Monday, October 12, 2020

Taxonomy of a certificate : Iowa Union Telephone and Telegraph Company


Taxonomy : the practice of describing, identifying, naming, and classifying things on the basis of characteristics

Suppose you collect LP records. You could describe each one of these with characteristics such as the name of the album, name of the performer, release date, etc. Using a predefined list of characteristics makes it easy to register your collectibles in a document, a spreadsheet, or any other database application. 

As far as antique securities are concerned, you can define as many characteristics as you need. I usually consider two groups of characteristics : 
  • those that you derive from the certificate's appearance: physical characteristics
  • and those that you get after more research: researched characteristics.
As an example I use a stock certificate from the Iowa Union Telephone and Telegraph Company

Iowa Union Telephone and Telegraph Company 
share certificate, 1883 

Physical characteristics
  • Issuer : Iowa Union Telephone and Telegraph Company
  • Type :  share 
  • Denomination : $100 shares 
  • Capital/Principal : not mentioned 
  • Issue date : 20th July, 1883
  • Place of issue : Davenport, Iowa
  • Registered or bearer : registered 
  • Lifecycle status : issued and uncancelled
  • Printer : Egbert, Fidlar & Chambers 
  • Colors : black, gold 
  • Design & vignettes : gold underprint of wall-mounted telephone, border with flowers in corners, horseshoe under title
  • Engraver : none mentioned
  • Artist : none mentioned
  • Language : English
  • Security features 
    • seal : embossed seal with company name (lower left  corner)
    • watermark : none
  • Notable person (signed by, issued to, transferred to) : none
  • Format : horizontal
  • Medium carrier : paper
  • Special remarks :  inscription in telephone vignette mentioning Ezra Gilliland

Researched characteristics  
  • Country of issuance  : USA 
  • Place of operations : Davenport, Iowa
  • Country of operations : USA
  • Type of operations : telephone business, telegraph business
  • Era : Gilded Age

Once you have specified a certificate's characteristics, you can use that information to find out more about the certificate, its issuer or the notable persons involved. Here's what I found.

A pioneering telephone company 
The first commercial telephone exchange started operating in the late 1870s at New Haven. This share was issued by another one of the early telephone companies:  the Iowa Union Telephone and Telegraph Company (IUTTC). The company was established in 1883. 

In 1885 IUTTC, connecting nearly 2000 miles of poles with over 2600 miles of wire, operated 45 exchanges and 247 toll stations - what we would call "pay phones" today. 

The Bell Telephone Company owned $1,000,000, one third, of the company's capital stock in 1886. IUTTC merged with the Iowa and Minnesota Telephone Company into the Iowa Union Telephone Company on 31 January, 1887. 

This successor company was consolidated in 1896 together with the Central Union Telephone Company of Chicago, into a new company, the Iowa Telephone Company. In 1920 it became the Northwestern Bell Telephone Company

Inventor and entrepreneur Ezra Torrence Gilliland (1845-1903)
It is a good idea to check out vignettes on historic stock certificates in detail. In this case the share tells us also the story of Ezra T. Gilliland. The telephone, printed in gold underprint, bears a plate. I scanned that part of the image at 1200 DPI. The plate says: 

Gillilands Patent
Western Electric Co.
Indianapolis, Ind.

Ezra Gilliland started his career first as a telegraph operator and became interested in telephone equipment. He invented an improved telephone switchboard and the magneto bell. In 1879 he organized his Indianapolis Telephone Company

Western Electric obtained a majority control in Gilliland's company in 1881, the same year when Bell acquired Western Electric. WE supplied Bell of telephones and telephone equipment. Gilliland's switchboards were used in several European countries too. WE's plant in Indianapolis would become the largest telephone maker in the world in the 1960s. 

After working for Bell, Gilliland became a business partner of his close friend Thomas Edison. 


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