Early American Bell Telephone Company (AT&T) issued to and signed by Thomas Sanders- 1880

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Certificate #491.  The American Bell Telephone Company. RARE Stock certificate for 300 shares. Issued to and signed (twice) on stub and verso by Thomas Sanders (1839 - 1911). A financially successful leather merchant, Sanders met Alexander Graham Bell while the latter was tutoring his deaf-mute son. Along with Gardiner Hubbard, Sanders became a primary financial supporter of Bell’s experiments in the development of the telephone. He served as the first treasurer of Bell Telephone. The American Bell Telephone Company was formed on March 20, 1880 as a result of the merger of The Bell Telephone Company and New England Telephone Company.  William Hathaway Forbes (W. H. Forbes) signed the certificate as president.  Dated May 1, 1880. 

William Hathaway Forbes (1840–1897) was an American businessman.   He was born on October 31, 1840 in Milton, Massachusetts. His father, John Murray Forbes, was a French-born railroad magnate.

Forbes enrolled at Harvard University in 1857, but he was expelled in 1860. During the American Civil War of 1861-1865, he served in the 1st Massachusetts Volunteer Cavalry of the Union Army from 1861 to 1863, and in the 2nd Regiment of Cavalry, Massachusetts Volunteers from 1863 to 1865. He was captured by the Confederate States Army on July 6, 1864 and imprisoned in Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina until December 1864. He received a bachelor of arts degree from Harvard University in 1871.

Forbes started his career at J.M. Forbes & Co., an investment firm founded by his father.

In the later 1870s, Forbes was approached by Gardiner Greene Hubbard and Thomas Sanders to invest in their Bell Telephone Company. Not only did Forbes invest, he encouraged some of his wealthy acquaintances to do so too. Subsequently, Forbes served as the President of the Bell Telephone Company from 1879 to 1887.

Personal life
Forbes married Edith Emerson, the daughter of poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. They had six sons, Ralph Emerson Forbes, W. Cameron Forbes, John Murray Forbes (who died at age 17 of appendicitis), Edward W. Forbes, Waldo Emerson Forbes and Alexander Forbes, and two daughters, Edith Forbes and Ellen Randolph Forbes.

The Bell Telephone Company was the initial corporate entity from which the Bell System originated to build a continental conglomerate and monopoly in telecommunication services in the United States and Canada.

The company was organized in Boston, Massachusetts, on July 9, 1877, by Alexander Graham Bell's father-in-law Gardiner Greene Hubbard, who also helped organize the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company. A common law joint-stock company, the Bell Telephone Company was started on the basis of holding "potentially valuable patents", principally Bell's master telephone patent #174465. Upon inception, Hubbard was installed as trustee, although he was additionally the company's de facto president, since he also controlled his daughter's shares by power of attorney.

Thomas Sanders, its principal financial backer
Sanders was the owner of the Sanders Leather Company, a highly successful business in Haverhill’s shoe industry. His company had pioneered a process for cutting leather shoe soles on a large scale, relieving shoe manufacturers of the need to cut their own. Sanders be­came interested in Bell’s experiments with sound transmission and eventually became the chief financial backer in the development of the telephone by advanc­ing him $110,000, which is equivalent to about $2.9 million in today’s dollars.

Bell conducted many of his early ex­periments with telephones in Haverhill, and after months of trials and disap­pointments, he was finally successful and received a patent for his invention on March 7, 1876. After the telephone seemed to be assured of eventual success, Sanders arranged a demonstration for doubting citizens on June 4, 1877, at the old Haverhill City Hall on Main Street. As part of the demonstration, Sanders made the first public telephone call ever from City Hall to his home at 169 Kenoza Ave.