We steal this week’s topic straight for today’s headlines! We look at the early days of New York finance and the creation of the New York Stock Exchange, beginning with Alexander Hamilton, some pushy auctioneers, a coffee house and a sycamore tree.
And find how this seminal financial institution ended up in its latest home — that beautiful, classically designed George Post building, with a marble goddess on top who was almost too heavy for her own good.
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The streets and ports of New York in 1790s, setting for America’s first financial crisis and the birth of the New York stock trading system. At the far left is the Tontine Coffee House.
This slight little man is William Duer, former assistant secretary of the treasury, whose shiftless manipulation of the early American financial system got him thrown in debtors prison for life
An illustration of the Buttonwood Agreement, which formed the loose collection of brokers who would form the New York Stock Exchange
The Tontine Coffee House (that building with the balcony) where the stock market meets a good coffee bean
A sketch of Wall Street in the mid 19th century. (You can see Trinity Church and a hint of Federal Hall to your left.) The Stock Exchange headquarters floated around from place to place during this period until an elegant Italian Renaissance style building was built for it in 1863
A kind of rough drawing to be sure, but this supposedly depicts the inside of the trading floor from the 1863 building. Sorry to say I couldn’t find any images of the outside, but the John Kellum designed building sounds like it was a beauty.
Another illustration of the new Exchange itself, taken from a membership note
George Post’s masterful Stock Exchange building, mustering up his finest Beaux-Arts instincts in ways that created a solid, powerful structure for an institution sometimes without such stability
Looking down Wall Street in 1911. By this time a “financial district” was firmly in place as bank offices, brokerage firms and other moneyed interests flock around the Stock Exchange. (This awesome picture is courtesy Shorpy, quite possibly my favorite website in the world.)
Looking down at the Stock Market as it was crashing in 1929.
Crowds outside the Stock Exchange, with George Washington looking down from the steps of Federal Hall
The trading floor from the 1950s
Crazed traders in 1963 (from photographer Thomas O’Halleran)
One of the most powerful street corners in the world
Due to the crush of monstrous buildings all around it, the Stock Exchange sits in a virtual canyon
All sorts of people have rang the opening bell at the Stock Exchange, including P Diddy….
…Emeril and Snoopy