Friday, December 13, 2019

Museums Victoria deliver engaging online experience

The Museums Victoria (MV) manages the Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks and Melbourne's Royal Exhibition Building. Its history goes back to the founding of the National Museum of Victoria in 1854.

Today, MV is home to over 17 million historic artefacts and science objects and welcomes more than 2 million visitors per year. Its MV Collections site gives virtual visitors a fresh and adequate experience by means of modern Internet techniques.

company seal on Federal Bank of Australia share certificate from the Museums Victoria Collections

Company seal of The Federal Bank of Australia Limited, detail from the certificate below 
image attribution : Museums Victoria, 

The many MV collections relate to geology, palaeontology, zoology, and, social, indigenous, cultural, economic and technological history. Its Trade Literature Collection contains over 60,000 business brochures, advertisements, product catalogues and the like. The Numismatics & Philately Collection comprises thousands of coins, paper money, medals, stamps and some scripophily as well.

A considerable part of its records, more than 1 million, together with 150 000 images, has been digitized and put available online on the Museums Victoria Collections site. Here's is one of the listed share certificates, indicated as item 1114702.

Federal Bank of Australia share certificate from the Museums Victoria Collections

This share certificate in The Federal Bank of Australia Limited , printed by Sands & McDougall, Melbourne, was issued in 1887. Established in 1881 this bank started to issue its own banknotes in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. A speculative boom in Australian real estate led to the Australian banking crisis of 1893 and the bank was forced to close down.
image attribution : Museums Victoria,

On MV's 'item 1114702' page, see THERE, you can see the image as shown here. But there is more. The page gives you a summary and a description of what you see. And, just as if you were attending a guided tour, an explanation is given on the significance of the displayed item.

The overview concludes with a list of clickable keywords letting you discover more about the related collection, collecting areas and classifications, people, places, dates, articles and images, possibly of other scripophily. Wow! It is from functionality like this where this site's added value comes from. For free, and a few mouse-clicks away.


Related links

NB: More Australia related posts ? Check these   

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Puzzling scripophily - No. 2

Dear Miss Marple and M. Hercule Poirot,
We are looking for a particular company. The following three visual clues will help you solve this puzzle. These are details from one of the company's share certificates.

  • How to take part ? Submit your replies in the comments section of this post, or in any other way.
  • What's in it for you ? The first correct answer yields eternal fame.  

That's all I can say for the moment. 

Yours truly 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

AIA's forthcoming numismatic auction to feature rare American railways

Spread over three sessions, Archives International Auctions 56th Sale features over 1000 lots of  banknotes, coins, security printing ephemera, historic documents and autographs. About 400 lots of U.S., Chinese & worldwide scripophily are included. 

The auction features part two of the Stephen Beck Collection of CSX predecessor companies. Included are dozens of rare and stunning stocks and bonds.

Florida and Southern Railroad Main line bond from 1892

The Florida Southern Railroad Company, Main Line 6% Gold Bond of  $1000, 1892, specimen
The FSR, formerly known as the Florida Southern Railway, was developed by railway and hotel entrepreneur Henry Bradley Plant. Part of the Stephen Beck Collection, lot 696 in the sale, and extremely rare

This AIA sale further contains great securities from the American Bank Note Archives. A rich mix of international stocks and bonds represent countries like Bolivia, Canada, China, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, Israel, Mexico, Russia, United Kingdom et cetera.

Banco de Colombia with vignette of painting by John Vanderlyn

This Banco de Colombia specimen bond dates from the early 1900s. Its vignette shows the Landing of Columbus, a painting from the American John Vanderlyn. The work, showing Columbus and his crew claiming land on San Salvador Island (Bahamas), can be admired in the central rotunda of the United States Capital in Washington, D.C. Lot 212 in the sale, a finding from the ABN archives.

Here are the sale's details, so you can discover much more for yourself :
  • Location : River Edge, New Jersey
  • Date : Nov 21, 2019
  • Further info : see here, AIA's online catalogue with full color images, here, and PDF version there 


Monday, November 4, 2019

Swedish Society of Historical Securities celebrates in Stockholm !

The members of the Svenska Föreningen för Historiska Värdepapper proudly announced the 40th Anniversary of their favorite society. A pioneer when it comes to scripophily, SFHV, founded in 1979, celebrates with an exciting weekend in Stockholm at the end of this month.

Östra Centralbanans Jernvägsaktiebolag
This 100 kronor share from the Eastern Central Line Railway Co., Linköping was issued in 1900. The design includes a map showing the line from Linköping to Vimmerby.

The two-day festivities are inaugurated on Friday evening, November 29, 2019, with an exhibition of Swedish certificates. Guest speakers will talk on the subject of collecting old bonds and shares. On Saturday, 20 November, the society will organize an anniversary auction, concluded with a dinner. Place to be : Jernkontoret, Kungsträdgårdsgatan 10, Stockholm. 

Aktiebolaget Svenska Kullagerfabriken was founded in 1907 by Sven Gustaf Wingqvist, a Swedish engineer and inventor of the famous SKF ball bearing and roller bearing. This 5 shares SKF certificate from 1918 has Wingqvist's facsimile signature in its lower right corner.

For this occasion, SFHV will publish a catalog of Swedish shares (about 8,000 of them) and, around the end of the year, also a 400-page Anniversary book with all articles published in its quarterly magazine during these 40 years, totalling some 125 articles.

More information available on :
Jubilee Auction catalog, see here .


Saturday, November 2, 2019

Antwerp meets scripophily !

The city of Antwerp will shortly become a mecca for scripophily. Collecting antique and vintage stock certificates, aka scripophily, took off in the 1970s. People from all over the world are fascinated by the beauty and historic importance of these artefacts. The broad public has now a chance to discover this exciting part of numismatics at Mario Boone's upcoming international auction & bourse weekend.

One of the sale's top historic items is this 1826 share from the Compagnie des Mines de Fer de St. Étienne. The company mined coal and iron, and operated the first modern iron works in France. In fact, the first French railway was constructed to connect the St. Étienne works with the Loire. Representing a milestone in the industrial history of France, this share, issued to its founder, mining engineer Louis Georges Gabriel de Gallois, is also one of the earliest shares with an engraving of blast furnaces. Lot 432 in the auction, is expected to realize at least €3,000.

In comparison to coins, banknotes and stamps, antique stocks and bonds are much less available on the collector's market. The Boone auction house has been a specialist in scripophily for over four decades and is now holding its 63rd sale on the 9th of November in Antwerp. More than 1400 lots will be hammered.

Etablissements Pieper à Liège & Nessonvaux , 100 Francs bearer share, 1898
As you can tell from this share's design - click image to enlarge - this Belgian company manufactured handguns and rifles, such as the Bayard 1908 pistol and, under license, the Bergmann–Bayard pistol. The company, established by the German Henry Pieper, also built small cars from 1899 to 1903. Already in 1900 Pieper introduced - today unimaginable for many - a pure electric model, and a hybrid petrol-electric car. The Pieper factory was later taken over by Imperia. This share is signed by Nicolas Pieper and its wonderful design was made by painter Emile Berchmans. Lot 293, starts at €400.

The sale catalogue, available online and as an offline PDF document, includes color images and background stories of the certificates to be sold. For easy retrieval purposes, search indexes help the collector on his quest for about 100 countries and an equal number of special interest themes, security printers, engravers and artists.

Auction lot 199 comprises a share in the Conservera Marroqui SA, Tétouan, a company that sold canned fish. The gorgious design, showing a city gate at the the sea shore, includes the Star of David. After the Reconquista and the Spanish Inquisition many Sephardi Jews migrated from Spain and settled in the Mediterranean port of Tétouan, Morocco. This company was incorporated in 1947. After the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, hostilities from the Arab population towards Moroccan Jewish communities broke out. Fear that Morocco's imminent independence from France would lead to further persecution led to large-scale emigration. By 1950, there were very few Jews left in Tétouan.

I learned from the catalog's autographs index that several certificates were signed by or issued to historic figures : e.g. Emile & Isaac Pereire, Frits Philips, William H. Vanderbilt, Henry Wells, etc. The certificate below bears the signature of David D. Buick.

Issued in 1911, this Buick Oil Company share is signed by Scottish-born American D(avid) D(unbar) Buick.
His famous Buick Motor Company was established in 1902. Six years later he sold it to General Motors. 100 years later, the eight production generation of the Buick LeSabre was still a best steller. Lot 1403 in the sale, bids accepted from €200 

The day after the sale, Mario Boone organizes his regular scripophily bourse internationally attended by dealers and visitors.

Auction details

  • Location : Antwerp Crowne Plaza Hotel, Belgium
  • Date : auction 9 November 2019, bourse 10 November 2019
  • Further info : online catalogue here, and PDF version there 


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Spink London announces its e-auction of world bonds & share certificates

Spink and Son Ltd was founded in London in 1666. The company specialises in the auctioning of  stamps, coins, banknotes, medals, bonds & shares, autographs, books and wines. It's latest sale went online earlier this week and ends at 11AM, November 5. Exactly 377 lots of scripophily will go on Spink's E-block.  

At stake are antique stocks and bonds from many countries. Sections include Africa, Australasia, China and Asia, Collections and groups, Europe, Great Britain, Panama Canal, Russia, the Americas, and the United States. Here is a small selection of the offers.

National Skating Palace share certificate

The National Skating Palace Limited was set up to build and operate a skating ring. When the company failed, its premises were later rebuilt into the London Palladium. This 1895 share certificate is signed by James Drake Digby, founder of the National Skating Association and Gordon Cameron, creator of the Glasgow Real Ice Skating Palace. 
Lot 246 in the auction

Macina-Niger, a decorative share related to Mali

Société Anonyme Française de Colonisation Macina-Niger, 100 Francs share, 1921, Toulouse
This is one of the most appealing French colonial shares showing lots of African animals in the Macina, the Inner Niger Delta, an area in central Mali. The artist expressed his own view on the French colonial empire in a subtle way. Note how two Africans are arduously bearing Industry and Commerce, represented by the angels on top. Mercury, god of finance, and Ceres, goddess of agriculture, are ignoring them.
Lot 60 in the sale

Lot 78 is a $1000 Danish Producers Loan Fund Committee Guaranteed 5% Gold Bond, part of a 1928 loan of $26,000,000 due 1935. This specimen from the Bradbury, Wilkinson & Co archive is reportedly the only one known. No issued examples seen. 

Leopoldina Estrada de Ferro bond from 1884

Companhia Leopoldina Estrada de Ferro, 6.5% bond of 200 milreis, 1884, Rio de Janeiro
In 1872 Antonio Paulo de Mello Barreto - see facsimile signature as President - received a concession to build a railway line to connect the coffee regions of Minas Gerais with the network operating the coastal regions. Click the image to enlarge and admire the lettering work by Lith. Paulo Robin & Cia.
Lot 301 in the auction

More auction details :

  • Location : this is an Internet only sale
  • End date : November 5
  • Further info : see here


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Exhibition "Bayerische Werte"

From tomorrow on you can visit "Bayerische Werte", a unique exhibition on scripophily from Bayern. The event takes place at the IHK-Stammhaus für Munich und Oberbayern and presents stocks and bonds from the immense Uto Baader Collection.

Bayerische Werte, "securities from Bavaria", is jointly organized by the Bayerisches Wirtschaftsarchiv (BWA) and its founders, the Bavarian Chambers of Commerce and Industrie (IHK's). In the twenty-five years of its existence, the BWA has collected original documents from more than 2,500 companies. Archives of more than 170 companies have been taken over. 

"Haus für Handel und Gewerbe" in München, 1000 Mk. bond, 1899
The building illustrated on this bond was built by Munich's Chambre of Commerce and the Münchner Börse between 1899 and 1901. It still exists and is located at Maximiliansplatz 8, Munich, just around the corner of the current headquarters of the IHK für München und Oberbayern.
image courtesy : Bayerisches Wirtschaftsarchiv, Uto Baader Collection

On the occasion of BWA's 25th anniversary, Uto Baader, founder of the Baader Bank and Chairman of the Bayerische Börse, entrusted the BWA his tremendous collection of historic Bavarian securities (about 4,500 certificates).

With her team, Dr. Eva Moser, manager of the BWA, carefully made a selection from that collection. These gems, spanning more than two centuries, both illustrate the economic history of Bavaria and the artistry of Bavarian security design. Fifty-six of these have been printed and enlarged in high resolution with accompanying explanation notes on display panels. 

Actienbrauerei zum Löwenbräu in München, 100 Thaler founder's share, 1873
The history of the brewery traces back to the Late Middle Ages. Löwenbräu has been served at every Oktoberfest in Munich since 1810.
image courtesy : Bayerisches Wirtschaftsarchiv, Uto Baader Collection

Practical info "Bayerische Werte"

  • Duration : 9 October to 5 November 2019
  • Location : Atrium of the IHK für München und Oberbayern,  Max-Joseph-Straße 2, München
  • Opening hours : Monday to Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; Friday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • Entrance fee: free
  • further information : Ausstellung "Bayerische Werte" 

Related link


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Razor pioneer for sale at Archives International Auctions

Archives International Auctions' next sale is set for October 10, 2019. This live and online sale counts 1187 lots of American and worldwide banknotes, bonds and shares and security printing ephemera.  More than 500 lots of antique bonds and shares from the USA, China, Russia, Mexico and many more countries are ready to be hammered in AIA's offices in River Edge, New Jersey.

The American Bank Note Company 
"comprising American Bank Note Co, National Bank Note Co, Continental Bank Note Co"
Consolidated Agreement 1904 specimen stock certificate
Lot 584 in the auctionincludes a 1859 letter announcing the merger of ABN's predecessors 

Lot 338 comprises a 25,000 Rubles - high denomination - specimen bond from the Imperial Russian Government 5.5% Short Term War Loan 1916.

This event features part 1 of the Stephen Beck Collection of railroad bonds and shares, as well as  additional selections from the John E. Herzog Collection. These items, extremely rare if not unique, have been put together over several decades. 

The Staten Island Railway Company
First Mortgage Gold 4.5% $1000 specimen bond, 1893, lot 1055
from the Stephen Beck Collection

Durham Duplex Razor Company, 1908 specimen stock certificate, vignette of man shaving with text "The Correct Diagonal Stroke". Founded in New York, 1908, the company started manufacturing in Mystic, New Jersey. Two years later another production plant was set up in Sheffield, UK, which still exists today. Ex John E. Herzog Collection, lot 672 in the sale

Many more wonderful antique securities can be seen in the auctioneer's catalog. Practical info :
  • Date : October 10, 2019
  • Location : River Edge, New Jersey
  • More info : see here, live and absentee bidding there
  • PDF auction catalog : here 


Friday, September 6, 2019

The Benzon family and the Copenhagen Zoo

One of the most appealing items in scripophily are share and bond certificates from zoological gardens. Mostly these prints show naturalistic scenes plentiful with exotic animals. Only a handful of  these "zoo" certificates are available on the collector market.

In fact, using biological terms, zoo shares, with a few exceptions, are among the rarest species in scripophily world. In May 2019, a spectacular example surfaced at an auction organized by the Østlandets Aksjebrev Forening, the Oslo-based branch of the Norwegian scripophily society. The item was the star of the sale and attracted several bidders from Norway and abroad.

This 200 Danish rigsdaler share from Den Zoologiske Have Ved Kjöbenhavn , the Copenhagen Zoo, was issued in 1873. In that year Denmark and Sweden formed the Scandinavian Monetary Union. The Danish krone replaced the rigsdaler in 1875 at the rate of 1 krone = 1/2 rigsdaler.
image source : Østlandets Aksjebrev Forening, Norsk Selskap for Scripofili

Østlandets Aksjebrev Forening, held its fourth auction at Oslo on 4 May 2019. Over 600 lots were at stake and one of these was a 1873 share in Den Zoologiske Have Ved Kjöbenhavn, the Copenhagen Zoo. Reportedly, only one other share from this company is known.

The Danish ornithologist Niels Kjærbølling (1806–1871) founded the zoo in 1859. The city of Copenhagen gave him a part of the Frederiksberg Palace Park as recognition for his work. His books, illustrated with lithographed drawings of birds, became very popular and spread public interest in birds and bird spotting. 

The design of the Copenhagen Zoo share includes not less than eighteen different animal species! Click the image of the share certificate on top to enlarge. We have monkeys, parrots, a snake, a lizard, an emu, kangaroos, a leopard and a lion, a camel walking away, a zebra, a deer, running gazelles, a bear, a curious wild boar, an owl, a lynx taking it easy, a squirrel and a vulture in the sky.

Unfortunately Kjærbølling lacked the experience to run a zoo business. The place was not well maintained and animals died. His son Fritz Hugo Kjærbølling inherited the zoo. He had acquired the knowledge and skills to keep and breed animals at zoos like the one in Cologne. However he could not reverse the zoo's poor financial situation.

Fritz Hugo Kjærbølling discussed the situation with three ornithologists : J. C. H. Fischer, who would become Kultus Minister of Denmark, H. C. Erichsen, head of the Ministry of Finance, and Alfred Nicolai Benzon.

A pharmacist, Benzon (1823-1884) founded his own pharmaceutical manufacturing and distribution business, Alfred Benzon A/S. He was also a well-known and published botanist and ornithologist.

In 1872 these four men decided to set up a new company that would become the owner of the zoo: Den Zoologiske Have Ved Kjöbenhavn. Fischer, Erichsen and Benzon were appointed directors with powers to meddle with the zoo's daily operations. Kjærbølling became the zoo inspector. The arrangement didn't work out and, after being paid for his shares in the company, Kjærbølling, the only one with real zoo keeping experience, had to leave the company.

Two small shield vignettes in its upper corners adorn the share of the Copenhagen Zoo. These are the lesser version of the coat of arms of Denmark (left) and of the city of Copenhagen (right). 

The zoo's first years were difficult but it survived till today. After Alfred Benzon's death in 1884, his pharmaceutical business was passed on to his sons Alfred Benzon Jr. and Otto Benzon. The Benzon family continued to support the zoo.

Alfred Benzon Jr. (1855-1932) was besides an entrepreneur also a painter. He became a pupil of the famous Danish painter Peder Severin Krøyer (1851-1909). The latter painted several works featuring the Benzon's, see here and there. P. S. Krøyer was adopted by his uncle Henrik Nikolai Krøyer, who in turn was ... a Danish zoologist and head of Copenhagen's Natural Museum. It's a small world, they say.

Benzon Jr. produced several marine paintings, like the one here. He was also a good observer and drawer of animals and birds, like many ornithologists. It was he who made also the drawing for the Copenhagen Zoo share.

The Copenhagen Zoo share was printed by I. W. Tegner & Kittendorffs Lith. Inst. The design was made by Alfred Benzon junior.

Alfred Benzon Jr's son, Bøge, undertook several nature expeditions related to nature conservation,  animal protection and the collecting and study of species. In 1952, Bøge Benzon (1891-1976) founded the Alfred Benzon Foundation. He donated his shares in the family business to the foundation.

The Alfred Benzon Foundation supports medical researchers and pharmacists, but also gives the Copenhagen Zoo donations for its research laboratory. Bøge Benzon was the zoo's Director from 1954-1956 and in 1967 its Vice-President.

I have not discussed the coat of arms located at the center of the share certificate. It depicts a shield with the words "Utile Dulci". The shield supports a stag head and is flanked by a bear and a lion. It seems to me that Alfred Benzon Jr., the artist, repeated the stag-lion-bear theme in the large scene at the bottom, be it in a different order. My research was fruitless. Who knows more about this coat of arms ?

This historic share in the Copenhagen Zoo represents the important ties between the zoo and the Benzon family. It was auctioned on 4 May 2019 in Oslo by the Østlandets Aksjebrev Forening. Hammered over three times its start price it was purchased at NOK46000, nearly USD5300, excluding a 15% buyer's premium.


Related links

Friday, August 16, 2019

Before computers ruled the Earth

After World War II, policy makers and scientists thought that the world would only need a handful of computers. We know better now. Today, devices like wristwatches and washing machines, and even tootbrushes, are equipped with computers sized less than 10 mm². These 'embedded’ computers have become a commodity. 

vignette from a stock certificate in the GM Hughes Electronics Corporation

The definition of a computer has changed with time 

During the Middle Ages the word ‘computer’ was used for a person employed to perform computations. Following advances in mathematics and technology, people tried to develop calculating devices to save time and prevent human errors. In 1623, the German Wilhelm Schickard designed the first calculating machine capable of doing simple additions and subtractions. 

These ingenious devices calculated outcomes in mechanical ways and are not comparable to what we know as modern computers. To understand this jump in technological evolution, we need to look at the definition for ‘a modern computer’. 

Simply said, a computer is a machine that ‘performs work’ or ‘output’. In order to perform that work the machine requires some ‘input’, like information and energy. This seems obvious today but imagine that you are a cotton dealer, let's say, somewhere in the 1790s. 

You - the cotton dealer - visit the watchmaker in your town, then the finest engineer in precision mechanics. You tell him that you need a machine that can perform some work. You explain your watchmaker also that you want to provide instructions to the machine so it can perform different kinds of work. Furthermore, the machine should be able to ‘store’ these instructions and ‘carry them out at some time’. Your watchmaker would be perplexed, maybe even terrified.

Jacquard’s loom, the first use of punched cards holding instructions to control machine function 
image: G. Bruno - Le Tour de la France par deux enfants, Engineering and Technology History Wiki 

Babbage, conceiver of the programmable computer

Our watchmaker in our story just now, actually received an order for our computer: a programmable machine, one that can be fed with instructions to be executed at some time. The merchant in the story was the English mathematician and engineer Charles Babbage (1791-1871). He was the first person to conceive the idea of a programmable computer. 

In 1822 Babbage designed prototypes of his ‘Difference Engine’ which could calculate polynomial functions and print the results automatically. His ‘Analytical Engine’, described in 1837, had a far more elaborate design. It would have been capable of storing 1,000 large numbers in a mechanical way and it would be programmed using punched cards that just needed to be put into the machine and let it run. 

Using punched cards for controlling a machine’s output was an idea coming from loom technology that Babbage applied in another context. Joseph-Marie Jacquard earlier had improved the weaving process by using punched cards. The holes punched in the cards corresponded to the woven rows of the textile pattern. 

Babbage could never complete his machines due to lack of political support and budget problems. He left us only partial prototypes and his paper designs, and the idea of a general purpose computer.

1881 share certificate in the Connecticut Telephone Co, the first telephone switching office (New Haven) 

The Industrial Revolution leads to development of computer elements 

In the 19th century, increases in industrial activity and international trading were accompanied by comparable increases in the amount of data to be processed by companies.

Faster and more reliable communication over longer distances became crucial. Different forms of transmitting information appeared and several technological advances quickly succeeded each other. All of them contributed to the making of the modern computer :

  • 1829 William Austin Burt patents the first typewriting machine in the USA. 
  • 1830 The American Joseph Henry demonstrated the first electric telegraph 
  • 1843 Per Georg Scheutz (Sweden) and his son Edvard finished their version of Babbage’s Difference Engine. It was the first machine that could print mechanically calculated tables. 
  • 1846 Alexander Bain uses perforated ‘ticker’ tape to transmit telegrams. 
  • 1852 Charles Xavier Thomas de Colmar starts the commercialisation of his Arithmometer, the first mass-produced mechanical calculator in the world. 
  • 1861 The Italian Giovanni Caselli invents the first practical telefax machine. 
  • 1865 Rasmus Malling-Hansen of Denmark invented the Writing Ball, the first commercially sold typewriter. 
  • 1867 Christopher Latham Sholes starts designing the first successful typewriter with a keyboard as we know it today. Remington will manufacture the model in 1873 with the QWERTY layout. 
  • 1870 William Stanley Jevons, a British logician, constructs the first practical logical machine by means of which a conclusion could be derived mechanically from a set of premises. 
  • 1870 Thomas Alva Edison invents the Universal Stock Ticker, a forerunner to the electric typewriter. It printed telegraphed information remotely on a typewriter. 
  • 1876 Alexander Graham Bell patents the first practical telephone, but it will take almost another 100 years before computers start using telephone lines for communication.

Société Bénéficiaire de la ‘Remington-Sholes Visible’, 1000 Francs share, 1910 
This Paris based company obtained the rights to distribute the Remington-Sholes Visible typewriter in France. 

The office computing revolution 

In 1880 the US Census took place. It took seven years to process the data manually. With a lot of new immigrants in the 1880s, the Census Bureau realised that it would be impossible to process the 1890 census data before the next census in 1900. 

Herman Hollerith devised an electric tabulating system to accomplish the task of quickly counting and sorting data. He used punched cards like Jacquard, but this time, instead of machine instructions, the actual data was punched on the cards. Information categories like age, sex, etc. were represented by specific holes on the card. It was a success. The 1890 census was processed in a few months. 

In 1896 Hollerith formed the Tabulating Machine Co. His tabulators were quickly introduced in Europe for other censuses, and in accounting, banking and industry. Tabulators, and peripheral machines for managing punched cards (records), would be the most important data processing machines for more than fifty years. 

International Business Machines Corporation, unissued stock certificate on punch card 
Around 1970 several attempts were made to deal with the huge amount of paper work involved with stock market  transactions. One of these trials involved the introduction of punch card stock certificates combined with optical character recognition technology. 

Hollerith’s company eventually merged with three other companies to form the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Corporation. Thomas John Watson renamed it into the International Business Machines Company (IBM) in 1924. 

IBM had a fierce competitor that was offering cheaper machines. That was the Powers Tabulating Machine Company, later known as Powers Accounting Machine Company. Formed in 1911. Powers merged in 1927 together with Remington Typewriter Company and Rand Kardex Company to form the Remington Rand Company. 

In the UK, Hollerith formed the Tabulator Ltd in 1902. The company obtained the rights to sell Hollerith’s machines. Renamed in 1909 as the British Tabulating Machine Company, it would eventually become ICL. Here, in the UK, the Powers-Samas Company was competing with Hollerith’s BTM.

In Germany Hollerith founded the Deutsche Hollerith Machinen-Gesellschaft (DEHOMAG) in 1910.

The vignette on the National Cash Register share shows the company's Class 2000 electric accounting machine. Introduced in 1921 it featured 30 totalizers. NCR will build during WW II electronic code-breaking machines. Not much later they become a well-know computer manufacturer. 

 The National Cash Register Company, 100 shares, issued 1955 

In this pre-electronics period, typewriters, calculators, cash registers and tabulating machines went into mass production by American companies like National Cash Register Company, Burroughs Company, Powers Company and Felt & Tarrant Company.

The Bull, Elliot Fisher and Odhner companies serviced European offices. A Japanese electric tabulating machine was developed at the Ministry of Communications and Transportation in 1905.

The machines became reliable, smaller and simpler in use and manufacturers started to electrify parts of their products. However, their devices were still single purpose machines. And they could not ‘store’ instructions. Babbage seemed to have been forgotten.

The pre-World War II period sets the stage 

The Englishman Alan Turing conceived his Universal Turing Machine in the 1930s. This ‘UTM’ would read symbols, such as letters and numbers, from a tape device, process them by using transition rules, and output new symbols as a result. Turing realized the transition rules, which were just symbols, could be put on tape as well and be read by his machine, instead of building them into the ‘hardware’. 

Brown, Boveri & Cie, Mannheim, 1000 DM specimen bond, 1956 
German engineer Konrad Zuse built his Z1 electro-mechanical computer in the late 1930s. The machine used a binary system: it used only 0s and 1s. His company, Zuse KG, was purchased in 1964 by the German subsidiary of Brown, Boveri & Cie, who in turn sold most of its Zuse interests to Siemens three years later. BBC would introduce in 1969 its first industrial process computer, the DP-100. 

At that time the German engineer Konrad Zuse used what is called a ‘binary system’ in his Z1 machine. A binary system, also known as a digital system, uses only 0s and 1s. The basic element Zuse used for his machine was a mechanical switch, which could represent a 0 and 1 (off/on state).

Zuse’s Z3 machine, operational in 1941, used relays (electromechanical switches). It was the first programmable digital computer but it could not store its program because it was read from punched film tape. The German High Command refused any further funding for a much faster machine using vacuum tubes. 

American Telephone & Telegraph Company, stock certificate for 2 shares, 1942 
The signature at the bottom right is from Walter Sherman Gifford, then the company's President. In 1927 Gifford had a video telephone conversation with Herbert Hoover via AT&T's telephone network. Talking about innovation ! 

In 1939 the Bell Telephone Laboratories subsidiary of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company built the first computing machine to work remotely over telephone lines with teletypes. 

The same year, Harvard University, under the lead of Howard Aiken, started building the Harvard Mark I at IBM. This electromechanical giant was finished in 1944. It was driven by a five-horsepower electric motor and used 500 miles of wire.

In Japan Fuji Electric Works worked in 1940 on a relay-based computing machine.

World War II created demand for more sophisticated computing machines 

WW II forced the Allies to develop general purpose computers. The English BTM company devised ‘The Bombe’, an electromechanical machine to break the coded messages generated by the Enigma machines of the German Navy.

In response to the more sophisticated Lorenz machine, used by the German High Command, an entirely electronic machine, the Colossus, was completed in 1943 at the Government Code and Cyphering School in Bletchley Park. This digital machine stored the deciphering key in its internal vacuum tube memory. Yet this machine still was not a general purpose computer. 

The US military faced another pressing problem: the mass generation of artillery firing tables. The Electronic Numerical Integrator Analyzer and Computer (ENIAC) was built by John Mauchly and John Adam Presper Eckert at Pennsylvania University. This 30 tons weighing electronic machine was finished several months after the war. It could perform 5,000 additions per second and was 1,000 times faster than relay-based machines.

The ENIAC proved electronic systems were viable. However, it was hard to reprogram the machine as it needed to be rewired for each new task. The ENIAC solved problems in minutes but took days to reprogram.

International Business Machines Corporation, stock certificate from 1946 
In 1944 IBM starts building the Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator. The "SSEC" was a hybrid of vacuum tubes and electromechanical relays. Instructions were read from paper tape. 

In parallel with the ENIAC development, Eckert and Mauchly started to build the Electronic Discrete Variable Computer (EDVAC), a stored-program computer. The internal architecture became known as the ‘von Neumann’ machine.

John Von Neumann conceived the idea of a special ‘control transfer’ instruction which permitted interrupting and restarting program execution at any point. Since this point almost all computers have contained five major architectural components: input, output, memory unit, control unit and an arithmetic unit.

Also at the other side of the Atlantic Ocean research teams joined the race for the first general- purpose electronic computer.

At Manchester University, Freddy Williams used a cathode ray tube surface for storing program instructions. CRT's were used as radar and television screens. It was Williams' team that finished in 1949 the first electronic digital general-purpose stored-program computer. The program had to be written in binary code, a laborious and error-prone process.

J. Lyons & Company, Ltd, 8% cumulative preference stock, 1951
This company was a British restaurant and tea-shop chain, food manufacturing business and hotel conglomerate. In 1947 J. Lyons provided additional funds for the pioneering EDSAC project at the University of Cambridge. After its completion the company decided to build a digital general purpose computer on its own, the LEO I (Lyons Electronic Office).

Maurice Wilkes, from Cambridge University, used an idea from Eckert to store the program instructions not in a million vacuum tubes but to use sound waves circulating in mercury delay lines. His Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC) project received crucial support from J. Lyons & Company, Ltd.

The EDSAC was the first practical general-purpose stored-program computer because it was much easier to use than its predecessors. Wilkes used an alphabetic shorthand for programming, which was faster and more intuitive for the programmers. The computer then translated the shorthand into binary instructions. The age of computing could now really kick off. 


  1. This article is based on an article previously written for Scripophily magazine, Dec 2010, No.84, published by International Bond and Share Society 
  2. More about computer history and scripophily ? See here  

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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Puzzling scripophily - No. 1 - solution

Puzzle No. 1 provided you three visual cues that could help you solve it. One reader provided a correct answer and told me about an interesting way to research antique stocks and bonds.

The correct answer was Le Petit Journal, a French daily newspaper that circulated between 1863 and 1944. The visual cues were details from the design of the company's splendid share certificate.

500 Francs share certificate of  Le Petit Journal, 1896
design by Meyer and engraving by Meaulle 

By bringing sensational news, applying clever customer binding techniques, and a newspaper that could be sold for the price of 5 Centimes, Le Petit Journal's circulation rose to 2 million copies by the late 1890s.  
The Dreyfus Affair (1894-1906), in which Alfred Dreyfus, of Jewish descent, was convicted of handing secrets to the German army, contributed to its success but also lead to the decline of the newspaper.
During this lawsuit Le Petit Journal publicly choose side against Dreyfus while repeatedly publishing antisemitic articles. In those days, publishing racist and antisemitic content was not illegal. Despite false evidence, Dreyfus was declared guilty and imprisoned.
It turned out that Dreyfus was framed. Due to public opinion he was released from prison and exonerated. Le Petit Journal however lost many readers to competitors that had avoided taking sides in this case.

There is a lot more to tell about Le Petit Journal, see here. It is now recognized as a pioneer of the sensation press and mass media.  

Reader DB provided the correct answer for puzzle no. 1: It was pretty easy. The cert appeared after I googled for images of "61 Rue Lafayette" (one of the cues)

Well done DB! You are now entitled a portion of "eternal fame". 

F. L.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

AIA's summer sale is live

Archives International Auctions next sale takes place at their offices in River Edge, New Jersey on Wednesday, July 24th, 2019. Bob Schwartz, AIA's President, welcomes collectors to the company's  54th auction :
We are excited to offer over 900 lots of rare and desirable U.S., Chinese & Worldwide Banknotes, Scripophily, Coins, Historic Ephemera, and Security Printing Ephemera. We will be holding the auction from our new offices in River Edge, New Jersey. Included in the auction are numerous rare and desirable items consigned from numerous estates and longtime collections with many having never been offered previously at auction.
The sale includes scripophily from the USA, Brazil, France, Russia, China and a lot of other countries. 

L(ot) 445 United States Second Liberty Loan of 1917, issued, with United States Savings Bonds booklet.

L523 Beam-Fletcher Transportation Company, ca.1910-20 Specimen Stock Certificate

L705 Bullfrog Indian Springs Mines Company, issued 1907, Nevada

Further info :
  • Location : River Edge, New Jersey
  • Date : 24 July 2019
  • Further info : see here , live and absentee bidding here and a downloadable PDF catalogue there