B.G. Hilton – Writer

In Search Of… S04E15 The Missing Heir

Stock certificate In Search Of S04e15 The Missing Heir

Now this one’s pretty cool. I thought from the title it would be about a missing person case, but it’s actually about an old stock certificate, the current owner of which is unknown. ‘Fair enough’ you say, but the certificate was worth three million dollars in the late 1970s. That is a spicy meatball!

We start with some pictures of the American West and a little speech about the land of opportunity, before Nimoy points out that there are a surprisingly large number of unclaimed assets in the US. Then we get into the details of this one, super valuable stock certificate, held in San Francisco by Wells Fargo Bank and owned by – well, no one knows.

What follows is a lovely little illustration of the investigation to find the owner. In Texas, we learn that the share is stock in the land owned by the Texas Pacific railroad company. Oil was later found on the land, making it super valuable. Attempts by Texas Pacific to find the owner have proved fruitless.

Through interviews and reconstructions of old-timey clerks, we learn that the company that originally purchased the certificate actually owned it, but they were unable to prove it. We know that the certificate was connected to someone named Captain de Lamar — a wealthy Gilded Age New Yorker who left everything to his daughter. After some genealogical research in New York, we go to some de Lamars in Atlanta who traced their family tree back to Hugenot days and may be distantly connected to the New York De Lamars.

Through Mr De Lamar’s information, we go to the mining boomtown of de Lamar in the Midwest and find a sweet ghost town. But other than some cool footage, there’s no more information to be had in the place. But nearby Silver City is being restored, and a local historian/museum curator tells has some information about how de Lamar left for New York as the result of a broken relationship.

Then we’re talking with a local historian in the wealthy New York yachting town where de Lamar moved. The local historian leads the In Search Of… cameras to said house, now overgrown and in ruins.

It. Is. Sweet. As.

The mansion was destroyed in a fire, and there’s no further clues here. The local historian exclaims ‘goodness’. So mystery! And we’re still no closer to finding de Lamar’s daughter. We get some old-timey footage of New York and Paris while Nimoy talks about what little we know about her life.

A bit of filler about the life of the New York gentry at the turn of the century, before we go searching through old newspaper social columns for information about her. Lots of footage of places she used to live, but we don’t find…

What? We do find?

Yes, that’s right, folks! We do find where Alice de Lamar is living. In Search Of… actually found someone that they are in search of!

BUT!

She doesn’t want to be interviewed on camera.

Cue sad trombone music.

However, she does give some information off camera, which In Search Of… is able to reconstruct with off-brand actors. The stock certificate was given to Captain de Lamar as collateral for a $500 loan. The loan was never paid back, so de Lamar got the certificate – but the paperwork for the transfer can’t be found. So possibly, if the loan was repaid by the heirs of the original debtor, then they might be able to recover the certificate! Which sounds dubious to me, but it is In Search Of…

And another little speech about the opportunities of the West, and we’re done.

It’s all a bit wheel spinny, I guess – but with good cause. Following the rambling tale of de Lamar takes us from the rather dry story of a stock certificate to a little piece of American history – from the mining boomtowns of the Wild West to Gilded Age New York.

And – critically – it’s all told in that In Search Of… way. All question asking – “could de Lamar have lived here?” when we known perfectly well the answer is yes, for example. And there’s a silly beat-up about how a someone watching this show right now might be able to claim the money. But all in, an intriguing episode, using the familiar In Search Of… structure to tell a very different sort of story.

Summing Up

New direction: 9/10, interesting story: 8/10, Old timey footage: 9/10, Nimoyness: 8/10, Reenactments of old timey clerks: 9/10. Overall: 43/50. High Distinction

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