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Central Trust Co. v. Central Trust Co., 216 U.S. 251 (1910)

Central Trust Company v. Central Trust Company of Illinois

No. 86

Argued January 18, 1910

Decided February 21, 1910

216 U.S. 251


The management of the post office business has been placed by Congress in the hands of the Postmaster General and his assistants, and the Postal Laws and Regulations provide for the delivery of mail where two or more persons of the same name receive mail at the same post office.

While the benefit of one's legal name belongs to every party, individual or corporation, it may at times be necessary and proper to look beyond the exact legal name to the name by which a party is customarily known and addressed in order to properly deliver mail to the person to whom it is addressed.

The findings of fact by officers in charge of the several departments of the government are conclusive unless palpable error appears.

In this case, the First Assistant Postmaster General having made an order directing delivery of mail addressed to Central Trust Company, Chicago, to the Central Trust Company of Illinois instead of to a South Dakota corporation having the name Central Trust Company, held that there was not enough clear right shown by the latter company to justify the setting aside of the order by the court.

152 F. 427 affirmed.

On June 22, 1906, the Central Trust Company, a corporation

Page 216 U. S. 252

engaged in the mining, promoting, real estate, and trust business, filed its bill in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Northern District of Illinois to compel the defendant Frederick A. Busse, postmaster at Chicago, to deliver to it certain mail matter which it claims it was entitled to receive, and which he wrongfully delivered to the defendant the Central Trust Company of Illinois. Demurrers to the bill were filed, which were sustained, and the bill dismissed. On appeal to the United States, Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the decree of dismissal was affirmed, and thereupon the case was brought here on appeal.

The allegations in the bill are that, on or about April 17, 1897, the complainant was created a corporation by the State of South Dakota under the name and title of "Central Trust Company," and was authorized by said state to establish an office and hold directors' meetings in Chicago; that, on or about that date, it established an office in Chicago on the corner of Monroe and La Salle Streets, and began to carry on its business, though without any express authority from the State of Illinois, and continued to do so up to and including February 7, 1903; that in August, 1902, it applied to the Secretary of State of Illinois for a license to do business within that state, and complied with all the statutory requirements for foreign corporations desiring to do business within the state; that, owing to a contest made before the secretary of state by the Central Trust Company of Illinois, the granting of said license was delayed until February 7, 1903, at which time it was granted, and that from that date complainant has continuously conducted its business in Chicago at the office and under the above-stated name; that ever since its coming to Chicago, it has received through the post office a large amount of mail matter addressed to it by simply its name.

The bill further alleges that the defendant the Central Trust Company of Illinois is a corporation chartered by the State of Illinois on or about July, 1902, and engaged in a general banking and trust business at No. 142 Monroe Street, in

Page 216 U. S. 253

Chicago; that its first place of business was at the corner of Dearborn and Monroe Streets, but, about the beginning of the year 1906, it removed to No. 142 Monroe Street, where it has ever since remained.

The bill still further alleges that, from 1897 to 1901, the name of complainant appeared in the Lakeside directory, a directory of general circulation in Chicago, and recognized as a reliable and authoritative publication; that, while its name was omitted from the directory for 1902, the omission was due to a mere error by the publishers of the directory, and was through no fault of the complainant; that said directory for 1902 was not published and issued until after defendant the Central Trust Company of Illinois had filed its articles of incorporation.

It also appears that complaint having been made to the Postmaster General of the action of the postmaster at Chicago in reference to the delivery of the mail received at Chicago, an order was made by the First Assistant Postmaster General in these words:

"January 10, 1903."

"The Postmaster, Chicago, Ill."

"Sir: I am in receipt of information to the effect that a letter was delivered to Mr. Pfau, a representative of the Central Trust Company of South Dakota, which contained remittances intended to protect checks drawn on the Central Trust Company of Illinois; that Mr. Pfau, instead of returning the letter promptly to the post office for delivery to the trust company for which it was intended, returned it to the sender, thereby jeopardizing his credit. Mr. Pfau well knew that the deposit was intended for the Central Trust Company of Illinois."

You are hereby directed to deliver mail addressed "Central Trust Co., Chicago, Ill.," without the addition of the street, box, or other designation to indicate that it is intended for the South Dakota Company, to the Central Trust Company of Illinois, and request that company to return to you promptly for delivery to the Central Trust Company of South Dakota all

Page 216 U. S. 254

letters falling into their hands intended for the company represented by Mr. Pfau.

"Very respectfully,"

"(Signed) R. J. WYNNE"

"First Assistant Postmaster General"

The prayer of the bill is that the defendant Busse be restrained

"from delivering mail addressed 'Central Trust Company' without the street address of this complainant thereon, or some other mark thereon indicating for whom the same is intended, or with the street address 'corner of La Salle and Monroe Streets,' to the defendant Central Trust Company of Illinois, and restraining the Central Trust Company of Illinois and its cashier, the defendant William R. Dawes, from receiving and opening said mail so described. "

Page 216 U. S. 259

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