Trolleys to the Casino: The Traction Company Era

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Chapter 4


From the beginning of his street railway promotional activities, Wallace D. Lovell, once described as "the most bold and skillful master of frenzied finance ever seen in New Hampshire," had operated on credit and borrowed money. The loans were secured by pledging as collateral the securities of the companies he organized and he planned to obtain the funds to redeem his obligations by selling these stocks and bonds to investors once his properties were in operation. The difference between the proceeds from the security sales and the actual costs of construction were to accrue to Lovell and his associates as profit - at least, that was his intention. Unfortunately for them, such was not the case.

By late summer of 1901, Lovell and his promotion organization, the Massachusetts Construction Company were in desperate financial straits. They were heavily indebted to the New York Security & Trust Company and much more money was needed to complete the street railway lines under construction and to build others for which charters had been obtained.

In an effort to stave off disaster, Lovell caused to be incorporated the Massachusetts Construction Company, Inc., chartered in Connecticut on October 2, 1901, with an authorized capitalization of $500,000. The assets of the original Massachusetts Construction Company were conveyed to this new corporation on October 28 and Lovell, with more securities to pledge, again went to the New York Security & Trust Company to seek funds. It proved to be a case of going to the well once too often.

Disturbed over Lovell's failure to repay his loans and concerned about its heavy investment, from which it was receiving no return, the banking syndicate effectively seized the Lovell properties in early November.

As a result of this drastic action, the New Hampshire Traction Company was organized by Lovell and four others and was incorporated in the Granite State on November 19, 1901. The Traction Company was intended to be a holding corporation, owning the stocks and bonds of the street railway and other companies which Lovell had acquired or produced, and had an authorized capitalization of $1 in common stock.

Through a series of transactions, the stocks and bonds -which represented the capitalization of the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury, the Amesbury & Hampton, the Haverhill & Plaistow, the Haverhill, Plaistow & Newton, the Seabrook & Hampton Beach and the Portsmouth & Exeter Street Railways were conveyed by the Massachusetts Construction Company, Inc. to the New York Security & Trust Company and were then transferred to the New Hampshire Traction Company in exchange for the latter's securities. Serving as intermediary in the transactions was the new York brokerage firm of Thompson, Tenney & Crawford, which earlier had marketed the bonds of the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury and Amesbury & Hampton Street Railways.

During 1902, the New York Security & Trust Company advanced large sums of money for the completion of the various electric railways and other properties, receiving in return the securities of the different companies, which were subsequently turned over to the Traction Company. Among these were the Hudson, Pelham & Salem Electric Railway and the Haverhill & Southern New Hampshire, the Lawrence & Methuen and the Lowell & Pelham Street Railways, the Rockingham County Light & Power Company, the Granite State Land Company and the Canobie Lake Company, the last, owning an amusement park in Salem, N. H., served by the Hudson, Pelham & Salem.

The desire to protect its investments appears not to have been the only reason for the New York syndicate taking over the Lovell lines. There was also the prospect of large profits from operation of the system for the street railway industry was then at the beginning of its heyday and there was a widespread belief that investors would reap handsome financial returns. Optimistic predictions about the probable earnings of the Lovell system were made by both Sanderson & Porter and by Howard Abel, former president of the Lake Street Elevated Railroad of Chicago and the first general manager of the New Hampshire Traction Company, and officials of the New York Security & Trust Company and Thompson, Tenney & Crawford were certain they were in control of something with great potentialities.

During the spring of 1902, the Traction Company designated the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury and the connecting lines leased thereto as its Eastern Division (the Dover, Somersworth & Rochester became the Traction Company's Northern Division) and named as division superintendent on March 26 was one Clarence P. Hayden, who succeeded Albert E. McReel. Division offices were maintained at Hampton and the general offices of the Traction Company and its subsidiaries were located at 50 Merrimack Street, Haverhill.

(Designated as the Western Division of the New Hampshire Traction Company were the Hudson, Pelham & Salem, Haverhill & Southern New Hampshire, Lawrence & Methuen and Lowell & Pelham Street Railways, which formed a system extending from Haverhill to Lawrence and Lowell, Mass., and Nashua, N. H., and serving the intermediate towns of Methuen and Dracut in the Bay State and Salem, Pelham and Hudson, N. H.)

Power for all of these street railways was supplied from its Portsmouth plant by the Rockingham County Light & Power Company which, during 1903, assumed responsibility for the operation of the lighting department of the Exeter, Hampton & Amesbury.

And what became of Lovell after the seizure of his properties? He was hired by the New Hampshire traction Company on December 28, 1901, at a salary of $6,000 per year, to oversee the construction of the remaining lines of the system and to serve as a "front man" for the New York bankers and brokers until all the routes were in operation. He was employed for little more than a year, resigning in early 1903 to resume his promotional activities. But, alas, he was unable to obtain any financial backing for his new projects and he finally retired to his home in West Newton, Mass., where "broken in health and spirit," he died on March 19, 1906 at the relatively young age of 52.

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