Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Reference Book : Stocks and bonds from the Corinth Canal

Not so long ago the Greek mainland was still connected to the Peloponnesus peninsula by a land bridge, 6.4 km wide, named the Isthmus of Corinth. When you sail, let's say, from Patras, in the northern Peloponnesus, all the way around the peninsula, to Piraeus, Athens' ancient navy base, you cover a distance of about 420 nautical miles, or 780 km. The same trip over land takes only 220 km. 

Roman emperor Nero was the first who started the construction of a canal through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth. He must have thought that transporting goods and troops from the Ionian coast cities to the ports on the Aegean Sea could go faster. It's hard to imagine now, but before, labourers, slaves, rolled boats on logs across the land to bridge the gap, so to speak. Nero's project started in 67 AD and employed thousands of slaves. When he died the next year, so did the project.

Cover of the book "Der Kanal von Korinth" by author Hans-Georg Glasemann

In Der Kanal von Korint, author Hans-Georg Glasemann brings the story of the Corinth Canal from both a historical and a financial angle. The shares and bonds issued by the three companies that built and operated the Corinth Canal are featured in the book's catalog section. The book, written in German, is aimed at the collector of old securities, and anyone who is interested in the historical background of this interesting canal project.

detail from a vignette on a Canal Maritime de Corinthe share certificate showing sea routes around Greece

This is a detail from a vignette on a share from the Société Internationale du Canal Maritime de Corinthe. You can recognize the boot of Italy on the left, Greece in the middle and the Asian part of Turkey on the right. Dashed lines show the ancient sea routes around Greece. New routes running through a canal near the city of Corinth are marked by full lines. Note, when this share was issued in 1882, large parts of the Balkans, including the northern part of Greece, belonged to "Turquie", the Ottoman Empire. 

Here is an overview of the book's chapters :
  • Historische Betrachtung
    • Träume vom Korinther Kanal in der Antike
    • Internationale Gesellschaft des Seekanals von Korinth 1882
    • Griechische Gesellschaft des Kanals von Korinth 1890
    • Neue Gesellschaft des Kanals von Korinth 1907
    • Kanal von Korinth - heute
    • Biografien
      • István Türr (1825-1908), ungarischer Freiheitsheld
      • Béla Gerster (1850-1923), ungarischer Ingenieur
      • Ferdinand de Lesseps (1805-1894), französischer Diplomat und Kanalbauer
  • Katalogteil
    • Erläuterungen zu den Wertpapieren
    • Société Internationale du Canal Maritime de Corinthe 1882-1890
    • Société Hellénique du Canal de Corinthe 1890-1907
    • Nouvelle Société Anonyme du Canal de Corinthe 1907-1980
  • Literaturhinweise

Freely translated, these are the chapters in English :
  • Historical consideration
    • Dreams of the Corinthian channel in Antiquity
    • International Company of the Sea Canal of Corinth 1882
    • Greek Corinth Canal Company 1890
    • New Corinth Canal Company 1907
    • Channel of Corinth - today
  • Biographies
    • István Türr (1825-1908), Hungarian freedom fighter
    • Béla Gerster (1850-1923), Hungarian engineer
    • Ferdinand de Lesseps (1805-1894), French diplomat and canal builder
  • Catalog section
    • Explanations on the securities catalogued
    • Société Internationale du Canal Maritime de Corinth 1882-1890
    • Société Hellénique du Canal de Corinth 1890-1907
    • Nouvelle Société Anonyme du Canal de Corinth 1907-1980
  • References

vignette showing cross section of the proposed Corinth Canal project

Another vignette on the Canal Maritime de Corinthe share shows a cross section of the proposed project. The canal would be excavated at sea level requiring no locks. 

In the first part of the book, the author pilotes the reader through the canal's history. It starts more than 1800 years after emperor Nero's attempt, in 1882, when the Société Internationale du Canal Maritime de Corinthe initiated the excavation of the Corinth Canal. At the head of the company stood the hungarian István Türr (1825-1908). He appointed Gerster Béla (1850-1923), also a hungarian, as the project's chief engineer. The expenses grew bigger than planned and the company went bankrupt in 1890.

But the digging was continued by a new Greek company, the Société Hellénique du Canal de Corinthe, with success. The official opening of the canal took place in 1893 in the presence of King George I. In 1907 the Nouvelle Société Anonyme du Canal de Corinthe took over the canal exploitation until 1980. The canal's depth turned out to be insufficient for the large cargo ships of today. The canal is now a leisure attraction.

500 French francs share in the Société Internationale du Canal Maritime de Corinthe, 1882

500 French francs share in the Société Internationale du Canal Maritime de Corinthe, 1882 
Catalog number KK-010, part of an issue of 60000 bearer shares of 500 francs 
image : eWertpapiermuseum EDHAC 

The book's catalog section groups the Corinth Canal securities by company and by issue. Entries include a catalog number, a value indication, an image, circulation and other details on the particular issue. Some more details about the book :
  • Title : Der Kanal von Korinth - Historische Wertpapiere 1882-1977, in English : The Corinth Canal - Securities 1882-1977
  • Author : Hans-Georg Glasemann
  • ID : ISBN 978-3-74945-231-6, published by BoD - Books on Demand, Norderstedt, 2019 
  • Languages : German
  • Number of pages : 60
  • Images : over 40 color images, mostly from securities, including some black and white pictures
  • Index : no index, but companies and securities are organized in the catalog section by company and issue

The 500 French francs share in the Société Internationale du Canal Maritime de Corinthe, 1882, is illustrated with both faces of a Corinth Stater.

The designer of the Canal Maritime de Corinthe share clearly invested some time in researching the ancient city-state of Corinth. The columns drawn on both sides of the print are typical Corinthian with capitals decorated with acanthus leaves. The coins placed on both columns are actually both sides of a Corinth Stater, ca 345-307 BC. The obverse shows a flying Pegasus with a Koppa sign Ϙ below its belly. The Ϙ is used in the archaich spelling of the city name Ϙόρινθος (Korinthos). The reverse shows the goddess Athena with an upward tipped Corinthian helmet.  
image : via Wikipedia, Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.

Hans-Georg Glasemann's work can be ordered from BoD in print and as an E-book, here. The book is part of a trilogy on historic canals. The second book, about the Panama Canal, appeared just recently. The third one will cover the Suez Canal. 

F. L. 

PS : 
Hans-Georg Glasemann maintains his own blog about antique securities. 
Please check his Nonvaleurs Blog 

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