Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Progressive Institution.

Nov. 10, 1887, New York Times, A Progressive Institution,
We have no more prominent instance of energy and progressiveness than is displayed in the history of the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company, in the Equitable Building. Not content with doing an ordinary safe deposit and storage business, it has been constantly adding new features to its business, all of them directly or indirectly adding to the security of its vaults and to the comfort and convenience of its subscribers. Reading rooms for the use of the patrons of the company, fitted up with writing desks and tables; with stock, news, and all the other indicators; with files of papers and magazines from all parts of the world; with directories of all the principal cities and towns in the United States, and with a library containing many valuable works of reference; an extended burglar alarm system, by means of which all the vaults in the building have the benefit of the company's elaborate and ingeniously-devised alarm connections; a well-organized patrol system, which not only watches the Equitable Building, but practically guards the whole block, and one might almost say the whole neighborhood; the silver bullion department, (through which is issued the new silver bullion certificates which are listed at the New-York Stock Exchange,) requiring specially constructed vaults and additional safeguards. And now the company is adding small, comfortably-furnished desk rooms for the use of those who require a desk down town but do not desire to bear the heavy expense of an office and a clerk.* In addition at all these various features and departments, the company is about to open a warehouse department, where raw silk, opium, quinine, and other valuable commodities may be safely stored in specially-constructed vaults.---Exchange.
[*Regus Business Centers.]

Feb. 18, 1891, New York Times, Silver Certificates.
In the testimony taken during the silver investigation silver certificates were frequently mentioned. These certificates represent silver bullion depoited with the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company, in the Equitable Building, one of the oldest safe deposit companies in the world. Everybody should have a box in these vaults wherein to safely keep securities, valuable papers, and jewelry.---Exchange.
[The Mercantile Safe Deposit Company was first incorporated 16 years earlier, incorporating companies only seven years older than that. Could this really represent "one of the oldest safe deposit companies in the world?"]

May 24, 1870, New York Times, Local News In Brief,
Elegant offices are fitting up for the Mercantile Loan and Warehouse Company, at the Equitable Building, corner of Cedar-street and Broadway. The safes, vaults, and other appliances are expected to be ready for occupancy about the 15th of June next. They are being built on a scale which for extent, strength and security surpasses anything of a similar character in the world.
See Buley, page 214
"Closely related to Equitable and The Mercantile Trust Company through ownership and management by much the same persons, was the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company, organized by Hyde in December 1875 to take over the safe deposit business of the Mercantile Trust. Directors and stockholders of Equitable were invited to subscribe to the capital stock ($300,000) but Hyde had to take most of it. The Deposit Company became a tenant of the Equitable Building January 1, 1876..."

Buley, page 209
The Mercantile Trust Company began in 1868 as the Fire Proof Warehousing Company. In 1870 the name was changed to the Mercantile Loan and Warehousing Company, and in 1873 to The Mercantile Trust Company.
For some period between 1868 and 1870 the Mercantile Loan and Warehouse was located at No. 122 Broadway (See: Jan. 23, 1871, New York Times, The Forger Van Eeten,)

One of the original directors of the Equitable Society was Jose Francisco de Navarro, who had founded the Commercial Warehouse Company sometime after 1855, which may represent an antecedent. (Buley, page 56.)

In addition to the Mercantile Companies, whose antecedent was Fire Proof Warehousing Company, and the United States Electric Lighting Company, which were in essence, fronts for the Equitable management itself, two original tenants in the Equitable Building were the Hanover Fire Insurance Company, and the American Fire Insurance Company; while early photographs show a prominent Broadway street-level tenant as being the Montauk Fire Insurance Company. So it is surprising that in 1912 Equitable could act so ignorant that it occupied a building that was a firetrap.

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