by Graham Forsdyke
Issue No. 33
Maggie Snell and I have a weakness for sewing-machine share certificates, although those from the 19th century are very difficult to find.
Recently we were lucky enough to find a batch of four certificates -- two from the past century -- in a collection of sewing-machine ephemera we purchased as a job lot.
Two of the certificates were of no great historical interest, but the others were a pair I have yearned to have ever since delving into what was probably the biggest-ever confidence trick played during the early days of the industry.
What we had acquired was a Moldacot certificate for three of the 15,000 shares offered by the soon-to-be-liquidated business and a certificate for 16 shares in the Union Sewing Machine Company which was simply a name-change ploy to solicit even more funds before the total collapse.
Let's spare a thought here for Mrs. Maud Pasley of East Sheen (near London) for it was she who bought the three Moldacot shares on November 18, 1886, perhaps wooed by the promises made by the directors of vast profits to come. Her shares, numbered 5528 to 5530, cost her £15.
Sixteen months later they were worthless. But Maud Pasley had faith. She actually instructed her brother to invest more money -- another £16 -- into the newly-formed Union Sewing Machine Company (the company formed to inject even more cash into the Moldacot enterprise).
Half a year later the whole Moldacot Empire folded. Our Maud who, with hundreds of other small investors, never received a dividend, had lost all her money. She tucked away in a drawer the two certificates -- worthless then, but a piece of history today.