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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New York Fishing Company

Many today in history sites are announcing that the New York Fishing Company was the first company to be chartered in what became the United States (on January 8, 1675) but there is some debate about this. From The Modern Corporation and American Political Thought: Law, Power, and Ideology by Scott R. Bowman, 1996, p. 312:

Depending on the classification employed by scholars, the number of colonial business corporations will vary slightly. For example, Simeon Baldwin identifies six, Joseph Davis identifies seven, and between them they list a total of eight such corporations. Both authors include the Free Society of Traders, which although chartered in England by William Penn in 1682, was intended to be an American corporation. The Free Society of Traders appears to be the first colonial business corporation, if one excludes the English trading companies that founded many of the colonies. (Baldwin lists the New York Fishing Company [1675] as the first, but Davis points out that this company was not incorporated.)

Generally I find the pursuit of maritime superlatives like "firsts" tiresome, however, in this case, my curiosity was sparked--I wondered about the extent of maritime influence on colonial business ventures and went on to learn more.

To continue on this topic, and follow the citations to Baldwin's and Davis' books, you can find the above quoted page on limited preview at Google Books (or follow the links there to get the book from your local library or to purchase it.)

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