Ever find a stock certificate tucked in your grandparents belongings? I did. Well actually, I found four. You can imagine my initial excitement to see these beautiful pieces of paper issued in 1913 and 1917 from the John T. Clark Mechanically Inflated Tire Co. and 1925 by Miller-Miller & Co.
My grandfather purchased 150 shares of the tire company for $1 per share. He bought 70 on June 16th 1913, 30 on June 17th 1913 and another 50 on March 26 1917. He bought one share of Miller-Miller in 1925. I didn't know about either of these companies, but I figured with inflation and stock splits, the options ought to be worth a few million dollars today.
So for a minute, or two, I thought, woo hoo! Dad’s going to be rich! Then I tried to find the companies, nothing. Perhaps they were acquired and merged with another company? Nothing. I kept hunting and found one website with a John T. Clark Tire certificate for sale for $199.95.
$199.95? A far cry from a million dollars. Not what I was hoping for. My eight-five year old father has been wanting to go on a cruise of the Norwegian Fjords for some time now, and he’s always dreamed of attending the annual Vienna Opera Ball. (He can’t stand long enough for the waltz anymore, but I know he’d be happy to spin in his wheelchair a few times on the ballroom floor.) Wouldn't it have been nice if these stock certificates could have funded a first class trip for him to fulfill a few more travel dreams before he meets his maker or his legs give out?
Guess we're just not that lucky. Oh well.
I stepped across the hall to show him the certificates (dad lives with my husband & I) and I asked him how much he thought they were worth? He said “Yeah, I remember my father showing me these. I used to have a sample of that tire but I don’t anymore. They are probably worth the paper they are printed on. Never heard of Miller-Miller & Co..”
Too bad Grandpa Ben didn’t invest in Coca-Cola.
Who Was John T Clark?
It seems the ad above was a bit of an exaggeration as "The Greatest Air Tire in the World" would be worth a ton of money today. Right?
There was little information about Mr. John T. Clark available, but I was able to discover this - He was born John Tanner Clark on January 4, 1865 in Provo Utah, served in World War I, possibly developed a torpedo shield for ships (I can't find any proof other than the clipping below), and filed a number of patents related to automobile tires.
It seems the John T. Clark Mechanically Inflated Tire Company was formed in 1913, but never generated any income.
And that's pretty much it. A handful of newspaper articles mentioned the tire, including some paid advertisements, but I could find very little about Mr. Clark, the inventor. I did find some information about his involvement in the fundamentalist LDS group but that has nothing to do with tires or stock certificates.
What is a Mechanically Inflated Tire?
It sure seems highly innovative and important to the times.
I found the above diagrams over at Google Patents, perhaps a lesser known genealogy tool for those of you with inventors in your ancestry. You can search through public patents from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), European Patent Office (EPO), and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). USPTO date back to 1790, EPO and WIPO to 1978. The amount of data there is astoundingly exhausting.
Some excerpts from Mr. Clark's patent filings:
"My invention relates to vehicle tires and has for its object to provide a tire which may be expanded by mechanical means to provide resiliency therein similar to the pneumatic tires now in use, and to provide a tire which will not collapse if punctured and in which the resiliency of the tire may be changed to suit the load carried upon the vehicle."
"My invention relates to vehicle tires, and has for its object to provide a pneumatic vehicle tire for use on road vehicles in which an inner fabric casing and an inner tube within said inner casing is inflated with compressed air to hold an inflated tread casing on the tire rim. Also to provide an air tube having valves therein by; which both the inner tube and tread casing may be inflated."
"My invention relates to rims for pneumatic tires for vehicles and has for its object to provide a demountable rim for wheels, such as automobile wheels, by a tire which is easily and quickly taken off and put on, and which will hold said tire firmly in place when inflated."
My invention relates to tires for motor vehicles and has for its object to provide a new and efficient automobile tire which will eliminate all road hazards such as rim cuts, punctures, inner tube friction and the usual tire troubles.
Now, About Miller-Miller & Co. Inc.
Not a clue. A few leads indicate it could have been an old mining operation. I also found what seem to be a few lawsuits against them on the Utah Department of Administrative Services Division of Archives and Records Service - another great genealogy tool if you find your ancestors were involved in lawsuits, criminal activities, corporations, transportation, animal industry and so much more.
Rolling Right Along
These relatively "worthless" stock certificates have taken me down the "rabbit hole" and hours after finding them, ok, fine, days, I'm letting it go and getting back to ancestor's letters and other mysteries that have a greater chance of finding resolution.
Did I mention I tried to identify the cars on the stock certificates at the beginning of this post? Perhaps you can figure it out?
Happy Genealogy Hunting! (And focusing...)
Until next time,
p.s. These stock certificates are for sale. A million dollars. Just kidding. I'll trade them for a 1st class Norwegian Fjord cruise for dad (airfare included), or a Vienna Opera Ball package (airfare, hotel, meals, ball, tux rental and wheelchair.) ;-)
Utah Department of Administrative Services Division of Archives and Records Service
Scripophily - Collectible stock certificates and bonds. (Did you know that Scripophily means the collection of old bond and share certificates as a pursuit or hobby.)
Park Hyatt - Vienna
Vienna Opera Ball