Abstract: A Fashion for Investment or Management? Scottish Free-Standing Companies in the United States, 1880-1900

Kevin Tennent


An important theme in the settlement of the American west was the exploitation of new raw material sources, many of which were opened up by free-standing companies (FSCs) based in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom. Between the start of 1880 and the end of 1884 as many as thirty FSCs were registered in Scotland alone to operate in the United States, representing a combined nominal capital of £8,102,000 or approximately $40,000,000. Of these the twelve FSCs formed to enter the emergent western ranching industry are probably the best known, and the paper will focus on one such example, the Matador Land and Cattle Company, with one copper mining and one lumber company as examples from other fields. The paper concludes that the Matador represented more of a managerial investment, while the representatives studied from the copper and lumber fields remained more speculative, with little managerial control extending from Scotland to the companies' operations in the U.S. west. The FSCs studied in this paper remained more representative of Mira Wilkins' original specification of an FSC, having no commercial link with the home country.