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have nothing to say until the damage is done beyond recall.
If some new patent medicine or novel article of diet is to be turned into a company, the prospectus appears emblazoned with the opinions of all the unknown medical gentlemen on the Continent, with whole alphabets after their names.
These are published to show the value of the drug or food as a builder up of infant tissue, a regenerator of unstrung nerves, and an article which "no family medicine chest or cupboard should be without.”
One other form of bait turning on the question of “confidence" must be here alluded to. If you already hold shares in a company, you may be surprised occasionally to receive a circular or letter addressed to you by a co-shareholder in the capacity of a private friend, and marked confidential. This asks. you to join in some other undertaking in which he takes an interest, and which has not the remotest connexion with the one you already belong to; or you will be appealed to to take up debentures which are too good for the general public, and therefore are to be privately placed. This fellow-shareholder will most likely be a promoter,—an accountant or solicitor,-for the new scheme; and it is well known that such gentlemen take a few shares in many companies that they may approach their co-shareholders on personal grounds, and, while assuming a mock interest for your financial success, at the same time endeavour to use the appeal for their professional ends to secure themselves a commission or some other stake in the concern they recommend.
Or when a company is in a critical condition, the finances at low ebb, and fresh batch of debentures is to be issued, it is usual, before this is made known, to give a spasmodic impetus to the existing shares by advertising a good find, which only requires additional machinery to bring it to a successful issue. Thus they lift the ordinary shares to a respectable figure and can the more confidently ask for the capital they desire. One well-advertised United States Lead Smelting Company, which recently professed an anxiety to be owned by English investors in place of Americans, was paying monthly dividends of 9 per cent. for a considerable time while the process of absorption was going on. When this was completed, the dividends, which were in future to be paid quarterly, suddenly ceased; and it was discovered that the company all the time it had been lavishly paying these dividends was getting deeper and deeper into debt and had in some measure ignored its ordinary obligations.
These observations may be fitly closed by an extract from a paragraph which appeared in the Standard of 5th February, 1883. It related to a meeting of the creditors of a gentleman formerly an ironfounder in Rotherham, and shows that even the wary in general business matters are liable to be “gulled” by promoters. It appears that the debtor “had a few years since accumulated a fortune of £30,000, and it may be assumed that in his own business he was a shrewd and practical business man. Tempted by alluring advertisements of promoters, he began to invest his money in limited liability companies, and the result is that he has paid away in hard cash £32,000, and is liable for nearly €54,000 more for calls. As it may be assumed that J. H. was not more stupid or credulous than the public generally, the story of his failure may serve as a useful lesson as to the risks incurred by those who are gullible enough to swallow the golden baits of promoters. Not one in twenty of the schemes offered to the public promises less than a certain 20 per cent.; not one in twenty ever pays a single farthing. Such was the experience of T. H. He spent £32,000 in cash; he was liable for 653,800, and his total assets, which we may suppose were the few shares in companies which were still of value, amounted to £1,715. The man who has a little spare capital which he will not miss if he loses may gamble in limited liability companies, although the chances would be much more in his favour if he went to Monaco and risked it on the tables; but for a man to invest the savings, upon which his wife and children may have to depend, in a newly brought-out limited liability company is little short of madness."
WORD-PAINTING AND OTHER ILLUSTRATIONS.
“Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothings
'HE highest aims of art in writing and illustrating are
to convey the ideas and thoughts of the artist to the minds of those who read or see his works. His genius either is imitative, and depicts things which exist and can be seen, or creative, and calls into being things dependent for their existence upon his powers of imagination. The measure of his success is estimated by the extent to which he can impress upon others the reality and naturalness of what is artificial, or enhance the value of what is already known and accepted. On the capacity of making a man see something that never has had and never is likely to have an existence depends the success of the prospectus painter. He revels in imagery. Nothing is too small to escape his notice, nothing too great to be beyond his reach. The power so to manipulate words and figures as to give an intending shareholder a distinct and accurate view of a dividend which never will be realised, to show him a property with only a very shadowy existence as something real and substantial, is one which is given to none but the thorough expert in his art.
Everything material and immaterial is enlisted to do service on his behalf. GEOLOGY is wooed, the earth's crust is broken and the veil drawn aside, so that the investor may peer into the interior and behold the gold and silver and tin and copper and coal, that only await the magic and homeopathic touch of the most precious of retals to make them living realities. NATURAL GEOGRAPHY is set at naught, and rivers and waterfalls supplied to order in the most convenient localities for driving the machinery where the mine is supposed to be situated. Difficulties of transit are accomplished across miles and miles of country that have never before had a beaten track, and inland neighbourhoods suddenly, by some heroic effort, have become planted on the sea-shore with every facility for shipment of the produce. Climates are manufactured to suit the most fastidious tastes and fertility abounds and food is plentiful in parts where ordinary mortals expected to find arid deserts. NATURAL PHILOSOPHY is carefully studied and the mysteries of science laid bare to all who desire to become more intimately acquainted with them. Air, earth, fire and water,-the elements known to the ancients,-electricity and acoustics, --specialities of our own days,- besides prognostications of unknown forces of the future, all are chained to the chariot and bound to yield to the wand of this magician. The laws of population, so inexact, and to many impenetrable, are in his grasp perfectly pliable. Labour is everywhere abundant, and consumers eagerly await the goods to be consumed, in places which were commonly before thought to be uninhabited. The less that is known of a country and its physical and social characteristics by the wiseacres of the present generation the better is our artist acquainted with it. The only limit imposed upon him is the credulity of those whom he addresses, and this he fancies to be limitless.
Nowadays great painters and clever writers accumulate, by perseverance and industry, vast fortunes; but their successes pale when brought into contrast with those of the artists who compile, write and paint for the industry which has for its object the promotion of joint-stock companies.
As truth is said to be “stranger than fiction,” the instances of word-painting given in this and the few following chapters are taken from actual prospectuses of comparatively recent date, and so can easily be confirmed. The truth extends to the faithfulness of the extracts,-much of their matter we may not uncharitably assume to be fiction. That these may not appear in all their barrenness it has been thought well to accompany them by a short statement of the subsequent careers of the companies and how far their brightest hopes have been realised or falsified. Leading up to an invitation for subscriptions to float a company which took its name from the place of its operations, we are told to believe that “KWARTZ Hill is one of “the grandest depositories of wealth that the world
possesses. Here is a network of mineral veins, spurs, and "feeders, and a number of great lodes such as are rarely "seen in any country. Millions in gold have been taken
from this hill, and there are millions in it yet.-See “Fossett's Colorado,' page 324." The capital of this company was £205,000, of which £150,000 was to be presented to the vendors. Of course it was said to be a "going concern,” and “it is confidently anticipated that the
proceeds will enable the company to pay quarterly “dividends from the completion of the purchase.” After being in litigation for more than a year, it was wound up and brought out under another name, the members getting one share, nominally worth 5s., for every two £1 shares in the original undertaking, or equal to 2s. 6d. nominally in every £ 1 they had paid. An unfortunate shareholder in this company would get a perfect insight into the numerous risks of investing his savings in joint-stock enterprises of this description. It had a heavy capital, most of which was paid to certain vendors, leaving nothing to work the mine; there was an attack by wreckers shortly after it was floated, a prompt resignation of the directors when called to account for their trust, and a new board, which could not be considered responsible for the fatalities attaching to the forsaken ship. It need hardly be added that the dividends from the "going concern " are not yet in sight, although two years have now elapsed.
Take another instance of “gush” in an admitted swindle started two and a half years ago,—the GREAT WHEAL TOLBOOTH, now quietly reposing in Chancery. The capital was put at the modest amount of £100,000, and £65,000 in shares and cash had to go to the vendors. Now, it is usual for promoters of foreign mines to say that home mines are worked out, and home mines must retort by having a hit at those abroad. This one's prospectus, printed in different colours, black and red predominating, said “Cornwall has been famed for centuries “ for its enormous wealth in copper and tin, and for the “fortunes which have been made there. There is probably "no richer area of ground in the world than Cornwall, not "even excepting gold-bearing regions; and, as gold mines “ in India and America are too far off to allow shareholders " to satisfy themselves as to the bona fides of the property
brought before them, or to inspect the mines from time " to time, no investment can offer better inducement than
a good English tin and copper mine of proved mineral “wealth, and worked under the management of a Board “of Directors skilled in mining matters. This mine has " already returned, it is estimated, over £200,000 in profits, “while the £5 shares rose to £195 each. This, too, with " the disadvantage of inferior machinery. 30,000 shares "have been already applied for, and further applications
may now be sent in. When this bubble burst it was found that the public had subscribed over £25,000 to it, and the promoter with some of the officers and engineers
skilled in mining matters ” turned out to be one and the same man, under different aliases. This was only one of a number of similar companies he had brought out in a like manner, and, having disposed of the money to his friends or nominees, of course it was gone for ever. The