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Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interocéanique de Panama,
S.A. au Capital de 300 millions de Francs
Societé Civile d'Amortissement des obligations du Canal de Panama Émission de Mars 1888, avec responsabilité limitée à la mise sociale
(with facsimile signature of Ferdinant de Lesseps, famous builder of the Suez Canal. in Egypt).
---------- Paris, le 14 Mars 1888; Obligation Nouvelle au porteur Remboursable à Mille Francs dans une Emission de 350.000 obligations, authorisée par l'Assemblée Général du 29 Juillet 1985; size 19 by 14 cm., same engraving as above by Stern in Paris, brown, red stamp from the liquidator, red stamp or print indicating that this is a duplicate;, blue stamps "3e série", no coupons, VF: glue remains in left upper corner, some tiny staple holes; very rare !, price 125 Euro.
Design of the shares and bonds (based on the book by Grigore (1997), see below):
The 21 by 40 cm light blue stock certificate was engraved by A. Stern, Paris,and printed by Société Anonyme de Publications Periodique - Imprimerie P. Mouillot, 13 Quai Voltaire, Paris, Their names are centered below the portrait of the certificate. But it is not known who designed the stock certificate. This portrait measures 117 mm x 167 mm from border to border and its thematic vignette reveals the Western Hemisphere in a partial globe of the world; two reclining bare-busted maidens allegorically depicting North and South America, clasping hands across a sea-level Panama Canal, with a ship exiting from the Cut; and a steamship in the lower corners. n the left and right columns is a telegraph pole, partially screened by palm fronds, on which there are affixed three banners listing countries of the world that would benefit from uniting the Atlantic and Pacific Ocenans via the Isthmus of Panama. Clasping the base of the left pole is a white and Asian child, implying the West's trade with the east. Atv the right pole is a white and black child, implying the West's trade with Africa. Telegraph poles support a large, single banner on which is cited the legal authority for the bond's issue, its capitalization, its title, intent, type, and serial number.
History (based on the book by Grigore (1997), see below):
Although the issue of the shares in 1880 was probably all with good and honest intentions, the entire undertaking ended up in the greatest engineering and financial disaster, followed by the worst political scandal, the world had ever known. It was an embarrassment to France. But, at the beginning of this undertaking Ferdinand de Lesseps, builder of the Suez canal (finished in 1869), which halved the journey time from Europe to the Indies, was the world’s most decorated and honored personage. He was compared to Columbus. In 1879 France was a rich nation and hubristic overconfident in what it could achieve, with its colonies, technological developments, science and art, boasting of luminaries such as Victor Hugo, de Lesseps, Pasteur, Eiffel and Sarah Bernhardt. Unfortunately the world’s largest commercial enterprise was fatally destined to become the most disastrous financial failure the world had ever seen.
The issue of the blue shares in 1880 is the only issue of shares in the company actually placed (an 1879 share issue was cancelled). Beyond that many bonds were issued.
The march 1888 bond issue was placed only to the extend of 25,7 %, even worse than the june 1888 bond (40,1%), but not as bad as the july 1889 lottery bond (13,1%), but that was after the company had ceased its operations. Only 89.890 bonds were placed in march 1888, by far the smallest number placed of all bond issues. Much less are available for collectors these days. It are rare pieces, really.
The company ceased operations on December 14th 1888. On february 4th 1889 the companies’ bankruptcy plea was accepted. The canal was less than 40% dug at a cost of an estimated 22.000 deaths and an expenditure of about $ 1,400,000,000 in today’s (1997) currency. It has been repeatedly reported that one third of this vast amount was spent on canal work, one third was wasted and one third was stolen.
It was the worst financial catastrophe ever suffered by the French people. As a consequence, the French Government’s prestige throughout the world was shattered.
In 1904 the United States Government purchaased all the assets and rights necessary for it to complete the Panama Canal, what they finally achieved in 1914.
----- Grigore, Julius Jr. (1997), Stocks and Bonds Issued by the Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interocéanique de Panama, 1880-1889 and Compagnie Nouvelle du Canal de Panama, 1894, ISBN 0-9715805-1-0; W.G. Guy (publ.): Balboa, Panama, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, price $70 + shipment., ca. 180 pages, ring bound, with many illusttrations in colour or black & white of stocks issued and a large variety of parafernalia. Warmly recommended !
----- Der Panamakanal wird 100, Technisches Weltwunder: BILDERSERIE: www.n-tv.de, 2014
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