Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Use alternative search terms when searching digital publications

When you want to find something specific online, you key in a search term in the input field of a search engine such as Google. A search term can be a single word or a combination of words, e.g. “railway” or “railway company”. However, to get want you want, you may need to take an extra step.

The vignette shown here appears on a bond from The Utica and Black River Railroad Company. It is wide and gorgious, you can click the image to admire the scene in detail. 

The railroad's line originally ran from Utica, N.Y., to Philadelphia, N.Y. (Manual of the railroads of the United States 1874)

The bond is illustrated below. According to coxrail.com its Frequency of Appearance is F1, which means this certificate "usually appears more than 10 times per year" on the collectors' market. Note that Cox's Frequency of Appearance system does not tell you anything about the value of a particular railroad stock or bond. You can find out more about this system here

The Utica and Black River Railroad Company, $1000 First Mortgage 4% Gold Bond Guaranteed, 1890, Cox catalog nr UTI‑125‑B‑50 

I tried to identify the signature of the person who signed the bond as President of the railroad. Sometimes that person turns out to be an important railroad entrepreneur, a philanthropist, or even a civil war veteran.  

An interesting source for researching railroad officials is The Biographical Directory of the Railway Officials of America. The 1885 edition, edited by E. H. Talbott and H. R. Hobart and pubished by The Railway Age Publishing Company, lists nearly 4000 names of :

  • Presidents and vice-presidents
  • general and assistant general managers
  • general, assistant, and division superintendents
  • general and assistant general freight agents
  • general and assistant general passenger and ticket agents
  • chief engineers
  • general agents, and 
  • other officers.

The 1885 edition of the book is available online. You can consult it here on archive.org. A PDF version can be downloaded there

The archive.org site provides a search function when the book is read online. I then keyed in the word combination "Black River", a snippet from The Utica and Black River RailRoad Company name. 
This yielded the following results that referred to the full company name :
  • B. H. Bail, General Freight Agent in 1883 to date [1885, the book's publication date] 
  • Edgar A. Van Horne, General Superintendent in 1883 to date
  • Albert Wilber, resident engineer in 1875

Interesting, but not what I was looking for. Though all of these were officials from our railroad, none of the names seem to match the signature.

Next I put in an alternative keyword : "Utica".
Now I got these outcomes :
  • B. H. Bail, General Freight Agent in 1883 to date
  • Theodore Butterfield, General Freight and Passenger Agent, Utica, N.Y.
  • J. F. Maynard, Vice-President and General Manager, Utica, N.Y. 
  • John Thorn, Director 1859, President 1859 to date 

Aha ! Got Ya. The signature present was the one from J. F. Maynard. 

Why the different results ? 
The reason is that the automatic process of converting old books in print to a computer-readable format is not error free: letter 'l' can be misread for number '1', sometimes a letter is worn off, etc. This illustrates my point: use alternative search terms to get the most out of your digital research activities. 

By the way, you can find the 1887 edition of the book here, and the 1893 edition there. Perhaps there are more editions available online.

I could have ended my post here, but there is something extra about this bond certificate that I wanted to share. The thing is, the certificate features two different embossed company seals, both hardly visible. 

The first seal was embossed on the guilloche figure that was printed in the lower left corner of the bond. You can see it much better when you inspect the reverse of the certificate. However, on the reverse you see a mirrored image, see the left image above. 

Luckily, the GNU Image Manipulation Program software allows me to rotate and mirror the image once more so it becomes readable (right image above). The seal depicts a locomotive and reads: 


Then there is a second embossed seal, also difficult to detect. It is located on top of the "U" initial of the company title (top left corner). Also in this case we check the reverse of the certificate. It reads : 

The seal was embossed upon this printed text:

For Value Received, The Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg Railroad Company hereby guarantees the punctual payment of the principal and interest of the within Bond according to the terms, tenor and effect thereof.

Since 1886 the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg RR started leasing the lines of the Utica and Black River RR. Both had been under one management since then. The former thus assured the bond buyer that he would see his money back in the end.  


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Friday, January 21, 2022

SPINK UK's first scripophily sale of 2022 presents Australian gold mines, British stone companies, American cattle businesses and lots more

SPINK UK launched its e-auction of world bonds & share certificates. 601 scripophily lots go on the block. The online sale started earlier this week, and its bidding window closes on Jan 31 at 12:00. The Down Under chapter in the sale consists of more than 50 lots. 

The Australasian Gold and Finance Corporation Ltd registered in 1896. The company dealt in mining properties in Western Australia, Victoria and Waihi, New Zealand. This share from 1897 has an exceptional vignette of a prospector with kangaroos and emus. L(ot) 39 in the auction starts at £50.

Here are some more Australian examples: 

  • L16 Melbourne and Suburban Railway Company, 1859, vignette of surveyor and navvy presenting train on bridge, riverboat and map, embossed seal with train 
  • The Central Australian Ruby Mining and Prospecting Co., Ltd, 1888, L45 
  • Along the Howqua River archaeological quarry sites from the Taungurong people were found. The river area would later be mined by the Chief of Howqua Gold Mining Company, L48 
  • Kelly's Freehold Gold Mining Company, Rutherglen, Victoria, 1898, wide vignette of mining operations, L65

The Canadian section features this £100 bond from the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway Company issued for 999 years in 1884. People bought these certificates which could be traded on the securities market. Though due in 2883, the Canadian Pacific Railway recently repaid the outstanding bonds. At £60, L385 is expected to attract buyers. 

A section of 30 Russian lots includes many Maikop oil certificates. 

About 150 lots of British bonds and shares, divided over several sections, represent themes such as canals, shipping, railways, mining, sports and entertainment. Some British examples :

  • Several slate, stone and granite companies are offered, such as the Hard Stone Firms Ltd, see image below.
  • The Grimwith Lead Mining Company, certificate for 2 ordinary shares, 1867, mines at Appletreewick, near Pateley Bridge, Yorkshire, embossed seal, fine vignette of mine entrance, L277
  • A high denomination share of £10,000 in the Wheal Stackhouse Mining Company, L302, was issued in 1836, Truro. The company operated tin and copper mines in St. Enoder, Cornwall.
  • The Crystal Palace housed the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park, London. It became a symbol of progress, L317 and L318
  • Lot range 185 through 194 consists of 18th century South Sea annuities

The Hard Stone Firms, Limited was formed in 1897 with offices in Bath. The company owned granite quarries in Cornwall and Devon. Cornish granite was used for the Eddystone Lighthouse located on the dangerous Eddystone Rocks, roughly 15 miles south of Plymouth. The rocks submerge below the surface of the sea. The lighthouse appears both in the vignette and in the embossed seal. L278 in the auction.

The USA is the largest country represented in the auction. Several American sections cover themes like railways, mining, oil and turnpikes. This time there is also a nice series of livestock scripophily. Some examples with great vignettes: L570 Dale Land and Cattle Co. (Texas), L573 Lea Cattle Co. (New Mexico) and L576 North Moccasin Live Stock Co. (Montana).

L582 in the sale is this $1000 bond from the Union Cattle Company. Issued in 1886 it shows off its cow breed and the company's cow brand embossed in the gold seal. 

There is lots more to discover in this sale, so here are the details :
  • Location : this is an Internet only sale
  • Date : Jan 18 12:00 - Jan 31 12:00, 2022
  • Further info : see here 


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