L. R. Steel Company, Inc.


SKU: 4749

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Product Details


Nicely engraved antique stock certificate from L. R. Steel Company, Inc. dating back to the 1920's. This document, which is signed by the company Vice President and Secretary, was printed by the Franklin-Lee Division of the American Bank Note Company and measures approximately 11 1/4" (w) by 7 1/2" (h).


You will receive the exact certificate pictured.

    Historical Context

    In the early days of the Roaring ’20s, Buffalo was booming, and so was an innovative retail business founded and inspired by the charismatic Leonard Rambler Steel.

    Steel’s offices and shops employed hundreds at handsome wages and sold reasonably priced goods to many more at the company’s five-and-dime on Broadway, lingerie and hat shop on Main Street, cafeteria on Washington Street and candy shop at Lafayette Square.

    But Steel’s impact on this community, which was both his home and his company’s headquarters, stretched far beyond employees and customers. Steel’s companies sold stock to thousands of investors, mostly middle-class people who wanted to be part of the company’s skyrocketing popularity. Steel believed this would ensure the stockholders’ loyalty as they shopped for everything from fresh eggs to his planned “special type of automobile.”

    The “House of Steel,” as Steel’s many interwoven companies came to be known during the four years of swift expansion, lofty plans and lavish spending, seemed invincible, until January 26, 1923, when the company came up short on a huge loan payment. In the resulting crash, most investors, including Steel, lost everything.


    On that fateful January day, Steel’s executives, meeting in downtown Buffalo, persuaded him to resign. But even their more conservative leadership could not save the company. An audit found that 60,000 people had invested $20 million in Steel’s enterprises, which had few liquid assets. Some creditors were paid and parts of the company, including a store on Hertel Avenue, hung on until 1930, but after that, the grandiose House of Steel was just a painful memory for most.

    Undefeated, Steel began a cross-country train trip to meet with bankers. On March 21, 1923, while the train was passing through Ohio, Steel suffered a massive stroke and died at age 44. His grave in Forest Lawn is marked by a small, ground-level stone engraved with just his name and the years of his birth and death.