The Ladies Shirley Stock in the South Sea Company Transferred between sisters


In a document dated April 22, 1721, Lady Anna Elinora Shirley transferred "all such stock as is due to me for five hundred - pounds paid upon my name in the third subscription for sale of South Sea Stock" to the Acc of Hon the Landy Barbara Shirley. The signatures of Lady Anna Elinora Shirley and Elizabeth Franklin (witness) appear at the bottom. The ladies Shirley, both spinsters, were in all likelihood, sisters of the first Earl of Ferrers, Robert Shirley. These ladies were probably one of the first female speculatiors. In 1720, Lady Anna (or she and her sister, Lady Elizabeth) is on record for a total of 29 transactions in seniot and engrafted share of the Royal African Company. According to financial historican Anne Carlos, Lady Anna Elinora Shirley enjoyed gains between ₤2,000 and ₤7,000 as a result of these activities. Lady Barbara does not appear in these transfer books for the Royal African Company, however she was an active investor. The curent document represents an exchange bewteen the sisters. Lady Anna Elinora had apparently purchased stock in the South Sea Company in the thrid subscription. It is not suprising that Lady Anna Elinors transferred these shares by way of a signed note, since the company never issued receipts for the thrid and fourth subscriptions. The company undertook the thrid subscription on June 17, 1720, at the height of the bubble. In this subscription, it issued 50,000 shares at a market price of ₤1,000 per share. Subscribers paid ₤100 upfront, and the remainder was scheduled to be paid in nine semi-annual payments over the subsequent 5 years. Therefore, it appears that Lady Anna Elinora initially purchased at lease 5 shares in the company. However, after the market crashed at the end of th esummer of 1720, the government made adjustments to the distribution of shares among the 4 rounds of subscribers "so that losses to later subscribers were reduced." Thus, the number of shares in question in teh transfer between Lady Anna Elinora and Lady Barbara may be greater than 5. The exact terms of the exchange between teh sisters is unclear. It is possible that Lady Anna Elinora sold the stock to her sister. Assuming that the South Sea Company never collected any of teh semi-annual payments on the subscriptions after the bubble burst, she likely sold at a gain. On April 21, the market price of a share, according to Larry Neal's dataset was ₤143. At this price, Lady Anna Elinora made at least 43% return, not accounting for inflation.


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