The Stock Exchange was located on the west side of Broad street, just out of Wall street. It was comprised of a fine white marble edifice, with a portico of iron, painted flashily in black and gold. It extends back to New street, with an entrance on that street. There is also an entrance on Wall street. It contains the “New York Stock Exchange,” “The Mining Board,” and the “Government Board.”
During the spring and summer of 1871 the internal arrangements of the building were very much improved. The refitting cost the brokers $60,000, but they now have the handsomest establishment of its kind in the world.
The main entrance is on Broad street, and from this the visitor passes into a room, the larger portion of which is separated from the Broad street end by an iron railing. This is “The Long Room,” and during the day it is almost always filled with a noisy and not over-nice crowd. It is the scene of the irregular sales of stocks. Any one who can raise $50 can purchase a season ticket to this hall, and once admitted can sell and purchase stocks without being a member of the Regular Board. This arrangement has nearly put an end to the sales of stocks on the side walks, and has given a tinge of respectability to the class known as “Curb-stone Brokers.” A dozen or more different stocks may be sold here at once, and the sale may be continued as long as the seller sees fit. There is no regular organization of the brokers operating here, though these men control the bulk of the sales made in the street. They are noisy and seem half demented in their frantic efforts to make sales.
The “Stock Exchange” occupies the main hall, which is on the floor above the Long Room. This hall is one of the most beautiful apartments in the city. It is seventy-four feet long, fifty-four feet wide, and fifty-two feet four inches high. Its lofty ceiling is arched and decorated with bright red and buff penciling upon a sky blue ground, while the walls are relieved by broad square pilasters, painted in brilliant bronze, with tall windows and arched tops rising between, and other spaces between the columns covered with drapery in more subdued colors. Up to a few feet from the floor the painting is in a dark-hued bronze. The coloring is in the Moorish style throughout, and the effect of the whole is very fine. At the north end is the platform for the desks of the Vice-President and Secretary, and on each side of this is a black board for recording the quotations of the session. On the same platform is the desk and instrument of the stock telegraph operator. At the south end of the hall is a light gallery capable of holding 200 persons, for the use of visitors. In connection with the hall are several committee, cloak and ante-rooms. In the center of the ceiling is a huge ventilator, beneath which is suspended the lighting apparatus, containing 100 burners. A chamber five feet in depth underlies the hall and the adjoining lobby, and in it are laid pipes for conducting warm air.
At the base of the walls is an open iron grating covering the apertures of a shaft leading from the engine-room. Through this shaft warm air is forced into the hall in winter, and cool air in summer, thus securing perfect ventilation.
The Stock Exchange Board is an incorporated company, and is the only lawful association in the city for the transaction of business connected with stocks. It consists of 1050 members, but the control of its affairs is vested in a council of forty members, together with the President, Secretary and Treasurer in their unofficial capacity. The admission fee is $5000, and a seat in the Board becomes the absolute personal property of the broker, who can sell or otherwise dispose of it as he would of his watch or his coat. Candidates are admitted by ballot and with great care, the object being to secure the exclusion of all but men of known integrity, for the Board requires the most scrupulous good faith in the transactions of all its members. Four black balls will prevent the admission of a candidate whether he wishes to enter by purchase or otherwise. Candidates must submit to a close scrutiny of their previous lives, and must show a clear record.
There are two daily sessions of the Board, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The securities offered at these meetings are divided into two classes, the Regular and the Free List. No stock or bond can be dealt in until it has been rigidly examined by a committee, and found to be a bonâ fide security.
At half-past ten o’clock in the morning, the Morning Board is called to order by the First Vice-President. The Regular List, which is made up in advance of the meeting, must always be called, and called first. The Free List may be called or not at the option of the Board. The Regular List consists of 1st. Miscellaneous Stocks. 2d. Railroad Stocks. 3d. State Bonds. 4th. City Stocks. 5th. Railroad Bonds.
The session opens with the reading of the minutes of the previous day. Then comes the call of the Regular List. The call of Miscellaneous Stocks awakens but little excitement. Bids follow quickly upon the announcement of the stocks, and the transactions, as they are announced by the cries of the brokers are repeated by the Vice-President to the Assistant Secretary, who records them in the journal, and they are also recorded by a clerk on a black board in full view of the members. Where there is a doubt respecting a sale or purchase the Vice-President decides, and his decision is final, unless reversed by the votes of a majority of the members present.
The call of railroad securities brings the brokers to their feet, and the real business of the day begins. Offers and bids, shouted in deep bass, high treble, or shrill falsetto, resound through the hall, and in a few minutes the jovial-looking brokers seem to be on the verge of madness. How they yell and shout, and stamp, and gesticulate. The roar and confusion are bewildering to a stranger, but the keen, practiced ears of the Vice-President at once recognize the various transactions, and down they go in the Secretary’s book, and on the black board, while the solemn-vizaged telegraph operator sends them clicking into every broker’s office in the city. High over all rings the voice of Peter, the keeper of the gate, calling out members for whom telegrams or visitors have arrived.
The other stocks awaken more or less excitement, and when the Regular List is completed, the Free List is in order, and the Vice-President calls such stocks as the members express a desire to deal in. Then, unless there is a wish to call up some stock hastily passed over on the call of the Regular List, the session closes.
At one o’clock, the afternoon session is held, and the routine of the morning is gone over again. The transactions of both sessions are carefully recorded in the Secretary’s books.
The Vice-President receives a salary of $7000 per annum for his services, which are not light. The Secretary and Assistant Secretary, and Roll-keeper do the rest of the work of the Board. The last named keeps a record of the fines, which yield an exceedingly large revenue to the Board. The brokers are not the most dignified of mortals in their meetings, but are very much given to disorderly conduct and practical jokes. The annual dues of the Exchange are but fifty dollars, but the average broker pays at least ten times as much in fines. To interrupt the presiding officer during a call of the stocks subjects the offender to a fine of not less than twenty-five cents for each offense; to smoke a cigar within the Exchange costs five dollars; to be absent from special meetings is to incur a fine of not more than five dollars; to stand on a table or chair is punishable with a fine of one dollar; to throw a paper dart or ball at a member during the session of the Board costs ten dollars; and other offenses may be punished with fines assessed by the Vice-President at any sum between twenty-five cents and five dollars.
Each day a list of stocks to be put in the market is made out, and no others can be sold during the sessions. The Board can refuse to offer any particular stock for sale, and a guarantee is required of the party making the sale. The members of the Board are men of character, and their transactions are fair and open. They are required to fulfil all contracts in good faith, however great the loss to themselves, on pain of expulsion from the Board, and it is very rare that an expelled member can be reinstated.