Roland M. Smythe
Papers, 1896-1899


Quantity: 5 boxes (1.50 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Purchase, Kovach, September 1959
Processed By: Vicki Weiss, Senior Librarian, Manuscripts  & Special Collections, January 2014

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Biographical Note:

Roland Mulville Smythe (ca. 1855-April 2, 1930) came to the United States from Dublin, Ireland with his family sometime prior to 1870.  He apparently received a degree from Columbia College and thereafter pursued a career in business and finance.

About 1880 he established a firm that specialized in the business of buying and selling old and obsolete stocks. Some of his customers acquired shares they thought might bring them later profit; some were led only by a desire for "distinctive wallpaper."

According to the Website of the Professional Scripophily Traders Association, the firm was established in 1880 "for the purpose of providing the financial community and private individuals with accurate information concerning obsolete securities and banknotes."

He was known as "No Telephone" Smythe because, although he had been one of the earliest subscribers of the telephone, "he gave it up as being too wearing on the nerves. He realized the [telephone] directory's place in business, however, and one of his occupations for three decades was trying to persuade the company to list him as 'Roland M. Smythe, 2 Broadway, No Telephone.' The company was not persuaded, so his customers either visited him or sent telegrams. He received a lot of telegrams."

Information was gleaned largely from the obituary of Roland M. Smythe that was published in the New York Times April 3, 1930.

Scope and Content Note:

The papers consist of nine bound compilations of letters, telegrams and invoices related to Smythe's brokerage firm in New York City. Many of the letters were from clients in regards to buying and selling of securities handled by the firm. The content of each volume is arranged chronologically, and there is a name index at the end of each volume.  These papers offer a glimpse of the securities brokerage business in New York in the late nineteenth century.  

Box and Folder List:

Box Volume Contents
1 1 February 19, 1896-June 15, 1896
1 2 April 28, 1896-November 9, 1896
2 1 October 29, 1896-January 18, 1897
2 2 March 10, 1897-June 1, 1897
3 1 May 28, 1897-September 30, 1897
3 2 July 30, 1898-December 13, 1898
4 1 December 12, 1898-January 16, 1899
4 2 January 31, 1899-March 31, 1899
5 1 March 27, 1899-April 10, 1899
Last Updated: May 24, 2021