The NYSE at 224: 8 things you may not know

The NYSE all started with a tree
The NYSE all started with a tree

While it has held up remarkably well for its age, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) turned 223 on May 17 making it younger than Harvard University (founded in 1636), but well older than The New York Times, which did not begin publishing until 1851.

In fact the NYSE, which was born on May 17, 1792, is only a few years younger than the United States itself. The exchange, sometimes known as the "Big Board" has come a long way from its humble beginnings when a it listed a whopping five securities, with the first of those being the Bank of New York, according to the Library of Congress. On that date in 1792, 24 brokers signed the NYSE into existence almost certainly having no idea what it would grow into.

Screen Shot
Screen Shot

The New York Stock Exchange dates back almost to the birth of the United States. Image Source: NYSE.

1. NYSE is really big: The New York Stock Exchange, which is now owned by Intercontinental Exchange(NYSE: ICE), trades in companies with a combined market cap of $25 trillion. Overall the exchange trades in around 2,800 companies moving roughly 1.4 billion shares a day.

2. It all started under a tree: While many organizations this august were founded with documents named after something historically significant, the NYSE's founding charter was dubbed the "Buttonwood Agreement" because it was signed on Wall St. under a Buttonwood tree, according to the Library of Congress.

3. The NYSE now includes the American Stock Exchange: Founded in 1921, though it has roots dating back to the mid-1800s, the American Stock Exchange was acquired by the NYSE in 2008.

4. Oracle was the biggest exchange defector ever: In 2013 Oracle moved from NASDAQ to the NYSE which Bloomberg reported as the single largest company to ever move between the two rival exchanges. At the time the company was averaging 20 million shares traded in a 30-day period. In moving it actually increased its annual listing fee from $100,000 to $500,000, according to the news service.

5. No bull, even though there was a Bull: Even though the NYSE was led by President William S. Bull in 1888-1890, his name has nothing to do with the term "bull market." That term -- the opposite of a "bear" market -- is thought to derive from the behavior of each animal. The terms "are thought to derive from the way in which each animal attacks its opponents," according to Investopedia. "That is, a bull will thrust its horns up into the air, while a bear will swipe down."

6. There was not always a bell: The NYSE has become closely associated with the bell which rings to start and close the trading day. Company's ring the bell when they first join the exchange and celebrities show up to ring the bell to mark momentous occasion.

Bells were used at the NYSE as far back as the 1870s, according to the Exchange though the early version was actually a Chinese gong. When NYSE moved into its current building in 1903, a brass bell was adopted. Today the Exchange actually has multiple bells, one in each of the four trading areas operated synchronously from a single control panel.

7. The NYSE was impacted by the Civil War: In 1861, at the beginning of the Civil War, the NYSE halted trading in securities from seceding states. After the war ended, the exchange was closed for a week in 1865 after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

8. Regulation has not always been strict: Before the stock market panic of 1837, companies could list on the exchange without following any specific reporting rules. The NYSE changed that after that scare requiring that listing companies disclose financial information as a condition of selling shares. Regulation further tightened after Stock Market Crash of 1929, which kicked off the Great Depression, ultimately leading to much tighter scrutiny by the federal government and regulation by the Security and Exchange Commission, reported.

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