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NYSE approaches 200 years

The New York Stock Exchange

The New York Stock Exchange

As the NYSE approaches its 200th anniversary, we take a look at some of the lesser known events that have helped it grow from its humble beginnings to become the world's largest exchange.

  1. The NYSE wasn’t the world’s first stock exchange. It wasn’t even America’s first exchange. That honour goes to the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, founded in 1790.
  2. Although the name New York Stock & Exchange Board dates back to 1817, the original 24 members of the exchange were previously part of a group of traders who met on Wall Street under the branches of a buttonwood tree from 1792.
  3. Before renting their own rooms on Wall Street, members of the exchange used to meet at the Tontine Coffee House, sharing the space with professional gamblers, auctioneers and slave traders.
  4. Stocks were originally traded in a "call market." The president read out a list of stocks as the brokers traded each security in turn.
  5. Trading was originally done in two sessions, the First Board represented trading from 10.30am until noon and the Second Board ran from 2.30pm until 3pm. These sessions take their name from the wooden boards on which the closing prices were displayed.
  6. The NYSE is also known as the Big Board, a name that comes from the large chalk boards on which the exchange runners used to write the latest prices.
  7. The only share traded on the first day of the Buttonwood Agreement in 1792 was the Bank of New York - now the Bank of New York Mellon. By 1817, there were 30 stocks available to trade on the first day of the New York Stock & Exchange Board.
  8. The slowest day on the exchange was 16 March, 1830, with only 31 shares of stock traded.
  9. The first market “panic” happened on 24 August 1857, when The Ohio Life Insurance & Trust Company collapsed and share prices dropped a then unheard of eight to ten percent in the course of a single trading session. 
  10. The introduction of the Atlantic Cable on 27 July 1866, allowed brokers to profit from price differences of US shares between New York and London markets for the first time.
  11. The first stock tickers were introduced on 15 November 1867, four years after being invented by Edward A Calahan.
  12. Member originally held their seats for life and weren’t allowed to sell them until 1868. The first seats sold for $7000.
  13. On 1 February 1869, the exchange required companies to list their securities to prevent over-issuance of shares.
  14. The term “Black Friday” dates to 24 September 1869, when speculators Jay Gould and Jim Fisk attempted to corner the nation’s gold market, crashing the exchange.
  15. On 3 April 1873, a Gratuity Fund system was created, where the family of a deceased member were paid $10,000. It remained at this level until the 1930s, when it increased to $20,000.
  16. After the bank Jay Cooke & Co collapsed on 18 September 1873, the exchanges closed at noon and remained closed for 10 days.
  17. The first telephones were introduced on the exchange floor on 13 November 1878, five years before the exchange got its first electric lighting.
  18. An electric annunciator board was installed at the exchange on 26 January 1881.
  19. The first Dow Jones Industrial Average was published in the Wall Street Journal on 26 May 1896, with 12 stocks valued at 40.74.
  20. The first acknowledged stock market crash happened on 9 May 1901 after rumours of a battle for control of the Northern Pacific railroad led to a mass sell-off of shares.
  21. The opening and closing bells date to 1903, though the tradition goes back to the introduction of continuous trading in 1871 when a Chinese gong was used to signal the start of the market.
  22. Shares were quoted and traded in dollars for the first time, rather than as a percentage of par value on 13 October 1915.
  23. In 1918, six miles of pneumatic tubes were installed to allow brokers to send order slips to clerks.
  24. On 16 September 1920, the NYSE was suspended within a minute of a massive bomb shaking Wall Street.
  25. Women were allowed to work on the trading floor for the first time on 12 July 1943, due to manpower shortages caused by WW2.
  26. Saturday trading on the NYSE ceased on 29 September 1952.
  27. Ten-year-old Leonard Ross was the first guest to ring the opening bell in 1956, after he won a television quiz show.
  28. The first female member, Muriel F Siebert, was admitted on 28 December 1967.
  29. The NYSE Inc was incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation on 18 February 1971.
  30. Merrill Lynch became the first organisation to be accepted as a member of the exchange on 27 July 1971.
  31.  On 21 September 1987, a member’s seat was purchased for over $1m for the first time.  The price of seats fluctuated wildly with market conditions, from over $620,000 in 1929, to $68,000 in the 1930s.
  32. The exchange bells were replaced for the first time in the late 1980s. Although the company that made the originals was still in business, they had two former employees out of retirement to complete the task. In the process of refurbishing the system, a lost 27-inch bell was discovered hidden above the ceiling of the main trading room.
  33.  On 29 January 2001, the practice of trading in fractions ended after over two centuries, as decimal pricing was introduced for all NYSE stocks.


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