A Crazy Happenstance

Okay, this post is for my regular readers who might think this was kind of nifty. As you know, the Panama Canal is one of my favourite project management stories. You know that recently I made a nifty little video on the subject, heavily (heavily) paraphrasing what I took away from Tom Kendrick’s excellent essay.

As you also know, my dad’s cousin passed away recently.

Well, I just came home for Easter to spend some non-funereal time with the folks, where we weren’t surrounded by crying people and sadness. Also, at Easter we can get away with wearing stretchy pants. My dad’s the executor of his cousin’s estate, and since the funeral my parents have been poring through papers and boxes, trying to make sure everything’s all neatly squared away.

Well look at what they found (click for a larger view):

Panama Canal Stock Certificate - Front Panama Canal Stock Certificate - Back

It’s an actual stock certificate for Ferdinand de Lesseps’ failed attempt at building the Panama Canal, signed by Ferdy himself! The dates on the stamps are in 1892, so this must have been issued during his last ditch effort to keep his project going, before collapsing into bankruptcy.

My Dad hadn’t seen my video yet so he was like, “can you imagine what this would be worth today?” I think he was a little crestfallen when I told him it was actually from the failed attempt and the company that issued it went belly up, and the project caused the French government to collapse.

Then I showed him my little video and he really liked it, until he got to the part where I said Ferdy went home just in time for the French Revolution. He completely mocked me, informing me that the French Revolution was in the late 1700s, and that perhaps if I’d paid a little more attention in history class, I’d know that. He then called me a “Nummy”. Turns out I was a little, um, mistaken, when I assumed the fall of the French government was related. LOL In Dad’s words, “whaddya stoopid? The French Revolution was just a little bigger than the government running an unpopular deficit.”

Goddam know-it-all retired schoolteachers.

Anyway, I just thought this was an incredibly nifty find, and I wanted to share it with all of you who’ve been reading regularly. Thanks tons, guys!

I’m a professor of project management at the college where I work. My students continually amaze me with their insights, passion and all-around awesomeness. I figure they deserve access to more answers than I can give them by myself. This site is for them.
  • Dad

    I did not call him any names whatsoever. Furthermore, I did not suggest he was not paying attention. I believe he made the suggestion himself. Hmmmmm. What does that suggest?

  • Pfft. WhatEVER.

  • Margaret

    Geoff,
    AHA – So you are one of the many who love the Panama Canal case study in the Risk Management Book! Good for you. Even if the certificate is from a failed attempt – I think it is still pretty amazing and an important piece of history.
    As for the whole French Revolution, history lesson and retired schoolteachers. Well with all due respect Mr. Geoff;s Dad what is that saying? Oh yeah, “The cobblers children have no shoes…”
    Cheers,
    Margaret Meloni

  • HAHAHA I’m here sitting with the folks and the iPad dings saying I have a new comment. I read your comment out loud to both the folks and my mother in particular is about to pee herself laughing!

    Thanks so much for that Margaret!! *big hug*

    And Happy Easter to you!

  • Elizabeth

    I bet it is worth something to some history buff – if you ever decided to part with that family heirloom, that is!

  • Quite possibly! But I shall convince my folks to frame it if only because it’s wicked cool. 🙂

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