Old Colony Steamboat Company (Signed by Frederick L. Ames)
Beautifully engraved antique bond certificate from the Old Colony Steamboat Company dating back to the 1880's. This document, which is signed by Fred Ames as a member of the Finance Committee, as well as the company President and Treasurer, was printed by the American Bank Note Company, and measures approximately 13 1/4" (w) by 9 1/4" (h).
This certificate's intricate vignette features a paddlewheeler on choppy seas. Another paddlewheeler appears in the background and there are also two masted vessels.
The Old Colony Steamboat Company was chartered in April 1874 to operate freight and passenger steamers between Narragansett Bay and New York City. While controlled by the Old Colony Railroad, it operated independently. When the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad leased the Old Colony Railroad in 1893 it gained control of the steamboat company. In 1905, the New Haven Railroad's New England Navigation Company purchased the Old Colony Steamboat Company.
The line originally grew out of the famous Fall River Line. In 1869, the Boston, Newport & New York Steamboat Company was sold to the Narragansett Steamboat Company forming the Fall River Line (under Jim Fisk.) Jay Gould became President in 1872, but Gould did not share his predecessor's fascination with steamboats and sold the Fall River Line to the Old Colony Railroad in 1874.
Frederick L. Ames
Frederick L. Ames' Signature
Frederick Lothrop Ames was born on June 8, 1835 in Easton, Massachusetts, the only son of Oliver Ames, Jr. and Sarah Lothrop. Lothrop's father was Hon. Howard Lothrop, of Easton, who was a State Senator; and her brother was George Van Ness Lothrop, minister to Russia during the Grover Cleveland administration.
Ames attended Phillips Exeter Academy and graduated Harvard College in 1854. Although he wished to study law, he was persuaded by his father to join the family shovel business. On the death of his grandfather Oliver Ames, Sr., he became a member of the firm. In 1876, he became treasurer. On the death of his father in 1877, Frederick became head of the Ames & Sons Corporation; he also inherited five or six million dollars, which he invested in railroads.
Ames married Rebecca Caroline Blair on June 7, 1860 and they had five children. The family had a winter home on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston and their main home was an estate in North Easton, Massachusetts.
In 1893 Ames commissioned the 13-story Ames Building in Boston, considered Boston's first skyscraper and its first elevator-dependent building. Ames worked from his offices there. At the time it was the tallest building east of New York City.
Ames was Vice President of the Old Colony Railroad and director of the Union Pacific Railroad. All told, he served as director of forty railroads, probably more than any other person in the country. He was also a director in the Old Colony Steamboat Company, and owned over six million dollars in Boston real estate, as well as real estate in Kansas City and Omaha. At the time of his death at age 58, Ames' wealth was estimated at somewhere between 25 to 50 million dollars.
Ames was known widely as an art collector. He was a trustee of Boston's Museum of Fine Art, and gave the museum a number of artworks including several large jades and crystals. Ames also donated two Rembrandts - portraits of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp and his wife dated 1632.
Ames' collection also included "Pointer Dog" by Constant Troyon, "Tiger Hunt" by Eugène Fromentin, several landscapes by Charles-François Daubigny, and several other paintings by French Romanticists. On October 6, 1885, the Ames estate in North Easton was robbed of several paintings, including "Teybeck at Brousic" by Stanisław Chlebowski, and "Goose Girl" by Jean-François Millet.
In 1882, Ames commissioned artist John La Farge to design a large stained glass window in Unity Church of North Easton as a memorial to his only sister, Helen Angier Ames. The work is called Angel of Help.
Frederick (and others in the Ames family) commissioned architect Henry Hobson Richardson to build several buildings. The first was Ames Free Library, built with a $50,000 bequest from his father (Oliver Jr.)'s will. Construction was started 1878 and completed 1883. Perhaps the most notable was the Ames Building in Boston, built by Richardson's firm after his death. It was for many years the tallest skyscraper in Boston.
Ames was elected to the Massachusetts State Senate in 1872 "in his absence and without his knowledge." He served one term as a Republican.
Ames died suddenly aboard his steamboat Pilgrim sometime early in the morning of September 13, 1893 en route to Fall River, Massachusetts. He went to bed "in the best of health and spirits" but was found dead the following morning. The cause was reported to be cerebral apoplexy.