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12 June 2008
THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR
MORRIS, Robert. Partly printed document signed ("Robt. Morris"), Philadelphia, 4 August 1792. 1 page, 4to, embossed seal along left margin, matted and framed.
A SCARCE SHARE OF STOCK IN MORRIS'S DELAWARE AND SCHUYLKILL NAVIGATION COMPANY, signed by Morris as company president, and counter-signed by treasurer Tench Francis. It grants one share of stock to Anthony Du Plaine (stock number 1395). Morris hoped to capitalize on the transportation revolution taking shape in the expanding, young republic. His company spent nearly a half million dollars but only built about 15 miles of canal before it went broke. It was one of many casualties of Morris's stupendous financial crash a few years later.
The nation's former superintendent of finance (from 1781-1784). Morris invested in many ventures during the 1790s, none more heavily than land. His North American Land Company was probably the greatest real estate trust ever established in all of American history. Its six million acres of holdings across six states were managed by just three men: Morris and his partners John Nicholson and John Greenleaf, and the latter proved corrupt. When Greenleaf's frauds came to light, the heavily leveraged company was crushed, and Morris's holdings were buried in the resulting avalanche of debt, foreclosure and litigation. Committed to debtor's prison from 1797 to 1801, he died in 1806.
Examples of Morris's Delaware and Schuylkill Canal stock certificates are distinctly rare. Only two others have sold at auction over the last 30 years.
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