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Sterling Iron and Railway Company


SKU: 4384
Product Details

Intricately engraved antique stock certificate from the Sterling Iron and Railway Company dating back to the 1890's. This document, which is signed by the company President and Treasurer, was printed by the American Bank Note Company and measures approximately 10 3/4" (w) by 7" (h).

This certificate features two fantastic vignettes - surveyors looking down at a river valley at the top, and a mining scene at the left side. A bold New York State revenue stamp is adhered over the top vignette.


You will receive the exact certificate pictured.

Historical Context

The Sterling Iron and Railway Company, which was situated in Ramapo, Rockland County, New York, operated under various names from 1736 until 1923. Early records indicate the name of the firm when it was founded in 1736 was Sterling Forge and Furnace Company. In 1814, the firm received a charter of incorporation from the State of New York as Sterling Ironworks.

The firm was reorganized in 1865 as the Sterling Iron and Railway Company. In 1918, all company holdings were leased by the Ramapo Ore Company. All operations ceased in 1923. This firm was one of the largest and most productive ironworks in its heyday during the latter half of the 18th Century and first half of the 19th Century.

When the company was known as the Sterling Iron Works, it produced the massive chain stretched across the Hudson River at West Point to blunt the advance of British warships.

At the close of 1779, West Point was the strongest military post in America. In addition to the batteries that stood menacingly upon the hill tops, the river was obstructed by an enormous defensive iron chain. The iron of which this chain was constructed was wrought from ore of equal parts, from the Sterling and Long Mines, in Orange County. The chain was manufactured at the Sterling Iron Works about 25 miles from West Point. The general superintendent of the work, as engineer, was Captain Thomas Machin, who afterward assisted in the engineering operations at Yorktown, when Cornwallis was captured. The project took place under the supervision of Colonel Timothy Pickering.

The chain was completed in the middle of April, 1778, and on May 1 it was stretched across the river and secured. It weighed 186 tons, and was made and delivered in six weeks. This chain was forged at Sterling, hauled piece by piece to New Windsor, and put together at the military smithy of Capt. Machin. It was then floated down the Hudson as a whole, and placed in position. It remained unbroken during the war although others at Fort Montgomery and on the lake above were broken by the British. Links of these chains, weighing 140 lb each, are preserved at the Military Academy at West Point.

In front of this chain was a heavy boom of logs. Each winter the chain and boom were un-moored, taken up to the beach, in the cove now crossed by the railroad tracks, and piled up out of reach of the moving ice until ready to be replaced in the spring.

The chain was instrumental in the discovery of Benedict Arnold, when Peter Townsend's cousin, Sally Townsend, whose brother Robert was a member of General George Washington's Culper Ring of spies, allegedly intercepted information at the family home in Oyster Bay, Long Island which occupied by British officers. The intercepted message from Arnold indicated that he had weakened the chain and contained instructions on how the Royal Navy could breach its defenses and take the fort at West Point. When he realized he had been discovered, Arnold escaped to the British and the chain remained intact throughout the war.