Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A cautionary technological tale from the past

You know my secret weakness is a love of stock scam stories.

If it's about electric vehicles, ca. 1907 and from The Economist,
don't bother calling, I won't hear the phone.

...In April 1906 the London Electrobus Company floated its shares on the stockmarket. It wanted £300,000 to put 300 buses on the streets of the capital. On the first day the flotation raised £120,000 and the share offer was on course to be fully subscribed. But the next day some awkward questions surfaced. The company was buying rights to a patent for £20,000 (£7.5m, or $15m, in today's money) from the Baron de Martigny. But the patent was old and had nothing to do with battery buses. It was worthless and a scam. The investors sued for their money back. The company had to return £80,000. The investors would have been even less impressed if they had had any clue about the identity of the “Baron”. He was a Canadian music-hall artist living in theatrical digs in south London. More