MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the court.
This is a petition to the District Court sitting in Bankruptcy for leave to remove an automatic sprinkler system and equipment from the premises of the bankrupt, the Williamsburg Knitting Mill Company. It is opposed by the trustee of a mortgage of the plant of the Company and the holder of the mortgage notes, and by the trustees in bankruptcy, both of which parties claim the property. The referee, the District Court and the Circuit Court of Appeals decided in favor of the latter claims. 190 Fed. Rep. 871. 193 Fed. Rep. 1020, 113 C.C.A. 87. The petitioner, Holt, appeals. The facts are as follows: An agreement to install the sprinkler was signed by Holt on August 28, 1909 and by the bankrupt on October 14, 1909. The installation was begun about December 6, 1909 and finished in the latter part of March 1910, the equipment consisting of a fifty-thousand gallon tank on a steel tower bolted to a concrete foundation, pipes connecting the tank with the mill. By the agreement the system was to remain Holt's property until paid for and Holt was to have a right to enter and remove it upon a failure to pay as agreed. It also was to be personal property during the same time. A large part of the price has not been paid. But by the Code of Virginia, § 2462, unless registered as therein provided, which this was not, such sales are void
The trustees in bankruptcy join with Holt in disputing the claim of the mortgagees, but set up one of their own, which we will deal with before discussing that of the mortgagees. They rely upon the act of June 25, 1910, c. 412, § 8, 36 Stat. 838, 840, amending § 47a (2) of the Bankruptcy Act, and giving them, as to all property coming into the custody of the Bankruptcy Court, the rights of a creditor holding a lien. Before that amendment, Holt had a better title than the trustees would have got. York Manufacturing Co. v. Cassell, 201 U.S. 344. We are of opinion that the act should not be construed to impair it. We do not need to consider whether or how far in any event the constitutional power of Congress would have been limited. It is enough that the reasonable and usual interpretation of such statutes is to confine their effect, so far as may be, to property rights established after they were passed. If, as they sometimes do, the registry statute had fixed a time within which the registration must take place and the time had elapsed, we think it clear that the amendment would not be read as attempting to diminish Holt's rights. But the most obvious if not the only way of reaching that result would be by taking the amendment to affect subsequently established rights alone. That is a familiar and natural mode of interpretation, whereas it
We turn now to the claim of the mortgagees. This is based upon the clause extending the mortgage to plant that may be acquired and placed upon the premises while the mortgage is in force, coupled with the subsequent attachment of the system to the freehold. But the foundation upon which all their rights depend is the Virginia statute giving priority to purchasers for value without notice over Holt's unrecorded reservation of title; and as the mortgage deed was executed before the sprinkler system was put in and the mortgagees made no advance on the faith of it, they were not purchasers for value as against Holt. York Manufacturing Co. v. Cassell, 201 U.S. 344, 351, 352. There are no special facts to give them a better position in that regard. But that being so, what reason can be given for not respecting Holt's title as against them? The system was attached to the freehold, but it could be removed without any serious harm for which complaint