History of the Stock Market

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The financial markets of the United States, today, are collectively known as "Wall Street." These words represent the heart of the business and financial world in the United States today. Many of us conjure up well known images of companies being bought and sold, traders screaming out to get the best prices for their clients, fortunes won and lost many times over, and the billions of dollars exchanged in deals. Some may even claim that it is the "Crystal Ball" that can predict and control the economy. Wall Street actually does exist, physically, in New York City. It became the symbol of financial dealing from its own history of being the base of the large scale business dealings in Colonial America. Wall Street has also become the term that describes several stock exchanges and broker/dealer networks that have come into the computer age of finances. The street's location put it in the perfect position to become the base for the import and exports of the new colony. Despite the fact that New York City was the temporary capital of the United States from 1785 to 1790, the first real stock exchange begun in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1790. This was a simple finical market in which traders needed to have their offices close to the stock exchange so that messengers could keep the brokers up to date with current information. Many cities had their own finical markets because of how slow information traveled. The first major innovation of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange was a signal-system between Philadelphia and New York. This system brought news of current stock prices, lottery ticket information and other important news. The signal-system was a simple yet complex operation. The signal system started in Philadelphia with lines running along the mountains through New Jersey ending with a station hub in New York City. The stations consisted of a basic watch tower with telescopes, flags, and signal beacons to relay information from tower to tower. This was a vast improvement over the traditional message system of a horseback messenger. This signal system narrowed the advantage of New York speculators. After all, it is a fundamental axiom of free markets that can never be larger than the area in which information can be transmitted almost instantaneously. In 1789, Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, recommended to Congress that bonds sold to finance the Revolutionary War should be backed by the fledgling federal government. These almost worthless-at-the-time bonds jumped in value when the government backed them up. Hamilton followed up on this strategy by selling stock to the public in the first national bank in America. It was from this modest beginning that Wall Street became the financial center of the United States; since the Congress was meeting on this very street, in New York. The trading of securities was rapidly becoming a business of its own and even began following a schedule for daily sales in 1792, when the first "Bull Market" was recorded. The appearance of brokers, who worked for a fee or commission, was also recorded in 1792. With the constantly rising value of the stocks and some securities, brokers actually formed partnerships. The Philadelphia Board of Brokers was the first officially licensed organization in 1790. These brokers were at the heart of the innovation of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. The New York Stock Exchange was born out of an agreement among twenty-four men to trade securities only among their membership to control commissions and transactions. This happened on May 17, 1792 under a large buttonwood tree that would give the agreement its name;" The Buttonwood Tree Agreement." The fledging exchange loosely organized had remained stable, but was not succeeding as planned. The members realized that the success of the Philadelphia Exchange was based on its organizational structure and principles or organization. William Lamb was sent on behalf of...
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