Saturday, December 31, 2022

Bill of Exchange Fragments: J. & W. Seligman & Company

Reverse side of document fragment #1:


Front side of document fragment #1 with two pounds, ten shillings British tax stamp

Reverse side of document fragment #2:


Front side of document fragment #2 with a British tax stamp for one pound and a second for five shillings:

In the early 20th century, J. & W. Seligman & Company backed the construction of the Panama Canal. In this period, the firm underwrote the securities of a variety of companies, participating in stock and bond issues in the railroad and steel and wire industries, investments in Russia and Peru, the formation of the Standard Oil Company, and shipbuilding, bridges, bicycles, mining, and a variety of other industries. The landmark building at 1 William Street in New York City was constructed for J.& W. Seligman from 1904 to 1905 and became the firm's home office. In 1910, William C. Durant of the fledgling General Motors Corporation gave control of his company's board to the Seligmans and Lee, Higginson & Co. in return for underwriting $15 million worth of corporate notes.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Document Fragment: M. Guggenheim's Sons

Included in a pile of bill of exchange fragments, this M. Guggenheim's Sons fragment is not obviously from a bill of exchange.  It might be a more simple document, like a check, especially since there is only evidence of a 2 cent documentary stamp, and it appears to have been applied to the front of the document.  The piece shows a business linkage between the Guggenheims and the Seligmans, as the piece is backstamped by a pay to note to "Seligman", though we don't have any more detail.

New York.

Reverse side of fragment:

Meyer Guggenheim was the patriarch of what became known as the Guggenheim family in the United States, which became one of the world's wealthiest families during the 19th century, and remained so during the 20th.  Their wealth was largely based on mining and metals processing.  

Meyer Guggenheim

Meyer's son Benjamin would die in the sinking of the Titanic.  Benjamin was married to Florette Seligman.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Bill of Exchange Fragments: Lyon & Company

John B. Lyon was member #1976 of the Chicago Board of Trade, and traded, for most of his career, under the firm name Lyon & Company at the head office at 12 Sherman Street in Chicago.  The firm was large enough to have multiple offices in the US and beyond.

Reverse side of document fragment:


Front side of document fragment:

From The American Elevator & Grain Trade, January 15, 1905:

John B. Lyon, was a member of the Chicago Board of Trade for forty-six years, joining immediately after arriving in Chicago, and had participated in more "deals" in wheat and corn and had handled larger amounts of corn as a shipper than any other grain man in the West. Although of late years poor health had limited his activities, his last trades were closed out only on the day pre- ceding his death. Between 1860 and 1879 the name of J. B. Lyon stood for immense deals in wheat and corn, straightforward honesty and great wealth. In August of 1872, following the short wheat crop of 1871, Mr. Lyon ran a "corner," in the course of which the price soared to $1.62. The Lyon holding was estimated at 25,000,000 bushels, and stocks of wheat in Chicago were only 6,000,000 bushels. The deal failed, however, owing to the rushing of new crop wheat to market and the passing of a large amount of damp wheat as No. 2 spring for delivery. When Mr. Lyon saw what was coming, he sold out and the deal is said to have cost him $800,000. Pre- ceding this deal Mr. Lyon had run several successful corners in corn in the middle '60s, in which he shipped the bulk of the crop to Buffalo for three successive years, and had the making of prices practically his own way. It was his custom to charter all the boats available on the lakes and move corn east so deliveries could not be made. In 1860 he ran a wheat deal for Angus Smith of Milwaukee, in which heavy profits were realized. Mr. Lyon handled so much corn in the '70s that the trade always was watching for a corner. In 1879 he shipped 50,000,000 bushels of corn. Mr. Lyon formed a number of partnerships, but the firm name generally was J. B. Lyon & Co. until he entered business with John Lester, when the style was Lyon & Lester. Earlier he was connected at different times with G. J. Boyne, now with Armour & Co., W. Meddows and J. Swartz. For more than twenty years he conducted, in connection with his grain operations, an immense sugar plantation at Patterson, La. He owned the town of Bellefontain, Miss. At Ocean Springs, Miss., he had at the time of his death fifteen miles of oyster beds, and the entire Hollinger Island, off Mobile. His holdings of pine lands in the South and of real estate in and adjacent to Chicago were also large.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas! Bill of Exchange Fragments: Botany Worsted Mills

Merry Christmas from 1898 Revenues!

Botany Worsted Mills advertisment in Esquire, December 1946

 Reverse side of Botany Worsted Mills document fragment:

B. W. M.

Front of document fragment:

On May 17, 1889, the Botany Worsted Mills was established by German immigrants.   The Botany Worsted Mill was the first integrated woolen plant in the country and became one of the biggest.  The factory employed 6,400 employees. The mill was a huge factor in the growth of the Passaic area.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

The Steamboat Fred Swain


NOV  6 1900

The stamp was canceled in the the steamer's first year of operation.

The LaSalle & Peoria Packet Company's Fred Swain side wheeler

The Fred Swain was built at Stillwater, Minnesota in 1900.  Her dimensions were:-142 x 28.3 x 4.5 feet; tonnage, gross and net, 124 tons. She operated mostly on the Illinois River around Peoria. On August 20, 1909, she burned to the water's edge at Peoria, Illinois; fifty-eight persons were aboard but no lives lost.

The burning Fred Swain.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Bill of Exchange Fragments: American Trading Company, Flint Eddy Company, and Flint, Eddy & American Trading Company

Flint, Eddy & American Trading was a large import-export company, based in New York but with offices located around the world.  At the beginning of the 1898 tax period, Flint Eddy was an independent company from American trading.  In 1900 they would merge, combining Flint Eddy's operations in Latin America and what was then called the east Indies with American Trading's operations in the far east.  A more substantial summary of the companies and the merger is in the New York Times article included below.

The first document fragment comes from the independent Flint Eddy, from 1899:

    F. E. & CO.
SEP  11  1899
    New York.

Front side of Flint, Eddy document fragment:

Advertisment from Dun's Review, May 1901

By 1901, Flint Eddy was using their old documents that had the firm's initials, "F. E. & Co.", overprinted in red with "Flint Eddy & American Trading:

Flint Eddy & American Trading Co.
New York.

Front side of Flint Eddy & American Trading document fragment:

Interestingly, in 1902, American Trading was using documents with gray printed "F. E. & A. T. Co.", but overprinted in red with "American Trading Company."

Reverse side of fragment: 


 Front side of fragment:

The New York Times, July 15, 1900:

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Bill of Exchange Fragments: American Cotton Company

 Reverse side of document fragment:


Front of document fragment with British five shilling tax stamp:

Advertisement from Transactions of the New England 
Cotton Manufacturers Association, #76, 1904.

The American Cotton Company became embroiled in political squabbling between democratic Senator J. K. Jones and Theodore Roosevelt.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Baltimore, Chesapeake and Richmond Steamboat Company

B. C. & R. S. B. CO.


Uniform button for the B. C. & R. S. B. Co.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Horace Selleck: Holland, New York Postmaster and Businessman


Horace Selleck was appointed postmaster of Holland, N.Y. in December of 1901.  He ran a business that manufactured flooring, siding, moulding, and fork, hoe, and broom handles.

Horace Selleck's home and business in Holland, N.Y.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Naval Stores: S. P. Shotter Company

Sav'h. Ga.

I didn't know the naval stores industry existed until I started to unpack a pile of bills of exchange and came upon one for Antwerp Naval Stores, which featured here on December 13.  Now a quick scan of some of my unidentified material has turned up another naval stores firm, this time one belonging to Spencer P. Shotter, a Canadian who built one of the world's largest firms processing pine tree products into naval stores.  Mr. Shotter built a grand mansion in Georgia that rivaled Biltmore, though it burned in 1923, 8 years after Shotter sold it.  

The naval stores industry was rife with problems that we would not countenance today, including labor abuse, deforestation, and pollution.  Naval stores are no longer contributing to these problems with the end of the age of wooden ships.

Growing up in south Louisiana and southern Mississippi, I was often surrounded by piney woods and their smells.  It was those woods that made men like Shotter wealthy, catering to a shipping industry dependent on wooden vessels. 

S. P. Shotter calling card for the firm's Boston office:

Advertisement in Savannah Weekly Naval Stores Review, August 15, 1905:

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Bill of Exchange Fragments: Antwerp Naval Stores Company

 Back side of the bill of exchange:

A. N. S. C.
8 . 1. 1900.

Front with Spanish tax stamp:

Advertisement in Naval Stores Review, March 1923

From Barnett, James P. 2019. Naval stores: A history of an early industry created from the South's forests.  U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station:

Naval stores are a nearly forgotten legacy in the South, but throughout history nations have depended on them, sought them out, and fought wars over these coniferous products. These products—tar, pitch, turpentine, and rosin—long kept the wooden navies of the world afloat and found many other uses prior to petrochemical dominance. Even with the decline in sailing ships, there has been an international demand for these products. This is the story of a remarkable, but messy, industry that helped support much of the South’s economy for nearly 400 years.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Bill of Exchange Fragments: United Metals Selling Company

The "U.M.S." in the cancels below stands for United Metals Selling Company.  Without knowing better I would be sure the S would stand for Smelting, a core metals processing activity and a business that would make the Guggenheim family wealthy.  Whatever the case, this firm is of the Selling variety, and one that worked to keep prices high.

The Sherman Antitrust Act was passed in 1890.  Given the scope and purpose of the United Metals Selling Company, established in early 1900, either the definition of restraint of trade was a bit narrower than we understand it today, or the organizers didn't care and thought they could bully and perhaps bribe their way around the 1890 law.  The New York Times article from February, 1900 below, provides a good sketch of the mission of the new firm.  At the time, many forms of restraint of trade, despite the 1890 law, seemed to be in play, perhaps the best example being John Rockefeller's monopolization of the oil industry.  What to me is most interesting about this firm is the name itself, which announces that it exists to set and dictate metal prices.

The document fragments I've included below were a part of a hoard of bills of exchange fragments that were sold by a vendor in the United Kingdom many years ago.  The front side of the document below provided just enough information to sort out the firm that canceled these stamps.

Note the R172p on the fragment below.

The front of the document fragment posted above:

From the New York Times, February, 1900:

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Grain Merchants: J. Q. Adams & Company

It appears that there were two prominent J. Q. Adams & Company firms in United States during the 1898 tax period.  One firm was a Massachusetts-based publisher, apparently associated with Mary Baker Eddy and the rapidly growing Christian Science faith.  The other was a Minnesota-based grain dealer.  The stamp below was canceled by the grain firm.   See the post from December 1 for E. S. Woodworth & Company, also a grain dealer based in Minnesota.  The canceling devices were clearly made by the same company, from design to choice of type.  


The firm would experience financial trouble due to losses in an attempt to corner the corn market.  


Thursday, December 8, 2022

Bill of Exchange Fragments: Fleitmann & Company, Commission Merchants

Today begins a series of document fragments, mostly bill of exchange fragments that came from a large lot acquired from the U. K.  I'm assuming that all of them are fragments of bills of exchange, as most that I can decipher seem to be.  You can find similar fragments to some of those posted at the Revenue-Collector site.  

The New York-based commission merchant firm of Fleitmann & Company starts the series:

Reverse side of document fragment:

Front side of document fragment:

Advertisement, Dun's Review, January 1901