Tuesday, June 2, 2015

How to identify U.S. state seals on a Kentucky & Great Eastern Railway bond

The word zero originates via the French zéro from the Italian zero, 
in turn an Italian contraction of  the Venetian zevero, which in turn 
came from the Arabic ṣifr ( صفر).  (wikipedia)
Whether you call it zero, nought, nil, nada or zip, the zero 
shown above is arguably one of the finest zeros seen in scripophily.
Double-click the image and notice how the shadows around the scrollwork 
seem to make the number levitate.

Kentucky and Great Eastern Railway Company bond from 1872

Kentucky and Great Eastern Railway Company
$1000 Gold Bond 7%, free of U.S. taxes, 1872
Printed by American Bank Note Co.

The Kentucky and Great Eastern Railway Company
The wonderful zero was printed on a 1872 bond from the Kentucky and Great Eastern Railway Company (KGERC). From this company, no stock certificates are known; I believe, only this type of bond. I must confess that this railway stays a bit of a mystery to me because I could not find out to what degree the railway has been operational. Some pieces of information found:
  • 1871, Jun: Kentucky and Great Eastern Railway Company, organized under the laws of Kentucky. (0)
  • 1871, Oct: Mason County subscribes $400,000 to the KGERC. (1)
  • 1871, Nov: The KGERC closes a contract at Ceredo, West-Virginia, with  the commissioners of West Virginia, by which they acquire the franchise and property of the West Virginia Central Railroad Company. (2)
  • 1871, Dec: Lewis County agrees to subscribe $100,000 to the KGERC. (1)
  • 1872, Feb: Authorization of a $2,190,000 bond issue. (0)
  • 1872, Mar: KGERC announces a 146 miles railroad, from Newport along or near the south bank of the Ohio river to Catlettsburg, is under contract to be built by Alton & Beach of New York city.(1)
  • 1873, Mar: A mortgage of the KGERC to the Farmers' Loan and Trust Co., of New York, for $2,190,000, is recorded in the clerk's offices for Mason, Campbell, and other counties. In the same month, ground is broken at Maysville for the line. (1)
  • 1873; Aug: First locomotive is put to work upon that portion of the KGERC now building, along the Ohio river between Maysville and a point opposite Portsmouth, Ohio; 350 hands at work. (1)
Sources :
(0) Information printed on KGERC's bond certificate
(1) History of Kentucky, by Lewis Collins, Richard H. Collins, see here .
(2) The Ohio Statesman, Nov 30 1871

vignette of approaching train with white flag
Lovely vignette of a locomotive with a white flag.
In the U.S., any train operating not on a published schedule was an "extra" train,
indicated by white flags (or lights) on the front of the engine. 

(Source: Trains.com )
double-click image to enlarge

Despite wonderful bonds, investors stay away 
You know, researching this company made me lose all sense of time for a while. So, before I address the topic of the title, I'll dive a little further into KGERC's remaining history. 

Poor's Manual of Railroads 1874-1875 reports for the year 1873 that the company planned a 146.5 miles line from Covington, Kentucky to Catletssburg, Kentucky. The railway intended to open communication between the coal and iron mines of Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia and the system of railroads centring at Cincinnati. Poor's further states that the KGERC planned to extend the line to Huntington, the western terminus of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, 13 miles from Catlettsburg. Grading was done from a point opposite Portsmouth, Ohio, to the eastern boundary of Bracken County, 60 miles. That portion was to be completed in the same year with negotations for the iron being in progress. The company's financial situation is described as follows :
  • Capital stock authorized: $10,000,000
  • Capital subscribed: $500,000 (by Mason and Lewis Counties, see before)
  • Capital paid in: $100,000. 
  • Bonds authorized ($15,000 per mile), $2,200,000, 7% gold, dated Feb 15, 1872, no bonds yet issued. (the bond shown above)
The Poor's Manual 1877-1879 mainly repeats the same information for the year 1876, but speaks now of an 1872 $2,250,000 loan (still the same loan). Also here: no bonds have yet been soldWe see no further reports in the subsequent Poor's Manuals. 

After two years in business, only 1% of the capital was paid in. Four years after the authorization of the loan issue, the number of bonds that were sold was still zero, nought, nil, nada or zip. On Coxrail, this bond is known as KEN-580-B-50, see here, and all registered serial numbers have been reported as uu, unissued and uncancelled. My guess is that the company went bankrupt, but why no capital could be attracted is not clear to me.

The other side of the bond certificate above depicts three U.S. state seals.
Can you identify them ?

Surprise on the other side
When you look at the other side of the certificate, you'll see four large, rounded rectangles made of guilloche patterns. Three of these contain a U.S. state seal. State seals appear on many American stocks and bonds.

On Wikipedia's Seals of the U.S. states page, see here, you can compare the seals one by one and try to identify which seals are depicted. But, over time, state seals may have changed slightly in appearance. Terry Cox tells us that state laws often prevented engravers from using "official" state seals. Engravers often modified the most important elements of official state seals and then added new surrounding features. In other words, a difficult and time consuming task.

Luckily, Mr. Cox conceived for us a finding system, some kind of decision tree that helps us quickly identify state seals by looking only at key details. Here below, you'll see the individual state seals in high resolution images. Go ahead, try and identify the state seals, by using the Cox state seal finding system, see here. You'll see it is fun and it is fast.


Related links :

Interested in sigillography (seals)?
Then check out this series of related posts .

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