UTILITIES: 962 Years Lost

In 1902 a portly, potbellied, black-mustachioed Philadelphia lawyer named John Graver Johnson (tops among U. S. corporation lawyers and trust protectors of his time) drew up a noteworthy document. It was an iron-clad lease by which Philadelphia Rapid Transit Co. promised to pay 49 small traction companies $7,100,000 a year for 999 years for the privilege of running its street cars over their right of way. For the stockholders of the 49 underlying companies—among them the Wideners, the Elkinses and other First Philadelphia Families—this was a mighty fine deal. Their original...

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