Information recorded for companies
The purpose of this project is to record, describe, and estimate prices for stocks, bonds, and closely-related ancillary documents. A secondary goal is to identify and record every company that operated or planned to operate in North America that could be classified as a railroad or closely-related company peripheral to railroading.
The rationale behind that secondary goal was to pre-number companies for the possibility that securities may appear at some time in the future and thereby create sufficent space for expansion in the numbering scheme. That goal, however, should not be construed to collect anything more than basic information. Because of time spent on the primary goal of cataloging certificates, there is no intent to develop corporate histories or genealogies.
Following is a discussion of the data recorded about companies.
Information reported to database users
Company names are collected from many sources. Substantial disagreements over spelling exist. Since this project focuses on securities, the spellings found on stocks and bonds prevail, All other sources are considered less authoritative, including records of charters and incorporations filed with secretaries of states. Derivative sources such as books, magazines, certificate catalogs, the Interstate Commerce Commission, and information found on the web frequently conflict with certificates. Having personally scanned and indexed several hundred thousand documents for a major railroad company, I can testify without hesitation that conflicts are common even among internal documents.
Numbers assigned to certificates
If perfect information were uniformly available for all companies, every incorporation would warrant a separate catalog listing. However, certificates sometimes show multiple incorporations where available official records show only one. And vice versa. Some companies are represented by so many certificates that it is frequently necessary to divide single companies into multiple listings based on spellings or dates to make it easier for collectors to discover certificates.
Spelling differences are frequently seen between certificates of the same company. It is not unusual to see company names spelled one way on stock certificates and another way on bonds. While highly unusual, certificates have been recorded with company names spelled two different ways on the same certificate.
Photos of rolling stock and official incorporation records often show commas in corporate names. This project ignores all punctuation except for hyphens. Hyphens were not always used consistently on all corporate documents, but again, their usage on certificates prevails. Occasionally, "equals" characters ("=") were used as hyphens on certificates. This project uses the typical hyphen character ("-") throughout.
This project endeavors to minimize the use of abbreviations, but to ignore common abbreviations would enlarge the sizes of listings dramatically if adhered to tightly. Therefore, this project uses these abbreviations in corporate names:
- & = and
- co = company
- corp = corporation
- inc = incorporation
- ltd = limited, limitada
- S.A. = Sociedad Anónima, Société anonyme
Spellings of railroad, railway, etc.
"Railroad" and "railway" were commonly written as two words until the mid-1800s and gradually morphed into single words before 1900. Some companies placed hyphens between the two, but again their usages were highly variable. There were no hard and fast rules, Similarly, "Ferrocarril" and "Ferrocarriles" are seen both separated and hyphenated. Variations are sometimes encountered on the same certificate and between different issuances.
Spellings are recorded as accurately as possible. If two or more spellings have been encountered among the various certificates of the same incorporation period, secondary spellings are enclosed in parentheses.
English usage usually places "company," "corporation," "incorporated," "railway" and "railroad" at the ends of corporate names. Spanish and other non-English usages tend to place equivalent words at the beginnings of company names. For the purposes of this catalog, Spanish railroad names that start with words like "Compañia" and "Ferrocarril" are displayed and sorted as written.
Country of incorporation
This project records countries of origin for certificates intended to finance railroad construction in North America. It is no surprise that the United States is responsible for 95% of all certificate varieties identified.
State or province of incorporation
Approximately 75% of the companies currently listed can be associated with specific states, provinces, or territories. Those names do not always appear on certificates, but when they do, they show where companies incorporated. Companies did not necessarily operate where incorporated. About 95% of the certificates show locations of incorporation either in text form, by vignettes of state seals, or on embossed corporate seals. While that percentage of known locations is slowly creeping upward, it probably will not increase much. Many companies are represented by very rare certificates that may not appear for many years.
- Locations on certificates are considered the most reliable because they were securities sold to the public. Locations are reported on certificates in three equally reliable ways:
- printed location of incorporation
- vignettes of state or provincial seals
- location stated on embossed or printed corporate seals
- Locations reported from all other sources are considered less reliable.
Collectors need to be aware that railroads usually created corporations in all the states in which they operated, although their certificates may display only one.
Notes accompanying company names
Notes are added to some, but not all listings, to help clarify and make distinctions between similar names. Notes may comment on dates of incorporation, active dates, locations, spelling variations, previous or successor names, and so forth.
The listings of many companies are accompanied by additional information normally collected in the course of research. That information is available to database users by clicking on the small book icon. Information is highly diverse and can range from lists of company presidents to mergers and notes about bankruptcies.
Sorting of company names is normal alphabetical order according to the primary words in company names. Overly strict sorting often scatters highly similar names far apart in database listings. For instance, "The ABC Railroad Company" may have reorganized as the "ABC Railway Company" and could appear several listings apart. The database contains a separate sorting code that attempts to keep similar names closer together.
English language articles like "the" and "a" and Spanish language articles like "el,", "del," "la" and "los" may or may not appear in corporate names on certificates. The special hidden sort code ignore articles.
Incorporation, dissolution, merger and consolidation dates
The database holds dates when companies began and when they ended. In many cases, this data is used to attribute collectible certificates to different but related incorporations. It is crucial for collectors to understand that massive disagreements over incorporation dates exist in the literature. Disagreements can range anywhere from a few days to a few months. Disagreements even exist within official state records. Deciding which date is most accurate is beyond the definition of this project. Anyone interested in deep corporate history is advised to confirm independently. Corrections are always appreciated.
I display references with company data when information comes from unobvious sources. I ask collectors to please report additional sources when information on this site needs correction.