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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Mr. William Cunninghame's bold and lucky speculation


MR. WILLIAM CUNNINGHAME, who about A.D. 1780 built the splendid mansion in Queen Street which now forms the interior portion of the Royal Exchange, rose to fortune in a most sudden and singular manner. At the time when the first American war broke out he was a junior partner in a very extensive Virginia house in Glasgow. This house at that time held the largest stock of tobacco of any house in the United Kingdom, and the cost of their stock, upon an average, was threepence per pound! Immediately upon the declaration of American Independence, tobacco rose to sixpence per pound; and upon the great rise taking place, a general meeting of all the partners of the house was called, in order to consult about the sale of their stock.

At this meeting every partner, with the exception of Mr. Cunninghame, was of opinion that the present opportunity should be taken advantage of; and as their capital would be doubled by an immediate sale, it should be effiected without delay. Upon hearing this resolution, Mr. Cunninghame turned round to each partner in succession and asked him:

"Do you offer to sell your share of the company’s tobacco at sixpence per pound?"

And upon every one of them answering in the affirmative, Mr. Cunninghanie very coolly replied:

"Well, gentlemen, all your tobacco is sold at sixpence per pound."

The partners stared at one another, and demanded of Mr. Cunninghame:

"What do you mean by that statement ?"

To which Mr. Cunningliame replied:

"I have bought the whole of it at sixpence per pound, and I will satisfy you as to the payment of it."

Tobacco continued from this time to rise, till at last it reached the enormous price of three shillings and sixpence per pound. Mr. Cunninghame, however, had sold the whole of his tobacco before it reached its ultimate highest price; but yet at a price by which he realised an immense fortune.


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