New York: 1883-1891. Ninety mortgages and other related documents; most comprised of multiple pages. Folio. Typed and handwritten material. Documents folded into quarters. Light scattered soiling and wear, but condition generally strong. Very good. Item #1485
Substantial archive of mortgages held by the American Loan and Trust Company, consisting primarily of mortgages for railroads across much of the United States. The American Loan and Trust Company was incorporated in Massachusetts in 1881, and members of several prominent railroad investment families in Boston served on its board. The company invested heavily not only in railroads, but also canals, cable car and city street transit, oil and gas, and electric power companies. The company made significant investments out west, with subsidiary companies such as Omaha and South Texas Land Company, which founded the town of Houston Heights (later subsumed by the city of Houston); the company also served as the loan and finance company for the city of Galveston. All of this seems to have spread the company's interests a bit thin, and by February 1891, the company had declared bankruptcy and was in the process of reorganization. A lengthy round of debt settlement and lawsuits ensued.
The bulk of the archive is comprised of mortgages for railroads across the country, many of them in the West and South. A full seventy-six of the documents herein are for railroad and canal companies. These include railroads in New York, Illinois, Minnesota, Tennessee, Florida, Kansas, Iowa, New Jersey, Ohio, Colorado, Alabama, Texas, Washington Territory, South Carolina, and Georgia. Many of these are streetcar or electric railways, or smaller lines of steam locomotive track. There is a significant stack of documents for the East & West Railroad Co. of Alabama (fourteen pieces), and a number of mortgages for the Florida Coast Line Canal & Transportation Co. In the 1880s, much of Florida was still the frontier and undeveloped, and there were certainly business opportunities in the burgeoning area, bringing citrus up north on the railroads. Several documents concern the stock of the Atchison Street Railway Company, and others relate to the Decatur, Chesapeake & New Orleans Railway which is specifically mentioned in a contemporary New York Times article regarding the company's bankruptcy filings.
Of particular note are a mortgage for the Queen City Railway Company, an electric streetcar company in Seattle. It is dated 1889, the year the company incorporated, when Washington was still a territory. Another interesting piece concerns the California Short Line Railway Company. Written from a law office to the president of the American Loan and Trust Company, the attorneys state that they have examined the incorporation documents for the railway company in question and find it does not comply with the laws of the state of Colorado, failing to state clearly the purpose of the company: "The certificate in question declares that the incorporators have associated themselves together 'as a railway corporation, telegraph corporation and pipe irrigating and ditch corporation', 'for the purpose of constructing and operating a railroad, also for the purpose of constructing and operating a line of magnetic telegraph in this State and also for the purpose of constructing and operating a ditch or ditches'...." The company fails, however, to be lawfully incorporated as a ditch or telegraph company. Also included here is a lengthy document concerning the Electric Rapid Transit Company, incorporated in Kansas, "with power to construct, maintain and operate lines of electric railway in the United States and Territories, and has now constructed and in operation, in and adjacent to the city of Los Angeles, California, eight miles of electric railway." Yet another significant piece is the Deed of Trust for the Houston City Street Railway Company, dated 1884.
Also present in the archive are nine mortgages for power companies, mostly in the Midwest: Springfield Light, heat and Water Works Company (Kansas, 1888); Owego Light and Power Company (two pieces, New York, 1891); Carthage Water Works Company (Missouri, 1889); Columbia Water Company (Tennessee, 1886); Ashtabula Water Works Company (Ohio, 1887); Indiana Water & Light Company (1889); and the Crawfordsville Water Supply Company (Indiana, 1889). Each is a substantial document made up of several pages. There is one mortgage for the South Brooklyn Dock and Warehouse Company (1888). And, interestingly, there are four mortgages for oil and gas companies in Kansas and Texas. These are the Wyandotte Gas Company (Kansas, 1883); Southern Natural Gas and Oil Co. (West Virginia, 1887); and two documents for the Waco Gas Company (Texas, 1885), which held the "exclusive right to manufacture and supply gas for illuminating purposes in the city of Waco, Texas".
Overall, a wonderful archive providing a glimpse into the operations of this financial firm, which capitalized numerous railway and infrastructure projects across the country.