Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Railroad Presidents: Henry Fink, Norfolk & Western Railway

N.  &  W.  Ry.  CO.
DEC  1   1899

The Norfolk & Western was a Roanoke, Virginia-based railroad that served primarily to haul West Virginia coal to the Atlantic coast.  It prospered through its own business and through mergers with successful railroads and coal haulers like The Virginian.  Remnants of the N&W still remain vital today as components of one of the major railroads in the United States, The Norfolk Southern.

Map showing the Norfolk & Western's mainline from West Virginia thru Roanoke and into Norfolk, Virginia on the Atlantic coast.

Henry Fink, President of the Norfolk & Western Railway

From the June 2, 1901  New York Times:


President Henry Fink of Norfolk and Western declares that in his opinion the greatest development during the next century in any part of the country will be in the South, which, he believes, has a wonderfully prosperous future before it.  Along these lines, President Fink says:

"The South is an empire in itself.  In my opinion the next century will see it develop far beyond all present expectations.  And why should not this be?   It is a magnificent country, with a fine climate and rich in its natural resources.  All it needs is capital and enterprise, and both of these it will surely get to the full in due time.  Indeed, in the last few years there has been a wonderful development and progress all through the south.  Time there was that the south was altogether an agricultural country.  Now it is this, and more.  It is fast becoming a manufacturing section, and promises to soon show great strength in this respect.

"There has recently been--and it is worth noticing at this time--great improvement in the legislation of the Southern States.  Some years ago railroads and other corporations were troubled with all kinds of hostile legislation.  Now a reaction is settling in.  The people are taking a more intelligent view of matters, and are not so much governed by demagogues. [ed. note: I am from Louisiana.  Huey Long, the ultimate demagoge, was about to emerge on the southern and national scene] The policy pursued now is one of live and let live; it is an enlightened policy, in short.  [ed. note:  I guess Fink forgot about Jim Crow, poll taxes, and all manner of unenlightened practices; Plessy vs. Ferguson was only 5 years old when he spoke to The New York Times] Hence, corporations and institutions generally can now proceed with every fair chance to succeed.  And so it is that I have the greatest faith in the future of the Southern country.  I have spent the best part of my life there, and I appreciate its recent astonishing progress.

"I have heard it declared in some quarters that the recent panic in Wall Street may, after al, have been due more to unfavorable general conditions that was supposed.   I do not see how this can be.  General business conditions are excellent and are just as good now as they were before the panic.  As a matter of fact, there never was in my opinion any justification for the very high prices of some securities in the stock market, and for that reason the panic was a good thing in forcing quotations down to a proper level.  It would have been better, however, if prices had not tumbled so suddenly but had reached their proper level gradually.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fake Porto Rico Excise Revenue Overprint on US R173

Recently I bought the stamp pictured at right on eBay described as "USA R173 Porto Rico Excise $1 Overprint".   There were 10 bids, but as the seller chose the private listing option, I'm not sure how many different individuals tendered bids.  Obviously at least one other person wanted the stamp.

The seller didn't identify it as a fake or as a genuine stamp, in fact there was no description other than what appeared in the eBay title line quoted above.  One isn't supposed to sell fakes on eBay and I don't know whether or not the seller believed it to be a fake. I bid on it assuming it was and because I wanted it -- the equivalent of a philatelic "don't ask, don't tell" situation. 

At Left: Genuine Overprint on Puerto Rico R5
At Right: Fake Overprint on US R173
Frank Sente scan

There is no listing for the stamp in the Puerto Rico section, or elsewhere in the Scott Specialized Catalogue.  The only dollar values of the Commerce issues overprinted for use in Porto Rico were the the $1, $3, $5, $10, and $50 gray Commerce Issues, like the $1 value shown at left above.  A similar overprint appears on the 1c, 5c, 10c, 25c and 50c battleship issues.  Porto Rico was the only territory acquired during the Spanish American War where any of the US documentary stamps were used.  The stamps were used differently than in the United States, i.e. they were used to paid for an entirely different schedule of taxes.  We'll leave those details for a future blog. 

Here's why I believe it to be a fake.  Compared to the crisp appearance of the genuine, the fake has an overall fuzzy appearance.  The horizontal axis of the genuine overprint parallels the vertical axis of the stamp's design, whereas the R173 overprint slants uphill reading from left to right deviating noticeably from the vertical axis of the stamp design.  The height of the R173 is almost a full millimeter shorter than the genuine.  Also the length of the words "EXCISE REVENUE" appear to be about a half millimeter shorter on the R173 than on the genuine, suggesting that the fake may have been generated via a photocopy process.

I sent scans of it to both Richard Friedberg and Eric Jackson.  Friedberg responded that he'd not previously encountered an example.  Jackson replied that he had another copy "somewhere".  Both also believe it to be a fake. 

We'd appreciate hearing from anyone with additional information or having additional copies.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Railroad Presidents: Frank Thomson, Pennsylvania Railroad

Frank Thomson was President of the Pennsylvania Railroad from 1897 to 1899.  The photo above was included in King's Views of the New York Stock Exchange, published in 1897. 

P. R. R.
NOV   3   1898

Friday, November 25, 2011

New York Stock Brokers: W. B. Lawrence & Son

W. B. Lawrence & Son,
New York.

Dave Thompson scan

At the time of the publication of the photo above in 1897, Walter B. Lawrence listed his brokerage firm as W. B. Lawrence & Company.  However, he had a son, Townsend Lawrence, an 1894 Harvard graduate, who was a practicing member of his firm.  Yet at the time of the August, 1898 cancel, Townsend Lawrence was a first lieutenant of the Second United States Volunteer Engineers and an aid-de-camp to Brigadier General Ernst during his unit's deployment to Puerto Rico during the Spanish American war.  It appears that father Walter may have renamed his firm Walter B. Lawrence & Son in honor of his son serving as on officer in the US Army.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Arbitrage Brokers: L. Von Hoffman & Company

According to the 1897 King's Views of the New York Stock Exchange, L. Von Hoffman & Company, among other brokerage houses on Wall Street, was an arbitrage firm.  The company played the difference in prices on the stock exchanges of London and New York to make trading profits.  The rapidly developing and improving capabilities of transatlantic telegraph transmission made this kind of London-New York arbitrage possible. 

The first transatlantic cable was laid in 1858, just prior to the Civil War.  But the signal and cable failed after only a few days, and an attempt to lay a new cable was not made again until the mid-1860s.  By the end of the 1800s there were multiple cables and reliable transmission. 

L. Von H. & Co.
N. Y.

Thompson scan


Langlois scan


Happy Thanksgiving! President McKinley's Proclamation for Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1898

Proclamation 426 - Thanksgiving Day, 1898

October 28, 1898

William McKinley
President of the United States of America

The approaching November brings to mind the custom of our ancestors, hallowed by time and rooted in our most sacred traditions, of giving thanks to Almighty God for all the blessings He has vouchsafed to us during the year.

Few years in our history have afforded such cause for thanksgiving as this. We have been blessed by abundant harvests; our trade and commerce have wonderfully increased; our public credit has been improved and strengthened; all sections of our common country have been brought together and knitted into closer bonds of national purpose and unity.

The skies have been for a time darkened by the cloud of war, but as we were compelled to take up the sword in the cause of humanity we are permitted to rejoice that the conflict has been of brief duration and the losses we have had to mourn, though grievous and important, have been so few, considering the great results accomplished, as to inspire us with gratitude and praise to the Lord of Hosts. We may laud and magnify His holy name that the cessation of hostilities came so soon as to spare both sides the countless sorrows and disasters that attend protracted war.

I do therefore invite all my fellow-citizens, as well those who may be at sea or sojourning in foreign lands as those at home, to set apart and observe Thursday, the 24th day of November, as a day of national thanksgiving, to come together in their several places of worship for a service of praise and thanks to Almighty God for all the blessings of the year, for the mildness of the seasons and the fruitfulness of the soil, for the continued prosperity of the people, for the devotion and valor of our countrymen, for the glory of our victory and the hope of a righteous peace, and to pray that the divine guidance which has brought us heretofore to safety and honor may be graciously continued in the years to come.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 28th day of October, A.D. 1898, and of the Independence of the United States the one hundred and twenty-third.


Read more at the American Presidency Project: William McKinley: Proclamation 426 - Thanksgiving Day, 1898

M. C. R. R.
NOV   24  1898

Michigan Central Railroad cancel on Thanksgiving Day, 1898

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

R184b - Surcharge Omitted Variety

There's an old saw that goes, "can't see the forest for the trees," meaning losing sight of the big picture by concentrating on the details.  In this instance the corollary, "can't see the tree for the forest" applies. 

I'm embarrassed to admit that a gray $1 Commerce, R184b, issue with a missing surcharge (the tree) has resided unidentifed in one of my stockbooks (the forest) for 10, 20, or maybe even more years.  I've long collected both handstamp and printed cancels on the battleships, both the documentaries and the more popular proprietaries; but have never paid much attention to cancels on the dollar-value Commerce issues. I've simply accumulated any that have come in job lots or collections in a stockbook.

But knowing of John's interest in cancels, at the last minute, I took that stockbook along to the Minnesota Stamp Expo where we met this Summer while he was visiting family in the area.  I told him to just take any of the gray Commerce Issue cancels that interested him as I was never going to do anything with them. When he came to the stamp illustrated below he delayed, looked closely, then suggested that I might want to keep this one.  Dah, I still didn't notice the missing overprint when he showed the stamp to me, and I'm a detail oriented person -- more apt to miss the forest for the trees than the other way around!   Thanks again John, for spotting it!                      

Scott R184b surcharge missing variety

Only the $1 value of the gray Commerce Overprints is listed in the Scott Specialized as having a missing surcharge. There are some other surcharge varieties listed for the later 1902 green Commerce issues with ornamental surcharges, but I've checked my stockbook thoroughly(grin), and I don't have any of those. 

The C. ELEV. CO. cancel might be from the Cargill Elevator Company, as they were a prominent grain elevator company at the time, but that's simply a guess.  Today, Cargill is one of the nation's largest privately held companies. 

Can anyone confirm Cargill as using the C. ELEV. CO.  cancel, or offer examples of any of the surcharge varieties of the green Commerce Overprint issues?  If so, please contact us at



Cancel for November 23: Lumberman's State Bank

Lumberman's State Bank
NOV  23  1898
Menominee, Mich.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Arbitrage Brokers: Ladenburg Thalman & Company

Memorandum of sale between Mayer & Whitehouse and Ladenburg Thalman for shares of the Mobile & Ohio Railroad.

Yesterday, Frank Sente featured stock trading documents from Ladenburg Thalman & Co., and referred to the memorandum of sale above.  I wanted to add a bit to the possibilities of what could be happening with LT & Co trading in shares like those of the Mobile & Ohio.  It appears that a good portion of LT's business may have been from arbitrage trades; the firm played the difference in stock prices between two markets, and made profits on the difference.  The little book that has meant so much to this site in the past three months, King's Views of the New York Stock exchange, provides a glimpse into what may be happening with many of LT & Co's trades:

From King's Views, page 20:

Meanwhile, the "arbitrage houses" have also been in close touch with their correspondents in London over the cable, and their clerks have been busy noting prices and coding orders and instructions.  The "arbitrage houses" make a business of buying and selling between the two markets, according as a margin of profit offers itself by disparity in prices, and in active markets each house will send and receive many cables in a minute.  There are about eight or ten of such houses, among whom L. von Hoffman & Co., Ladenburg Thalman & Co., L. H. Niles & Co., Probst, Wetzler & Co., and I. & S. Wormser are prominent.  The principal arbitrage houses in London are R. Raphael & Sons, Leon Bros., Satterthwaite & Co., Huggins & Clark, and Borthwick, Wark & Co.

The houses just named make a business of dealing between the two markets.  Suppose St. Paul stock [the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, or Milwaukee Road was known as the "St. Paul" in 1897] to be 93 1/2 "sellers" in London at 3 PM, while the first quotation in New York is 91 1/4.  As all American stocks in London are quoted on an arbitrary basis of $5 to 1 pound, (i. e., $1 equals 4 shillings), the London quotation is equal to a quotation of 90.69 in New York (with exchange at 4.85), so that with the opening quotation of 91 1/4 the arbitrage house [Ladenburg Thalman & Co.], for example -- buys St. Paul in London at 93 1/2, and sells St. Paul in New York at 91 1/4/  There is a pure profit in the transaction of over 50 cents per share... 

Arbitrage houses alone can provide an interesting collecting area for the 1898s.  The transatlantic cable that allowed for London - New York arbitrage was a new technology over the Civil War tax period; a fascinating field could be the collecing of arbitrage transaction documents from the two sides of the Atlantic. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New York Stock Brokers: Ladenburg, Thalmann & Co.

As John Langlois noted in his cancel of the day blog for May 3, 2010, Ladenburg, Thalmann & Co. was founded as a Wall Street securities firm in 1876 by American banker Ernst Thalmann and German banker Adolph Ladenburg. Thalmann maintained the seat on the New York Stock Exchange. Today the firm continues to operate with headquarters in Miami and offices in more than 10 other US cities.  And Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services is part of the current Russell 3000 Index. 

On its face the broker memo below appears to be a straight forward purchase of 200 shares of Mobile & Ohio Railroad stock by Ladenburg, Thalmann.  Given the stock resale tax rate of 2cts/$100 in original share value, each share had an original value of $100.  That these 200 shares sold for just $48.50 per share, or $9,700, means there was a loss of $10,300 from the $20,000 original value.  But there's more to the story.

I've always enjoyed collecting on-document usages.  Documents provide an historical perspective that stamps alone cannot.  While these cancels provide the name of the firm and the date of the transaction, without the document we'd not have known that the stamps represented the tax on the sale of M&O Railroad stock at such a loss, and we'd further not have been able to speculate that Ladenburg, Thalmann likely turned a significant and immediate profit on this transaction.  And speculate, I believe, is what Thalmann was doing when he purchased these M&O shares.  

Stock Purchase Memo
Ladenburg, Thalmann & Co.
double-line, stamp-like boxed cancel
L. T. & Co./JAN/29/1901

Allowing us to speculate about Thalmann's M&O purchase was having access, via this blog, to a critical mass of M&O stock sales memos.  Earlier this year John blogged about six M&O stock sales memos dated between December 30, 1898 and February 1, 1901 documenting that the stock languished in the low 30s and 40s during 1899 and 1900 until February 1, 1901 when it spiked and sold for as much as $70.50 per share on news that the M&O had agreed to a stock swap offer with the more financially sound Southern Railroad.  So the 200 shares Thalmann purchased for $9,700 at $48.50 on  January 29, 1901 could have been sold for around $14,100, or a tidy profit of $4,400 just three days later! 

The name Johnstone doesn't appear in King's Views of the New York Stock Exchange so presumably the seller wasn't a recognized broker.  Was this simply a serendipidous purchase, or did Thalmann have knowledge of the pending stock swap and go looking for M&O stock in late January 1901?  We'll never know for sure.  Considering M&O had been trading in the 30s and low 40s for the past two years, Johnstone may have been pleased with, and perhaps also may have turned a profit when Thalmann bought at $48.50.  Clearly, documents and the information they provide can offer a sense of historical context and a glimpse into the cultural tapestry of this colorful era.  

All of this also serves to demonstate the great value of the 1898revenues blog and the synergy it creates, where information pooled from numerous sources and participants enhances our capability for understanding, not only the material we choose to collect, but also the socio-economics of the Spanish American War era.  Thank you John for having the foresight to start blogging about 1898 revenues and for all the time and energy you devote to it.

Here's a Ladenburg, Thalmann sales memo documenting the sale of 200 shares of the Southern Pacific Railroad to another New York broker, William B. Wadsworth.    

 Stock Sales Memo
circular cancel
Ladenburg, Thalmann & Co.

Again, given the $4 tax, the initial value of these 200 shares was $20,000, so this sale represents a loss in value of $9,400 or nearly 50% from the initial value of the stock! 

Like the M&O, Southern Pacific shares had been selling in the 30s and 40s during 1900.  The speculation in railroad stocks in advance of the May 9, 1901 Wall Street Panic had run the SP's price up to $67 as of May 1, 1901.  Selling 10 weeks later for $53 represents a 20+% drop from that speculative high. 

Either Ladenburg, Thalmann had two NY offices, or it moved sometime between January 29, 1901 and July 18, 1901, as the purchase memo has them at 46 Wall Street, and the sales memo, a couple of blocks away at 25 Broad Street.  

Not surprising, given Adolph Ladenburg's European banking connections, the firm did business overseas.  The piece shown below is a clip from a foreign bill of exchange.   Enough of the bill remains to indicate it was written in Pounds Sterling so the transaction likely involved a British bank.  The handwritten date on the other side is Jan 25, 1901 so it would appear the year date on the circular cancel wasn't properly updated to 1901.  Assuming the bill was drawn as part of a "set" (the clip does bear the word "FIRST") the tax rate was 2cts/$100 in value.   The bill's value in dollars then had to be between $24,100 and $24,200.                

Clip from Ladenburg, Thalmann Bill of Exchange 

Unlike the stock memos where the Commerce issues were both cut and handstamp cancelled, the dollar Commerce issues used here, as well as the 80cent battleship, were perfin cancelled before being applied to the document. That suggests access to the stamps used for bills of exchange was open to a wider number of employees -- the main purpose of perfins being a security against internal theft. The perfin is most easily read on the enlarged 80 cent battleship issue shown below. 

perfin cancel:
L T Co

Metropolitan Stock Exchange


Dave Thompson scan

There appear to have been Metropolitan Stock Exchanges in both Boston and Chicago.  I do not know to which this cancel belongs. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

1898 Mystery Cancels: The Dollar Commerce Values, Part 1

Need some help identifying the companies or individuals that placed the cancels on the stamps below.  We have some partial information to work with, but in some cases there may be no substitute for an on-document example.  There will be more posts like this one in the coming months.


Dave Thompson scan

J. B. & J. M. C.
OCT  19  1898

Langlois scan


Dave Thompson scan

P. J. G. & CO.
N. Y.

Langlois scan

H. H. & CO.

Dave Thompson scan


Dave Thompson scan

C. E. G & Co.
FEB  XX  1902

Dave Thompson scan

Friday, November 18, 2011

New York Stock Brokers: Ulman Brothers


Thompson scan

AUG    17    1899

Thompson scan

Column advert, NY Evening Post, January 7, 1898

Thursday, November 17, 2011

New York Stock Brokers: Gustav Sidenberg & Kraus


Langlois scan

Column ad from the New York Times, June 2, 1901

Gustav Sidenberg built Hotel Theresa, considered the center of the Harlem Rennaissance during the mid 20th century.  During Sidenberg's lifetime the hotel did not receive black customers.  This changed in 1940 with a change in management.  The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New York Stock Brokers: Post & Flagg


Langlois scan

Post & Flagg memorandum of sale for 100 shares of MOPAC for $6,075. 

Frank Sente scan

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New York Stock Brokers: DeCoppet & Doremus

D'C & D

Langlois scan

De'Coppet & Doremus

De'Coppet & Doremus used both die-cut type initial and perfin cancels.  Above is an example of a perfin cancel of the firm.  This site has featured the die-cut initial cancels in a previous post:

This was the NY Stock Exchange's Clearing House in 1897.
Robert Doremus was Chair of the Exchange's Clearing House Committee.
Imagine trying to clear the 100s of millions of shares traded daily on the NYSE today using this method.

A New York Times article from September 11, 1921 illustrates how firms like De'Coppet & Doremus amused themselves and competed with other firms when not trading securities:


De Coppet & Doremus Team Beat Post & Flagg in Baseball Final.

A baseball team composed of employees of the Stock Exchange firm of De Coppet & Doremus won the Wall Street championship cup yesterday on Ebbets Field by defeating a team composed of employees of Post & Flagg by the score of 7 to 3.  the game was the wind-up of the season, during which 28 teams, representing as many exchange houses, played each Saturday.

The De Coppet 7 Doremus team established a lead which could not be overcome.  They garnered four runs in the first three innings.  Evans, who pitched for Post & Flagg, settled down after these disastrous frames and pitched airtight ball for the balance of the game, ten men going down by the strike-out route.

About 1200 fans fromt the Wall Street district saw the game.  Proceeds from the sale of the tickets to this game, as well as others which have been played in the Wall Street League this season, will go toward the establishment of a gymnasium for the young men of the financial district.