Antedating of Inc. and F.O.B.

Wed Feb 8 17:55:37 UTC 2006

        Here's an 1887 use of "Inc." as an abbreviation for
"Incorporated" in a corporate name (OED has 1906):

        <<November 22, 1887, three other carloads were ordered by the
following letter, which order was accepted as to two car-loads:
'Muskegon Curtain-Roll Co., Muskegon, Mich.--Gents: Please make and ship
to us at Girard, Erie county, Pa., three car-leads one-inch rolls, in
two pieces, viz., 25 and 19 to 23 inches, (one piece 25, and one from 19
to 23,) packed same as last car sent, [that is, the one sent October 5,
1887.] In first car there are to be no slats. Terms as follows: Price to
be $3 per gross, f. o. b. [which means 'free on board' in mercantile
parlance] Muskegon. Time, 6 months for first car; 7 months, second car;
8 months, third car,--all from December 15. Interest at 6 per cent.
after 4, 5, and 6 months, respectively. Ship at your convenience. We to
send you indorsed note on receipt of each shipment for amount of
invoice. Indorsers to be H. Janes, Geo. A. Sturgeon, and W. E.
Pickering. KEYSTONE MFG. CO., INC. Per W. E. PICKERING, Pres.' >>

Muskegon Curtain-Roll Co. v. Key-Stone Manuf'g Co., 135 Pa. 132, 19 A.
1008 (1890).

        This is also an antedating of F.O.B. (OED has 1890), but earlier
dates are available.  From 1856:

        <<This memorandum was on a page of a book headed, "Boston,
December 1856," and was in the following terms:  "9th. W. W. Goddard to
T. B. Coddington & Co. 200,000 pounds Chili pig copper, 24 1/4 a 9 mos.
from delivery, f. o. b. packet here for N. Y., seller paying freight,
and buyer paying insurance to N. Y. To be 96 per cent. pure copper, and
paper satisfactory to seller.">>

Coddington v. Goddard, 16 Gray 436, 437 - 38, 82 Mass. 436 (1860).  This
example is anomalously early.  "F.O.B." did not become common until the
1880s, and the cases then often trouble to explain that it is short for
"free on board," as did the 1890 Pennsylvania case above.  From 1876:

        <<The contract is in the form of letters between the parties,
and the cotton was to be delivered "free on board" DDD--'FFF'"F. O. B."
being the initials used.>>

Branch v. Palmer, 65 Ga. 210 (1880).  All quotes and cites are from

John Baker

The American Dialect Society -

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