Houdini Picture Corporation By Fred Fuld III at AntiqueStocks.com

Houdini Picture Corporation

By Fred Fuld III at AntiqueStocks.com

Author of the book: Let Me Entertain You with Antique Stock Certificates


If you ask the average person on the street to name one magician, chances are that the most popular response is Houdini. Harry Houdini, who was born Erik Weisz, (his family later changed it to Ehrich Weiss), was from Budapest but moved to the United States when he was four years old, first to Wisconsin, then to New York City.

He eventually became one of the world’s most famous, if not the most famous, magician, escape artist, and illusionist, taking on the name Harry Houdini. However, what many people don’t know about Houdini is that he was also a motion picture producer, director, actor, screenwriter, and stuntman. His company was called the Houdini Picture Corporation. (See the image above.)

What is unusual about several of these certificates that have appeared in the collectors’ market is that Houdini’s signature is very light. This has led many to speculate that Houdini was using disappearing ink.

So what did this company actually do? It produced three silent black and white movies from 1921 to 1923:

The Soul of Bronze

The Man From Beyond

Haldane of the Secret Service

The Soul of Bronze was actually a movie from France that Houdini reformatted and distributed, but did not star in. The Man From Beyond is a movie about a man (played by Houdini) who comes back to life after being frozen for 100 years in the arctic. Haldane (also played by Houdini of course) is about a Secret Service agent who goes after counterfeiters and tries to rescue a woman.


Not many people are aware that although Houdini was the president of the company, his brother Theodore Hardeen actually ran it. One of the investors in the company was Harry Keller, a popular magician in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

Houdini even appeared in a few other movies that he did not produce, including The Grim Game and Terror Island, both distributed by Paramount Pictures.

Houdini’s signature appears on one other stock certificate, Martinka & Company, the oldest magic company in the United States. The Society of American Magicians held their meetings in the back of the shop. Houdini was the owner in 1919. He used his formal signature to sign the certificates.


Historical Notes

Originally Published and Printed by G.Labarre, The LaBarre Newsletter, Issue 1, Winter 1981

Historical Notes

Stock and bond certificates and shares are more than mere representations of wealth or financial gain. More than that, they are reflections of human endeavor, industrial expansion and the growth of this nation. Each has its own unique and fascinating story to tell. With those important points in mind, it is both interesting and useful for collectors and investors to be aware of historical background of companies that have issued stocks or bonds to finance their development and growth.  This first issue of the “Stock and Bond Investment Quarterly” will discuss a perennial favorite of many types of collectors; railroad companies.

  Taunton Branch Railroad Company, Massachusetts

This company was incorporated in April 1835, to construct a railroad from Taunton to Mansfield on the Boston and Providence line. Construction began that year, and was completed in August 1836.  On July 2, 1840, the New Bedford and Taunton Railroad was completed, and connected with the Taunton Branch.  Both railroads operated under the same management.

The original issue of capital stock amounted to $250,000 for the Taunton Branch. Actual construction costs overran that amount slightly at about $256,000. The line was short, running just over eleven miles. The railroad began paying dividends three years after completion, and within six years was paying a tidy six percent return on investment, a rate it was able to maintain for a number of years.

Attica & Allegheny Railroad Company, New York

The Attica & Allegheny Valley Railroad was succeeded by the Arcade & Attica Railroad.  

Unlike the Taunton Branch Railroad Company already discussed, this railroad seemed doomed from the outset.  Incorporated in November 1852, only about twenty-five miles of track were graded between Attica and Arcade during 1853 and 1854. In February 1856, the railroad was sold upon foreclosure of its mortgage.

  Fall River Railroad Company, Massachusetts

This particular railroad was formed by the consolidation of three separate lines: the Fall River Branch, the Middleboro, and the Randolph and Bridgewater Companies. The Fall River Branch was incorporated in March 1844, to construct a line from Fall River to Myrick’s Station. Both the Middleboro and the Randolph and Bridgewater Companies were formed in March 1845, the former to construct a railroad from Bridgewater to the Fall River Branch at Myrick’s Station, and the latter to build a line from Bridgewater to the Old Colony Railroad in Braintree.  The three merged in August 1845, following the successful completion of their respective segments of the entire line.  In April of the following year, the merger was granted official sanction by an act passed by the state legislature.

Share capital of the three companies totaled slightly over $1,000,000, a significant investment for that era.  Construction of the entire line to its junction with the Old Colony was completed in December 1846.  The entire line covered forty-two miles.  Nearly a decade later in 1854, the Fall River and Old Colony Lines were consolidated, thus forming the Old Colony and Fall River Railroad.

Old Colony and Fall River Railroad, Massachusetts

This merger was authorized on March 25, 1854.  The total length of road operated by the company totaled about ninety miles.

One individual, Richard Borden, played an important role in the development of the Fall River Railroad and also the subsequent merger with the Old Colony.  Born in 1795 in Fall River, Borden was one of the early industrialists of the area. Following the War of 1812, Borden became involved in shipbuilding, cotton milling, and ironworking, lucrative businesses, which expanded rapidly throughout the 1820’s and 1830’s. The Fall River Iron Works, in which he held a major interest, was created in 1821 with an initial capital investment of $18,000. By 1845, the business was worth almost one million dollars, and boasted an ironworks valued at half a million dollars.

Rapid, cheap transportation of materials and finished goods was naturally a source of considerable interest and concern to Borden. To that end, and mainly through his personal efforts and financial backing, the Fall River Railroad Company began construction in 1844, and was completed the following year.  With the creation of the Fall River and Old Colony Railroad in 1854, yet another venture which was due in large part to Borden’s backing, the Fall River area (and Borden) achieved an important goal – a direct rail line to Boston. Not surprisingly, Borden served on the new line’s board of directors for several years during the 1850’s.

Stockbridge and Pittsfield  Railroad, Massachusetts

Chartered in 1847, construction began in 1848, and the entire twenty-two miles of track running from Great Barrington to Pittsfield opened on January lst, 1850.  The Housatonic Company took a perpetual lease of the railroad in the same month in exchange for a seven percent rent based upon the total construction cost of about $450.000. The Housatonic Company operated the line successfully for a number of years, consistently meeting its annual rent charge without difficulty.



Playboy Stock Certificates – New York Post

Dear John: What can I do with these Playboy stock certificates?
By John Crudele

New York PostMarch 19, 2016 | 10:00pm
These old certificates could possibly fetch $60 from collectors, according to Bob.com Kerstein, founder and chief executive of Scripophily.com, which …

Dear John:

Dear John: I found stock certificates for Playboy in a box in my closet. I took them to ScottTrade to sell, but they said they couldn’t help me.

I have been trying to track this down on my own, but got nowhere. Maybe you can point me in the right direction. I know it’s not much money, but it’s mine. B.V.

Dear B.V.: Playboy was taken private in 2011, and shareholders were paid $6.15 a share. You have one certificate for seven Class A shares and another for 21 Class B shares. So, in all, that would have been worth $172.20.

You can still cash these in by contacting Playboy’s transfer agent at the time, American Stock Transfer Co. in Brooklyn. The phone number is (888) 328-5369. There are some forms you will have to fill out.

But there is a lot more to the story about Playboy’s stock.

The certificates you showed me have a picture of a woman in flowing robes holding the globe. There’s a composite of various cities in the background.

These old certificates could possibly fetch $60 from collectors, according to Bob Kerstein, founder and chief executive of Scripophily.com, which deals in collectibles.

http://ep.yimg.com/ay/scripophily/playboy-enterprises-inc-24.gifBut that’s not the most interesting part of this story.

Before the ones you own were issued, Playboy certificates had the image of a naked woman at the top — the February 1971 Playmate named Willy Rey (real name: Wilhelmina Rietveld), who posed for the image when Playboy went public that year.

Those certificates, says Kerstein, are worth between $125 and $150 if they are in gold, and between $150 and $200 if they are blue.

Tragically, Willy Rey died of an overdose of sleeping pills in 1973 when she was 23 years old.

Her image stayed on the Playboy stock certificates until 1990, when the company recapitalized.

Why did Rey’s image get the boot? “The stock certificate quickly became a novelty, and at one point there were about 14,000 single shareholders,” making it costly for the company to keep issuing so many single shares, a Playboy spokesperson told me.
Dear Readers,

Your letters to John Crudele are streaming in fast and furiously, asking Dear John to right the wrongs you’re facing. Because of this influx, The Post Business section will feature more of your inquiries in the hope of helping you with your troubles.

Send your questions to Dear John, The New York Post, 1211 Ave. of the Americas, NY, NY 10036, or john.crudele@nypost.com

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Brent Brown @westernminingstocks.com

Tonopah! Goldfield! Bullfrog! Rawhide! These Nevada mining camps created near hysteria with word of a new strike. Thousands rushed to cash in on each new boom, creating towns or tent cities in a matter of months. “The
discovery of high-grade ore in a new area resulted in a flux of prospectors, promoters (honest and otherwise), newspapers, stores, gambling halls, men looking for work, and the general riff-raff looking for an easy dollar”, according to Hugh Shamburger in “Rawhide”. Saloons and red light districts sprang up overnight. These hard rock miners worked hard and they played hard
too. In a sense, these Nevada boomtowns were the last vestiges of the old West.

Although Nevada is known as the Silver state, it was the gold and silver discovery at Tonopah in 1900 that brought about a resurgence in Nevada.  When Jim Butler discovered the Mizpah Ledge it became famous world-wide. This accidental discovery was no flash in the pan as the Tonopah district produced $146 million of ore between 1900 and 1940, according to the Nevada
State Bureau of Mines.

Goldfield was next with the Sandstorm mine, located in 1903. The camp was such a huge success that in four short years it became Nevada’s largest city with a population of 20,000. The city boasted beautiful homes as well as world class hotels. According to Bessie Beatty in “Who’s Who In Nevada” written in 1907, “During at least three of these four years the attention of the entire world has been focused on this camp. The names of her mines have become common words on the Atlantic and Pacific coast…Everywhere men talk Goldfield. Many who have never seen a mine are familiar with “high grade”. “In Goldfield it
is the only thing that counts.” The mines of Goldfield produced over $86 million by 1940.

 In 1904, gold was found at Bullfrog. Shorty Harris and Ed Cross staked their claim and rushed to Goldfield to have their ore assayed. The first rock broken off by Shorty Harris showed $665 per ton in gold, and other samples reached $3,000 (Lingenfelter, Death Valley and the Amargosa). Miners rushed to Bullfrog from Tonopah and Goldfield.  In 1905, the Montgomery Shoshone Mine was yielding ore as high as $16,000 per ton! Lingenfelter called this mine “the new boss of Bullfrog”.

New mining camps sprang up in the vicinity including Rhyolite, the closest one to the Montgomery Shoshone. The Bullfrog hype then went into overdrive with George Graham Rice’s shrewd promotion. Telephone lines, electricity and railroad service came soon thereafter. With the opening of the Rhyolite Stock Exchange in 1907, seventy-four Bullfrog companies were listed and
traded. But, paraphrasing Lingenfelter, stock certificates, not bullion bars, were the chief product of most Bullfrog mines. The Bullfrog district produced little more than $3 million.

Rawhide, Nevada Street Scene RP Postcard, 1908

 Rawhide, Nevada ghost town pictured in 1908.

On Christmas Day, 1906, Jim Swanson located the Poor Boy claim just north of Grutt Hill at Rawhide. “The life of Rawhide was short, snappy, and complete. In the span of three years, it grew from two tents to a town of 10,000 people, was destroyed by fire, partially rebuilt, and then almost overnight practically deserted (Article by Joe McDonald reprinted in Rawhide by Hugh A. Shamberger). Most Nevada mining camps lasted between a decade and twenty five years, but Rawhide was different. The boom lasted only 3 years. Most of the Rawhide population had no money and at the beginning the town was mostly a tent
city. Many of the workers in town were working without salary with 2,500 fortune seekers digging in the hills around town.

But Rawhide attracted some notables such as Nat C. Goodwin, the comedian-actor who financed the Nat C. Goodwin Brokerage firm, run by the notorious George Graham Rice. In addition, Tex Rickard, owner of the Northern Saloons in Goldfield and in Rawhide, was a famous boxing promoter who had promoted the Gans-Nelson championship fight in Goldfield.

 The town of Rawhide became famous nationwide in September, 1908 when a spectacular fire erupted which nearly destroyed the entire camp. Although there were rebuilding attempts, the fire doomed the town. By January 1909, only 2,000 remained in Rawhide. A year later, it was only 500.

Collectors today can visit many of the old mining camps in Nevada. You can drive through Tonopah and Goldfield on the route from Reno to Las Vegas. There is a terrific mining park in Tonopah that tours the original grounds where Jim Butler made his discovery. A great trip to Death Valley can be made even more memorable with a trip to Rhyolite and the Bullfrog district. Some ruins of the bank building and the train depot are still evident. But a trip to Rawhide doesn’t yield much. A personal visit about ten years ago showed almost nothing to mark the existence of this great mining camp. Scavengers and bottle diggers had left little behind.

The above mining camps all had a colorful history. A certificate collector can focus on one or all of them to put together a great
and varied collection. A fun collecting angle might be to assemble a group of mining certificates from ghost towns.

The Nevada mining boom of this era was very reminiscent of the Internet bubble in 2000. Investors couldn’t get enough of these mining stocks even though most proved to be worthless.  Many of the mining companies were truly “holes in the ground” or
promotional schemes. But there were just enough true successes to make the believers “believe”.

 Pictured below are two examples of Nevada ghost town certificates:

Fairview Galena King Mining Co. Stock, Fairview, NV 1906

Fairview Galena King MC issued in 1906.

 A true ghost town, production in Fairview, Nevada ceased around 1917. Fairview is now closed off to visitors by the U.S. Government.

Proskey- Rawhide Mining & Leasing Co. Stock, Rawhide, NV 1908

Proskey- Rawhide Mining & Leasing Co.issued in 1908.

The Rawhide, Nevada boom lasted from 1908-1910. Nothing remains of the town or buildings. Today, there is an open pit gold mine at Rawhide.

Buster Keaton Stock Certificate

Buster Keaton Stock Certificate

By Fred Fuld III at AntiqueStocks.com

Author of the book: Let Me Entertain You with Antique Stock Certificates

Click to enlarge

Founders share signed by Buster Keaton as President!

The above certificate is for Flamingo Films, Inc., issued to and signed as president by Buster Keaton, the famous comedian, actor, director, producer, and screenwriter. The document is dated 1933, with a vignette of a government building. The company was incorporated in Florida.

In 1933, Keaton set up Flamingo as a production company in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he was living at the time. He lived in a Spanish-style five-bedroom house that overlooked Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, due to construction problems, producer and crew issues, and the weather, the studio was dissolved before making any movies.

Keaton was born Joseph Frank Keaton in Piqua, Kansas in 1895. He was a comedy actor, director, and producer who received an Academy Honorary Award. He was known as “The Great Stone Face” due to his lack of change of expression in movies. He was also known for his porkpie hat, the design of which he created himself. He would go though at least half dozen hats with each film.

Keaton appeared in numerous motion pictures, both silent and sound, and is most known for his acting in The General, The Navigator, and Sherlock, Jr.

Disston Land Company signed by Hamilton Disston (Florida Land Company) – 1894

History from Bob.com, Founder Scripophily.com

Beautifully RARE certificate from the Disston Land Company issued in 1894. This historic document was printed by the W. F. Murray’s & Son Company of Philadelphia and has an ornate border around it with a vignette of an eagle in the center flanks by palm trees and a lake. This item has the signatures of the Company’s President, Hamilton Disston and is over 112 years old. 17 coupons attached on bottom (not shown in scan).

Scripophily.com is a name you can TRUST!
Certificate Vignette

Scripophily.com is a name you can TRUST!
Hamilton Disston’s Signature

Scripophily.com is a name you can TRUST!
Bond showing some coupons

Scripophily.com is a name you can TRUST!
New York Times Article – May 1, 1896

Scripophily.com is a name you can TRUST!
New York Times Article – July 12, 1900

Hamilton Disston (August 23, 1844 – April 30, 1896), was an industrialist and real-estate developer who purchased four million acres (16,000 km²) of Florida land in 1881, an area larger than the state of Connecticut, and reportedly the most land ever purchased by a single person in world history. Disston was the son of Pennsylvania-based industrialist Henry Disston who formed Disston & Sons Saw Works, which Hamilton later ran and which was one of the largest saw manufacturing companies in the world.

Hamilton Disston’s investment in the infrastructure of Florida spurred growth throughout the state. His related efforts to drain the Everglades triggered the state’s first land boom with numerous towns and cities established through the area. Disston’s land purchase and investments were directly responsible for creating or fostering the towns of Kissimmee, St. Cloud, Gulfport, Tarpon Springs, and indirectly aided the rapid growth of St. Petersburg, Florida. He furthermore oversaw the successful cultivation of rice and sugarcane near the Kissimmee area.

Although Disston’s engineered canals aided water transport and steamboat traffic in Florida, he was ultimately unsuccessful in draining the Kissimmee River floodplain or lowering the surface water around Lake Okeechobee and in the Everglades. He was forced to sell much of his investments at a fraction of their original costs. However, his land purchase primed Florida’s economy and allowed railroad magnates Henry Flagler and Henry Plant to build rail lines down the east coast of Florida, and another joining the west coast, which directly led to the domination of the tourist and citrus industries in Florida. Disston’s immediate impact was in the Philadelphia area, where he was active in Republican politics and a philanthropist, but his legacy is often associated with the draining and development of Florida.

Hamilton Disston was born in Philadelphia, the eldest son of nine children born to Mary Steelman and Henry Disston, an English immigrant and descendant of French nobility. Disston’s father was a successful industrialist who rose from being orphaned just days after arriving in the United States to running the highly lucrative Keystone Saw Works when Hamilton was a child. Henry Disston was responsible for multiple machining and saw patents, and in the spirit of Victorian-era paternalism, envisioned and engineered a community around his steel factory in Tacony, Pennsylvania. After attending public school, Hamilton left at 15 years old, opting for an apprenticeship at the saw factory which, by that time, was a $500,000-per-year international venture. His father threatened to fire him for repeatedly leaving the factory to work for a volunteer fire department. Hamilton twice joined the Union Army only to have Henry purchase his release, but Hamilton organized a Company of saw factory employees during the Gettysburg Campaign. Henry finally agreed to support the “Disston Volunteers” financially.

After the American Civil War, Hamilton Disston returned to work in his father’s factory as an executive. In 1878, following the death of Henry Disston, Hamilton and his brothers Horace, William, and Jacob inherited the company which had been renamed to Henry Disston & Sons. Hamilton became the controlling member of the 2,000-employee company and expanded production to 1.4 million hacksaws and three million files per year. Only a month after Henry’s death, Hamilton gave President Rutherford B. Hayes a tour of the factory where an unshaped piece of steel was manufactured into a 26-inch (660 mm) hand saw in only 42 minutes, and was presented to the president at the end of the tour—etched with his name.

While the saw manufacturing business continued growing, Disston branched out, investing in a chemical firm, a Chinese railroad, real estate in Atlantic City, New Jersey and mining in the western United States.

In the 1840s and 1850s, the sparsely populated state of Florida came to own approximately 15,000,000 acres (61,000 km2) of mostly swamp land, granted by the U.S. Congress to states with wetlands for the purpose of reclaiming the land under water by constructing canals and levees. In Florida, consolidated grants for the purpose of building rail infrastructure and reclaiming wetlands were placed in a trust called the Internal Improvement Fund of the State of Florida (IIF). The trust fund was managed by the Governor of Florida and four state officials. The fund pledged land to railroad companies and guaranteed bonds issued by the railroad companies on the land. When the high costs associated with the American Civil War and Reconstruction caused railroad companies to default on the bonds, the fund became liable and rapidly sank into debt and eventually into Federal Court receivership. By the time Governor George Franklin Drew took office in 1877, the fund was nearly $1 million in debt. The state constitution forbade issuing bonds to repay it; investors were not interested in Florida, no rail lines were built, and progress in the state stalled.

In 1877, diplomat Henry Shelton Sanford invited Disston, an avid sport fisherman, on a fishing trip through Florida.[13][14][7] During the trip, Disston realized the possibility that enormous tracts of land could be reclaimed for agriculture by using canals to drain Florida’s Lake Okeechobee.

An application for foreclosure of the IIF and its land was filed in federal court in 1880. Negotiations to relieve the debt were held with various potential investors, including Sanford and Alexander St. Clair-Abrams, but did not come to fruition.Disston and five associates, meanwhile, entered into a land reclamation contract with the Internal Improvement Fund in January 1881.[ The contract stipulated that Disston and associates would be deeded half of whatever land his Atlantic and Gulf Coast Canal and Okeechobee Land Company reclaimed around Lake Okeechobee, the Kissimmee, Caloosahatchee and Miami Rivers. Congressman and Disston family friend, William D. “Pig Iron” Kelley, described Disston’s first contract: “He instituted broad preliminary investigations from which he received satisfactory reports; he surveyed the entire field of the proposed work, and with Napoleonic instinct and foresight saw in the proposition an opportunity to promote his country’s welfare by the reclamation of a more than kingly domain.

Disston stood to gain up to 12,000,000 acres (49,000 km2) with his drainage contract, although it would displace numerous squatters. Florida’s Armed Occupation Act of 1842 had granted land to squatters in order to force the local Seminole Indians off the land, but Disston’s contract would force the squatters off any land that Disston could show was submerged. The drainage contract, however, was in jeopardy because it did not affect the massive debt bearing down on the Internal Improvement Fund. Court orders related to the debt threatened to derail the contract so Governor William D. Bloxham visited Disston in Philadelphia to persuade him to relieve the debt. During the visit, Disston tentatively agreed to purchase four million acres (16,000 km²) of Internal Improvement Fund land for 25 cents per acre, an agreement which became a formal contract on June 1, 1881. Disston signed the contract on June 14 and The New York Times described the transaction with, “What is claimed to be the largest purchase of land ever made by a single person in the world”. It made him the largest landowner in the United States. On December 17, 1881, Disston sold two million acres (8,000 km²) of his land to English Member of Parliament, Sir Edward James Reed, for $600,000.

A photograph taken circa 1900 showing a canal dredged by Disston’s company, running through a sugar plantation also owned by Disston near St. Cloud, FloridaWhile some in Florida disapproved of the sale for giving away the land too cheaply, its positive effects on the state were undeniable.[27] In the four years following Disston’s purchase, four times as many rail lines were added than the 20 preceding years. Land sales multiplied six times after the sale and the state’s taxable property value doubled. Around 150,000 tourists came to Florida during the winter of 1884 alone.

To lure more people to Florida, Disston opened real estate offices across America as well as England, Scotland, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Denmark. He promoted himself as owning two-thirds of the entire state. These efforts drew people to the Orlando area; and the major cities of Sarasota and Naples, Florida grew out of land sold by Disston. Fort Myers became the base of his Caloosahatchee River dredging efforts and its population rapidly increased. Disston’s headquarters were on the shores of Lake Tohopekaliga and became the city of Kissimmee.

Disston “recreationed” in politics, starting as early as 1876 in local issues. He and three other industrialists in Philadelphia—James McManes, William Leeds, and David Lane— were known as the “Big Four”, controlling Republican nominations and appointments to city positions in a machine system until new political bosses replaced them in 1890. His wealth allowed him to associate with tycoons and political celebrities, and he was often sought after to advise politicians though he refused to run for office.[32] He publicly supported future president Benjamin Harrison, Congressman William D. Kelley, and political boss Matthew Quay.

In 1883, he arranged for President Chester A. Arthur, a fellow Republican, to take a fishing trip to Kissimmee as part of a large publicity campaign for the city. Disston founded a 20,000-acre (81 km2) sugar plantation, out of which sprang the city of St. Cloud. Refineries for the plantation were constructed in Kissimmee and near Lake Okeechobee.

The key to Disston’s Florida plans was a massive dredging effort to drain the Kissimmee River floodplain that flows into Lake Okeechobee, to remove the surface water in the Everglades and the surrounding lands regardless of season.[10] The canals were engineered to guide the overflow of Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River and then into the Atlantic Ocean in the east; the Caloosahatchee River overflow was directed to the Gulf of Mexico in the west, and eventually canals were to be constructed south through the Everglades. Disston was advised to begin with a large canal connecting Lake Okeechobee with the St. Lucie but the prohibitive costs forced him to begin with smaller dredging operations to straighten the Kissimmee River and to connect Lake Okeechobee with the Caloosahatchee.[38] Dredging commenced around Lake Okeechobee during the winter of 1881–1882.[39] In June 1883, a report concluded that the Kissimmee valley was indeed drying up as Disston planned, and another report a year later reported further drainage with nearly 3,000,000 acres (12,000 km2) of reclaimed land credited to Disston.

Disston City

In addition to dredging, Disston’s plans included the creation of a major city in the Tampa Bay area to rival the budding city of Tampa. By 1884, he established the Lake Butler Villa Company, one of four land companies he operated. Disston founded the town of Tarpon Springs, much of which was built by Lake Butler Villa Company, including a commercial pier and two hotels, using lumber from his sawmill in Atlantic City, New Jersey. After deciding that Tarpon Springs would not become the metropolis he hoped for, Disston shifted his efforts south and established a town he called Disston City. He invested heavily in steamboats and built a wharf, a school, and the area’s first hotel.[5][36] In 1885, a Maryland doctor declared the area to be the healthiest in the world which drew many investors and developers including F. A. Davis, who partnered with Disston’s brother, Jacob, in further developing the Pinellas peninsula, where Pinellas County was established.

In the mid-1880s, Russian developer Peter Demens was building the Orange Belt Railway across central Florida with a planned western terminus in the Tampa Bay area. On December 1, 1886, Disston offered Demens approximately 60,000 acres (240 km2) of land to stretch his railroad to Disston City. Demens countered with a demand of an additional 50,000 acres (200 km2) but Disston refused, mistakenly believing that Disston City would thrive if the railroad merely came close to the area. Instead Demens terminated his railway at St. Petersburg, which he named after Saint Petersburg, his home city in Russia. While Disston City never met Disston’s expectations and became the small city of Gulfport, St. Petersburg reaped the rewards of Demens’s railway and became one of the largest cities in Florida.

Further information: Draining and development of the Everglades Disston’s success at draining peninsular Florida quickly turned to disappointment. The positive report of his drainage results in 1883 was followed by a dreadful report in 1887. While it still credited Disston with draining parts of the upper Kissimmee valley, it credited a drought with drying the area north of Lake Okeechobee. Meanwhile, Lake Okeechobee—which typically rises and falls seasonally, and is affected by the frequent flooding and droughts associate with the Florida climate—was inundated despite Disston’s canals, and the only canal out of the lake that Disston actually completed resulted in the Caloosahatchee River flooding the surrounding area. Furthermore, Disston’s planned canals to the east and south out of Lake Okeechobee had not materialized.

The 1887 commission concluded that Disston had received 1,200,000 acres (4,900 km2) which he had not earned. Disston, however, reached a compromise whereby he would keep land that he had been given in return for spending $200,000 to improve drainage including improving the flow of the canals he had already dug. In total, he dug over 80 miles (130 km) of canals and received 1,600,000 acres (6,500 km2) of land under the terms of his first drainage contract of January 1881. Although he never finished his canal plans for Lake Okeechobee, and the Everglades remained relatively unaffected by the structures intended to drain them, he was formally credited with reclaiming large portions of land and generally improving the drainage of peninsular Florida.

Regardless of the lack of success in Disston’s canals, the money he paid to the Internal Improvement Fund allowed other industrialists to take an interest in the development of Florida. In the early 1880s, railroad tycoon Henry Morrison Flagler spent a vacation in the town of St. Augustine, a brief distance south of Jacksonville, and enchanted with it, decided to build an opulent hotel there. He extended the rail line—renaming it the Jacksonville, St. Augustine & Indian River Railway—to Daytona Beach, and then to Lake Worth, then Palm Beach. As the railroad was built, citrus farms followed, and Flagler constructed hotels down the east coast, envisioning a version of the French Riviera in Florida. A friendly competition developed between Flagler and another railroad magnate named Henry Bradley Plant. While Flagler oversaw the construction of rail lines and hotels along the east coast, Plant concentrated on extending the railroad from Sanford to Tampa, crossing the state and connecting the coasts. At the terminus of this line he built the exquisite Tampa Bay Hotel, opened in 1891.

Disston himself continued living in Disston City until more bad fortune prompted his return to Philadelphia. The financial Panic of 1893, the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act of 1894 and two devastating freezes caused financial difficulties and he mortgaged his Florida assets for $2 million.[41][45]

On April 30, 1896, Disston had dinner with the mayor of Philadelphia and attended a theatre production with his wife in Philadelphia.[45] The following morning, he was found dead at age 51. Although some claim that Disston committed suicide in his bathtub with a self-inflicted gunshot to the head, almost every obituary, as well as the official coroner’s report, stated that he died of heart disease in bed. The New York Times further reported that, several months before his death, Disston suffered from a bout of typhoid pneumonia.

He was poignantly mourned in Philadelphia as a benevolent employer of over 3,000 and a rare businessman who treated his employees exceptionally well. The Chicago Tribune wrote that he was “peculiar in his ideas. His hand was always in his pocket and his influence always for his less successful fellow-men to whom he took a fancy.” He was reported in 1889 to give $17,000 in Christmas gifts to his employees. His philanthropy branched out in other areas as well. In 1882 he sponsored the immigration of approximately 40 or 50 Russian Jewish families and purchased homes for them, assuring they would settle in Pennsylvania.

At the time of his death, Disston’s estate was valued at $100,000 but he also carried a $1 million life insurance policy, the second largest policy in the United States.[2][45] His family had no interest in Florida and creditors foreclosed on his Florida mortgage four years after his death.[45] Henry Flagler’s railroad reached a settlement of a little more than 500 people named Miami the year Disston died.

Hamilton Disston was married with a son and two daughters, all of whom survived him. He was a Presbyterian and a Mason. He was described as a fun-loving socialite as evidenced by a yacht he owned named Mischief. But he was also known as a hard-working executive whose gentle facial features were balanced with intense eyes described by one reporter as: “like that of the great eagle in the cage at the Tampa Bay Hotel, that can look straight at the sun without a tear, or even a blink.”

History from Wikipedia and OldCompany.com (old stock certificate research service).

Sports Authority, Inc. – 1995

$250.00 – Sports – Beautifully engraved specimen certificate from the Sports Authority, Inc. printed in 1995. This historic document was printed by the American Banknote Company and has an
ornate border around it with a vignette of different athletes form around the would. This item has the printed signatures of the…