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New York Central Sleeping Car Company (Signed by William Webb)


SKU: 246
Product Details

Intricately engraved antique stock certificate from the New York Central Sleeping Car Company dating back to the 1880's. This document, which is signed by the company President (William Webb) and Secretary, was printed by the Harch Lithographic Co. and measures approximately 11 1/2" (w) by 9 1/4" (h). 


This certificate features a nice vignette of a train steaming past a river boat. 

You will receive the exact certificate pictured. Please note close cropping to left side border.

    Historical Context

    The New York Central Sleeping Car Company, founded in 1858 in New York City by Webster Wagner (1817-1882) in cooperation with Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, whose New York Central was the primary user of the four original coaches.

    Wagner learned the wagon-making trade from his elder brother, with whom he formed a partnership. When that business failed, he become a station agent for the NYC in his home town of Palatine Bridge, NY, where he apparently came to the attention of the Commodore.

    In 1869, the Gates Sleeping Car Company was absorbed and the firm reorganized as the Wagner Palace Car Company. Gates had been one of the earliest -- if not the earliest -- of the sleeping car companies. Its bunk-type cars had been in operation on the Lake Shore Railroad as early as 1858.

    About 1870 Wagner negotiated a deal with Pullman to use its berths in the Wagner cars, with the understanding Wagner would confine its operations to the NYC. But in 1875, when Pullman’s contract with the Michigan Central (a NYC subsidiary) expired, Wagner persuaded them to switch to Wagner cars. Pullman sued. The suit went to court and testimony was taken until it became clear there was a great similarity between the seats in question and those used in 1843 by the Erie Railroad, at which point the suit was suddenly settled out-of-court.

    Webster Wagner died in 1882 aboard one of his own sleeping cars in a terrible rear-end collision. The company nevertheless continued doing business, and in 1888 was in court again with Pullman, this time for having allegedly infringing Pullman’s vestibule patents. This time Pullman clearly won.

    The Wagner Palace Car Company was one of the largest employers in Buffalo in 1890. The factory was located at 1770 Broadway out at the east end of Broadway near Broadway and Bailey. In addition to brass finishers, the company employed blacksmiths, car builders, carpenters, carvers, marble finishers, steamfitters and even a storekeeper! Most of these workers lived on the East Side of Buffalo. They probably either walked, rode a bicycle or took a horse drawn street car to work.

    The battles between Pullman and Wagner continued until, at the end of 1899, following Commodore Vanderbilt’s death, the directors of the Wagner Palace Car Company pulled the plug, and the company was sold to Pullman.

    William Webb


    William Webb's Signature

    William Webb's Signature

    Dr. William Seward Webb (January 31, 1851-October 29, 1926) was a son of Civil War Gen. James Watson Webb (1802-1884). He studied medicine in Vienna, Paris and Berlin. Returning to America, he entered the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and graduated from there in 1875. For several years he practiced medicine, and then forsook the profession for finance at the behest of his wife's family, establishing the Wall Street firm of W. S. Webb & Co. In 1883, he married Eliza Osgood Vanderbilt, daughter of William H. Vanderbilt. Eliza's brother George went on to create Biltmore, one of America's grandest country estates.

    In 1883 Webster Wagner, the president of the Wagner Palace Car Company, was crushed between two of his own railroad cars. Vanderbilt owned a controlling interest in the company, and asked his new son-in-law to take over the firm. William Seward invited his brother H. Walter Webb to join him, which started them both on careers in the railroad business. The Wagner Palace Car Company was subsequently merged with the Pullman Company. Dr. Webb later became President of the Fulton Chain Railway Company, the Fulton Navigation Company, and the Raquette Lake Transportation Company. He was the builder and President of the Mohawk and Malone Railway. His railroads were instrumental in opening the Adirondacks to the tourism rush of the mid- to late 19th century.

    The Webb property at Shelburne, Vermont was created from more than thirty separate farms on the shores of Lake Champlain and is known today as Shelburne Farms. The property is a National Historic Landmark, and one of the main concert sites of the Vermont Mozart Festival. The former Webb estate has stunning views and some of the grandest barns of any Guilded Age property. A great horseman, Dr. Webb had a fine collection of carriages that is on display today at the Shelburne Museum. The Vanderbilt Webb's other country estate was an Adirondack Great Camp named NeHaSane, a game preserve of some 200,000 acres, much of which was later donated to the State of New York to become part of the Adirondack Park. The town of Webb, New York in the park is named after him.

    Dr. Webb served as Inspector General of the Vermont militia with the rank of Colonel. He served a term in the Vermont Legislature in the 1890s. He was a founder and former President of the Sons of the American Revolution. The Webbs for thirty years lived at 680 Fifth Avenue, New York. This house, a wedding gift from William H. Vanderbilt to his daughter, was sold in 1913 to John D. Rockefeller. Dr. Webb was survived by his wife, Lila Vanderbilt Webb, three sons - J. Watson, William Seward, and Vanderbilt - and one daughter, Frederica.