New York & Cheyenne: 1886-1892. Nineteen letters, totaling pp., plus two additional documents. Mostly folio sheets. Light soiling and wear, some minor dampstaining. Primarily handwritten, but several in typescript. All highly legible. Very good. Item #1740
Archive of correspondence sent to Henry Lee Higginson of the investment firm Lee, Higginson & Co. in Boston, by principal officers of the Union Cattle Company of Wyoming discussing mutual investments. Thomas Sturgis (1846-1914) and his brother, Frank K. Sturgis (1847-1932) were New York investors. Thomas moved, with his other brother, William, to Wyoming in 1873 and founded the Northwestern Cattle Company which later became the Union Cattle Company. The two brothers became some of the most prominent ranchers in the territory, and were important power brokers. After a particularly fierce winter during 1886-87 -- the opening years of the present archive -- Thomas Sturgis moved back to New York and went into construction. Frank Sturgis eventually became the president of the New York Stock Exchange, among other notable New York offices he held. Their correspondent, Henry Lee Higginson (1834-1919) was a prominent Boston businessman. He joined his father's firm, Lee, Higginson & Co., in 1868 as a junior partner, and eventually rose to prominence as founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and a patron of Harvard University. All the correspondence herein is addressed to Higginson. The handful of letters not written by one of the Sturgis brothers are written by Frederick P. Voorhees, the Receiver of the Union Cattle Company.
Much of the correspondence centers on financial aspects of the Union Cattle Company, including the establishment of the Union Cattle Trust. Writing from Cheyenne on December 18, 1886, Thomas Sturgis discusses stock options and the purchase of shares, as well as the difficulties facing the Wyoming cattle industry at the time:
"Our cattle interests are in as good shape as possible, in view of the continued depressed condition of the cattle market. We are shipping in small lots, very fine cattle, weighing from 1300 to 1450 on the market, but are unfortunately still obliged to sell them at the extraordinarily low figure of about four cents. It is the general feeling that some reaction will take place and some shortage of beef become apparent, early in the new year, but it is hard to wait patiently when one's obligations are constantly mounting up. Of course, we are not forcing off the cattle in large numbers, but selling very scantily and only those in fine order. The month of November was rather hard upon range cattle, but since that time we have had fine weather, windy and only moderately cold. We have taken off the ranges and sent to our barns every animal we could find that was not in good condition to meet the winter. We have 4000 in our barns at Gilmore, and 4000 more up here on the range pasture, provided with hay in case of storms, and I am confident that no herd will go through with less average loss than ours."
Letters of April 1887 discuss the formation of the American Cattle Trust, to be incorporated along similar lines as the Standard Oil Trust. "Under this trust we have organized the American Cattle Trust, & are going to join together under it the ranch interests, & the slaughtering interests in Chicago. To this end we have obtained the co-operation of the strongest parties in Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming; & by gaining the assent & aid of Nelson Morris & Co. of Chicago, have formed a chain that is very strong indeed. It will be the salvation of the ranch interests, & when I tell you that Morris kills 1000 steers daily, & utilizes them in every part, you will readily see that the gain will be very great if the ranch interests can share the slaughtering profits." Further information about the financials and the value is present, as well as organization information for the trust. Additionally, Thomas Sturgis writes at length to Higginson about his personal shares and stock in both the company and the Trust and the sale thereof.
In August 1890, Voorhees, the company receiver, writes about a fire at the company's operations in Gilmore: "You have probably heard of the loss of the Feeding Plant of this Company at Gilmore by fire... our superintendent at Gilmore had been repairing the roofs of the different barns with tar paper, tar etc. and on the afternoon of the 31st July some of wood work caught fire from the running tar, which Mr. Walker with his assistants put out and supposed he had it all out, but about eleven o'clock at night the watchman discovered fire creeping up the side of one of the buildings and at once gave the alarm, and every effort was made to put out the fires but it was of no avail, the engines would not work, and as they could not get enough water on to stop the blaze, the whole plant with one or two minor exceptions was soon on fire and was totally destroyed. ... The total amount of insurance carried upon the property was $41,800.; that upon the amount destroyed between $38,000. and $39,000."
He continues, summarizing his activities on the range: "I was on the Cheyenne River, and in Goshen Hole during the month of July; - I made a shipment of cattle on the 28th. and 29th. ult. of about 800 head and start to the Cheyenne River tomorrow to ship 1000 head about the 20th inst. I expect to ship over six or seven thousand during the season. The cattle market is low, owing to the drought in the western states, which has forced many cattle upon the market, but I look for a little better market during the Fall, and hope it may turn out so."
Overall, this is an extensive archive full of informative and lengthy letters concerning the company's business operations and financials. Together they provide a cohesive glimpse of the cattle range industry during this important and difficult time in its history. Worthy of further exploration.