Earlier today I posted the question When was the last time anybody said anything new about corporate personhood?, which got me to wondering how long ago people recognized that the corporate personality is a mere fiction. A Westlaw search kicked up McCabe v. Illinois Cent. R. Co., 13 F. 827 (N.D. Iowa 1882):
It is said that a corporation is an artificial person, and by a natural transition of thought a place of residence is ascribed to this artificial person. But is it not a mere fiction of law that personality, and residence in place, are ascribed to acorporation? ... If you search for a corporation, how will you find it and do any manner of business with it?
So far the earliest law review article I have found on point is Edward B. Whitney, The Northern Securities Company, 11 Yale L. J. 387 (1902):
Now the personality of a corporation is a very ancient legal fiction, and one which for many purposes has very high authority. ... However often and properly a corporation is called a person, it really is a collection of persons, and while it has some of the attributes of personality, others are lacking.
You can see now why I struggle to come up with anything new to say about the issue, when people have been correctly disposing of the legal fiction of corporate personality for at least 126 years! (Not to mention good old Edward, First Baron Thurlow!)