7 Surprising Facts About the New York Stock Exchange
The New York Stock Exchange is in the headlines all the time, but even the most voracious consumer of stock market news may be surprised by some of the history behind the famous exchange and by some of its modern-day features.
As the NYSE celebrates its 225th anniversary this spring, let’s take a look at some fascinating facts about the iconic exchange.
1. Old Building, Older Market
Though the NYSE was founded in 1792, it didn’t settle at its iconic current home designed by architect George B. Post until 1903. The building’s trading floor features 78-foot high ceilings adorned with gold leaf. The historic 1792 Buttonwood Agreement that gave rise to the Exchange is on display on the Exchange building’s seventh floor, protected by a temperature- and humidity-controlled glass case.
2. Deer on Wall Street
The Exchange wasn’t equipped with telephones until 1878. Before then, so-called “deer” or “runners” would dash from the Exchange to nearby brokerage offices to deliver stock quotes from the brokers on the floor. On the floor itself, from 1903 till the 1960s, brokers would send each other stock orders through a system of pneumatic tubes—history’s answer to high-speed trading.
3. A Gift From Russian Royalty
Though it’s called the New York Stock Exchange, the exchange saw more issuances of bonds than stocks until 1941. In 1904, the Exchange was home to a $1 billion bond issue by Czar Nicholas II of Russia. To show his gratitude for the deal, the czar gave the Exchange an urn crafted by the House of Fabergé and bearing the czar’s crest. It is the largest piece Fabergé ever created, according to NYSE archivist Peter Asch.
4. The Market’s “Girls”
For much of the Exchange’s history, women were a rare sight on the trading floor. This changed, at least for a few years, in the 1940s, when many of the clerks and runners fought in World War II. Some 50 women, known as “the Stock Market Girls,” took their place.
5. Fashion Forward
Women—well, at least one woman—returned to the trading floor in 1967, when Muriel Siebert famously became the first woman to buy a seat at the NYSE. A room on the seventh floor of the iconic NYSE building is named in her honor and features, among other memorabilia, a multi-hued faux fur jacket that Siebert, renowned for her fashion sense, once wore on the trading floor.
6. One of a Kind
The advent of electronic trading has resulted in the shuttering of many trading floors but the NYSE’s equities trading floor has survived. Today, the NYSE is the only major remaining equities trading floor left in the world. The Exchange hasn’t eschewed electronic trading, however, but rather uses a combination of electronic trading and floor trading.
Those manning the floor today include brokers and the NYSE’s designated market makers, who are tasked with matching buyers and sellers and minimizing share price volatility. Floor traders’ numbers have thinned considerably from the height of the floor’s crowding in 2000, when some 5,000 people could be found milling about the booths. Now, on an average day, you can expect to see between 500 to 1,000 people doing business on the floor, in addition to about 33 media outlets that broadcast from the NYSE floor daily.
7. A Resounding Culture
Though the modern-day trading floor is quieter than it once was, its denizens are still known to get rowdy at times. When a guest ringing the Exchange’s iconic bells fail to ring it for the right period of time –10 seconds to open the market in the morning, 15 to close it in the afternoon—the floor may erupt in boos. (Learn more surprising facts about the famous NYSE bell here.) Before the start of any three-day weekend, a cheerier sound emanates from the floor. At 3:33 p.m., traders like to yell “Whoop, whoop!” in anticipation of the break to come.