Letter from A. W. Macfarlane to Henry Shelton Sanford (February 21, 1885)


Dublin Core


Letter from A. W. Macfarlane to Henry Shelton Sanford (February 21, 1885)

Alternative Title

Letter from Macfarlane to Sanford (February 21, 1885)


Sanford, Henry Shelton, 1823-1891
Investments, British--United States
Sanford (Fla.)


A letter from A. W. Macfarlane to Henry Shelton Sanford dated February 21, 1885. Macfarlane was the secretary for the Florida Land and Colonization Company (FLCC) from 1884 until its dissolution in 1892. Presumably, he worked in the company's main office, located at 13 Austin Friars in the business district of London, United Kingdom. In this letter, Macfarlane relayed reports to Sanford sent by the FLCC's local agent in Florida, E. R. Trafford. At the time, Sanford was staying in the German capital of Berlin, presumably due to his participation in the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 regarding European trade and colonization in Africa. Macfarlane conveyed the small amount of sales achieved in recent months $1980 for the month of December 1884 and only $434.80 for the entire month of January. He noted that the company's agent believed that the fall in company sales was due in part to a general slowing of business, noting that "[e]everything throughout not only the state but the country is dull." The agent also blamed the "New Orleans Exposition [that] seems to have taken the visitors from Florida this winter." The agent was referencing the World's Fair of 1884-1885, based in New Orleans, Louisiana. The report relayed by Macfarlane reflected the challenges of turning a profit from the company's Florida investments.

The Florida Land and Colonization Company (FLCC) was a joint-stock venture that invested in Florida land development and sales in the 1880s and early 1890s. The company was formed by Henry Shelton Sanford (1823-1891) with help from a group of British investors. The original impetus for the company's formation was Sanford's inability to continue his land acquisition and development efforts in Florida independently. In 1879, faced with financial difficulties, Sanford turned to a trusted associate in the United Kingdom, a Scottish industrialist named Sir William Mackinnon (1823-1893), to help him attract investors. The formation of the company was in large part due to the efforts of MacKinnon, whose reputation and influence helped bring investors on board.

Located at 13 Austin Friars, the company was officially registered in London on June 10, 1880. With the formation of the FLCC, all of Henry Sanford's Florida properties were transferred to the company in exchange for a £10,000 cash payment and another £50,000 in company stock. The one-time cash payment was a needed reprieve for Sanford, who faced financial difficulties by the end of the 1870s. The board of directors included Mackinnon, as well as W. C. Gray and Edwyn Sandys Dawes, partners in Gray-Dawes and Company, a London-based banking and investment house. Other directors included Alexander Fraser, Anthony Norris, George A. Thomson, and Eli Lee. Sanford was named President and Chairman of the Board. In 1880, the company owned 26,000 acres scattered across Florida, including in the cities of Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and Sanford, as well as in Alachua County and Marion County.

Almost from the outset, there was serious friction between the British board members and Henry Sanford. Disagreements erupted over business strategy, as Sanford frequently proposed initiatives deemed too bold for the cautious British investors. From 1882 to 1892, the company saw steady, if meager, profits. Most of its income came from the sale of lots in the city of Sanford. From 1885 until 1890, the company, while remaining solvent, continued to see declining profits. From 1886 to 1890, the profits were so modest that the company declined to pay dividends on its yearly profits. Needed improvements and developments in the city of Sanford during the late 1880s sapped much of the company's income. Following Henry Sanford's death in 1891, many of the investors lost the motivation to continue. On September 15, 1892, the various directors acted to dissolve the company. Its assets, including roughly 65,000 acres of Florida land, were divided among shareholders.


Macfarlane, A. W.


Original letter from A. W. Macfarlane to Henry Shelton Sanford, February 21, 1885: box 54, folder 1, subfolder 54.1.11, Henry Shelton Sanford Papers, General Henry S. Sanford Memorial Library, Sanford Museum, Sanford, Florida.

Date Created


Is Format Of

Digital reproduction of original letter from A. W. Macfarlane to Henry Shelton Sanford, February 21, 1885.

Is Part Of

Box 54, folder 1, subfolder 1.11, Henry Shelton Sanford Papers, Henry Shelton Sanford Papers, General Henry S. Sanford Memorial Library, Sanford Museum, Sanford, Florida.
Florida Land Colonization Company Collection, Henry Shelton Sanford Papers Collection, RICHES of Central Florida.




224 KB


2-page handwritten letter






Florida Land and Colonization Company, London, England, United Kingdom
Berlin, Germany
Sanford, Florida

Accrual Method



History Teacher
Economics Teacher


Originally created by A. W. Macfarlane.
Donated to the Connecticut Historical Society after 1901.
Loaned to the Tennessee State Library and Archives for processing until June 1, 1960.
Acquired by the General Henry S. Sanford Memorial Library, Sanford Museum in 1960.

Rights Holder

The displayed collection item is housed at the General Henry S. Sanford Memorial Library, Sanford Museum in Sanford, Florida. Rights to this item belong to the said institution, and therefore inquiries about the item should be directed there. RICHES of Central Florida has obtained permission from the Sanford Museum to display this item for educational purposes only.


Fedorka, Drew M.

Digital Collection

Source Repository

External Reference

Fry, Joseph A. Diplomacy and Business in Nineteenth-Century America. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press, 1982.
Tischendorf, Alfred P. "Florida and the British Investor: 1880-1914." Florida Historical Quarterly 33, no. 2 (Oct. 1954): 120-129.
Amundson, Richard J. "The Florida Land and Colonization Company." Florida Historical Quarterly 44, no. 3 (Jan. 1966): 153-168.
Kendall, John S. History of New Orleans. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1922.

Document Item Type Metadata

Original Format

2-page handwritten letter


Macfarlane, A. W. , “Letter from A. W. Macfarlane to Henry Shelton Sanford (February 21, 1885),” RICHES, accessed July 15, 2024, https://richesmi.cah.ucf.edu/omeka/items/show/3403.