1795 · Philadelphia
First edition: the organization and prospectus of the North American Land Company.
In February of 1795, Robert Morris, also known as the "Financier of the American Revolution," founded the North American Land Company, along with James Greenleaf and John Nicholson. The company would grow to become one of the largest land trusts in American history, with 30,000 shares of stock, each valued at $100, and a total of 6 million acres of land in the District of Columbia, Georgia, Kentucky, the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and present-day West Virginia. However, from the outset, the company was plagued by serious financial and logistical difficulties. The company had trouble securing loans and stock from European investors, the authenticity of many of their land titles was thrown into question, and several tracts of land were almost impossible to sell, such as their 2 million acres of non-arable land in the Georgia "Pine Barrens." Throughout the 1780s and '90s, the founders speculated immensely in various land deals and became very wealthy, but by 1798, all three found themselves in deep debt. Greenleaf was embezzling company funds and engaging in corruption, and eventually, all three of them became bankrupt and were sent to debtors' prison. This scheme marked the downfall of Morris, a former delegate to the Continental Congress, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and friend of George Washington, who was released after almost four years but remained heavily in debt for the rest of his life. The company folded in 1872 after the heirs could not afford to maintain the company and stopped paying taxes on the lands.
Evans 29220; Howes P-412; Sabin 55548; De Renne I, p. 270; Vail 1035. (Inventory #: 39670)