platemaker, a letter engraver and a skilled intaglio printer. In short, a bank note printing house. There must have been one nearby in the Baltimore or DC area. 

... Always more to research. 

August 03, 2015

Adirondack Company bond payout

Longtime contributor BB sent this inquiry by email on August 1, 2015

Quick question, I purchased a ADI-100-B-40 Adirondack Company today at a flea market and noticed the payment marker stamped on the front for $30.82, 10 years after the certificate was issued in 1872. What is strange is that the coupons pay $35 in Gold. So was it a partial payment on the principle or a partial coupon payment?

Another interesting fact was the vignette at the top is attributed to Manhattan Engraving Co. New York. yet the certificate is listed as being printed by the Continental Bank Note Co. New York. So, is this an instance where Continental used artwork from Manhattan? This is a first for me.

My answer -------

The Adirondack Company printed and issued 6,000 bonds in 1872, but was essentially insolvent from the beginning. It failed to make any payments on any coupons and was forced into receivership on December 15, 1874. The court appointed Thomas Clark Durant (yes, THAT Thomas C. Durant of Union Pacific and Credit Mobilier fame!) After some period of time, the company was sold and reorganized under the same name for some undisclosed amount. The proceeds of that sale were apparently quite meager and seemingly amounted to only $30.82 per $1,000 bond. Theoretically, (based upon 6,000 bonds being issued) after all liabilities were paid, the company’s entire assets were worth only $184,920, or LESS THAN THE VALUE OF A SINGLE COUPON.

Please note that I mentioned Thomas C. Durant was the receiver of the Adirondack Company. With the possible exception of Durant himself, I don’t think anyone during his lifetime — or since — has held him up as a shining beacon of propriety. Regardless of what the defunct company might have truly been worth at the time, it seems clear that only $30.82 was ever paid to any owner of these Adirondack $1,000 bonds. If Durant proved nothing else in his life, he showed that he could manipulate finances in companies like the Union Pacific and Credit Mobilier for his own benefit.

On the other matter of two engraving company names appearing on this bond, I could find no solid evidence of a relationship between the two companies. It appears that Manhattan Engraving Co. was often on the financial edge. I can find evidence of bankruptcies in 1871, 1882 and seemingly another around 1902 or 1903. I cannot tell whether those three incarnations of the company succeeded each other in business or that they were three separate companies with the same name.

I cannot remember ever seeing two unrelated engraving company names on the same certificate, I definitely cannot recall ever seeing an engraving company name featured so prominently on a vignette. Lacking access to better records, I will suggest a couple of possibilities.

Perhaps Continental bought the steel plate for this vignette during Manhattan's first bankruptcy. In a company like Manhattan, its assets would have been presses, plates, on-hand supplies and outstanding contracts. Continental would not have needed presses or supplies, but it might have wanted to add to its inventory of plates. The problem with that logic, though, is that there would have been no reason to post Manhattan's name on this bond at all, let alone so prominently.

An alternative thought is that Manhattan had contracted to supply 6,000 bonds to the Adirondack Company in 1871, but ran out of operating funds before it could complete its job. Perhaps the receiver for the Manhattan Engraving Company sub-contracted with Continental Bank Note Company to complete the Adirondack job and possibly others. In that case, the insertion of Manhattan's name under the vignette would have made promotional sense.

It is interesting to note that Stacks sold a steel plate engraving of Robert E. Lee in 2006 that also bore the imprints of two companies: the National Bank Note Company and the Manhattan Engraving Company. The date of the engraving was probably unknown because it was not reported in the sale catalog. However, considering Lee died in 1870, it is possible that the plate dated from the same period as the Adirondack bond.