A railroad begun running between Madison, Ind., and Indianpolis in the late 1830s. The first railroad to operate west of the Alleghenies, it would report net margins rising to 60 percent in 1852. Three quarters of all profits were issued to shareholders as dividends, in an era in which there were no corporate or personal income taxes.

Why worry about histories curiosities like this? Because they underscore the role of good management and good accounting in the life of the corporation. This little railroad would eventually merge, just as most railroads did, in a classic example of consolidation.

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