Edwd. J. Muybridge – Venture Capitalist?


Silver! An unmissable opportunity was presented to Britain’s investors in 1865, with an advertisement in The Times (London):

THE AUSTIN CONSOLIDATED SILVER MINES COMPANY (Limited)…Capital £100,000, in 20,000 shares at £5 each.

The Directors of this venture were: The Hon. FREEMAN H. Morse, United States Consul for London, Chairman…. and six others including one Edwd. J. Muybridge, Esq. (late of California), 4, Brompton-square.

This Company has been established, firstly, for the purchase and working four of the most valuable silver mining properties at Austin, the chief city of the Reese River District of Nevada, California, viz.:- The Silver Star, Sunnyside, Idle Wild, and Lizzie Hopkins: possessing altogether 2,633 feet of lodes. The second purpose was to establish stamp quartz mills (mills in which ore was crushed) at Austin. It is now admitted by the best authorities on the subject that the Reese River Mines are the richest in silver that have yet been discovered, …Eleven shafts have been sunk in the several lodes, so that the Company’s mines are completely proved and tested. [The Times 1 July 1865]

Another advertisement claimed:

In The Times Money article on the 6th inst., it is stated that there are no known silver mines, excepting those of Mexico (many of which are quite worked out), which do not sink into insignificance alongside of the enormous deposits of silver sulphurets in Nevada.

On July 7th, Notice was given in The Times that the List for Applications for Shares would be closed ten days later. If the call for investors was successful, the directors and shareholders would have anticipated quick and serious profits. On 14 November The Times noted:

“The Committee of the Stock-Exchange have appointed Friday next a special settling day in the shares of the Austin Consolidated Silver Mines Company, which are not to be marked in the official list.” [p.6]

But as with the Bank of Turkey, all did not go well. One modern account describes what happened at the mines:

Sometimes the rush was rewarded by actual prizes, but commonly the movement and dispersion were rocket-like – a prolonged whir, a gleaming beacon, a moment of splendor at the centre of radiant stars, and then dwindling specks of glory succeeded by gloom and utter extinction. The Reese River district … was not such a treasure-trove as its explorers fancied…’ [Minerals of Nevada by Stephen B. Castor, Gregory C. Ferdock, p.16]

On 10th July 1866, less than a year after the call for investors, a notice appeared in The London Gazette:

Special resolution of the Austin Consolidated Silver Mines Company (Limited), passed at a Special General Meeting of the Members … held on the 21st day of June, 1866, and confirmed at a subsequent Special General Meeting … held on the 5th day of July, 1866:- “That the Austin Consolidated Silver Mines Company (Limited) be forthwith wound up voluntarily, pursuant to the Companies Act, 1862.”

E.I. Muybridge, [sic] Chairman of the Meeting. [p.3946]

The following week, the same journal announced that all creditors were to send in particulars of their debts or claims before 17th August, to the Liquidator. So, as with the Bank of Turkey fiasco just a few weeks earlier – which we now know happened during a major UK bank crash, the biggest until Northern Rock – Muybridge chaired the final meeting. Quite how he found himself in this situation in both cases will perhaps remain a mystery, but it suggests that he was not one to walk away from his responsibilities until he had faced those who had trusted in the ventures in which he was a director. It seems likely that this second failed investment venture was the cause of Muybridge’s decision to leave England and return to San Francisco, where he would re-invent himself once again, this time as a photographer.

One comment on “Edwd. J. Muybridge – Venture Capitalist?

  1. […] Muybridge’s entrepreneurial activities in the 60s – with the failed Bank of Turkey, and a failed silver mine – to build a gradually evolving picture of the man as a serial entrepreneur, who ‘bought […]

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