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1880 Panama Canal Company

 

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Stock Code VM-PAC1880

  Share certificate for FF500 in this company incorporated to build the Panama Canal .

Certificate size is 20 cm high x 18 cm wide (8" x 7") plus attached coupons. It can be mounted in a mahogany frame, with gold inlay, if required.

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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 honoured 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 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.
 

 

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