Bridges: Successful Toll Bridges
The toll bridges built by the early corporations were indeed among the most successful of early American businesses. The bridges over smaller rivers required only a small amount of capital for construction and virtually no working capital. The smallest bridges were often individually owned, but larger bridges required a degree of capital that only incorporating can provide. The first toll bridge corporation, formed in Boston in 1785, was the Charles River Bridge company. The bridge was completed one year later. It was so successful that two more Boston bridge corporations were chartered in 1787. No additional bridge corporations were formed until one in Maryland in 1791. The following year, ten bridge corporations were chartered in four states— Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. The first bridge corporation in New Jersey was called the President, Managers, and Company of Rancocus Toll-Bridge. The company sold one hundred shares of stock at $80 each, providing total capital of $8,000.
By the end of 1800, a total of seventy-two bridge companies had been incorporated in ten of the original colonies (none in Virginia, Delaware, or North Carolina), plus one in Kentucky. The Kentucky firm was the Frankfort Bridge Company, founded in 1799 to build a bridge in that city (the state capital). This was the only corporation of any kind chartered in Kentucky before 1800. The number of bridge companies increased greatly during the early nineteenth century. Some of these enterprises had rather long lives. For example, the Piermont Bridge Corporation, chartered in NewHampshire in 1827, was still operating during the 1860’s.