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San Francisco's Big Board Grew Out Of A Basement Meeting

by Lindsay Arthur

Interest in the industries that developed from mining provided the impetus for organization of the San Francisco Stock Exchange in 1882.

The predecessor of what now is the San Francisco Mining Exchange was started 20 years earlier.

Twenty-five brokers met on September 18 in the basement office of Wohl & Rollitz, located in the old Fireman's Fund Insurance Company building at 403 California street.

It was Leader

Out of that number, 19 signed the charter and deposited $50 each as the price of membership in what initially was the Stock and Bond Exchange.

At the time the leading mining exchange (there were several), was the San Francisco Stock and Exchange Board.

The first president of the stock exchange was John Perry Jr., who had been a member of the New York Stock Exchange and a charter member of the Boston Stock Exchange before coming West during the gold rush to try his hand at mining.

Like many eastern brokers of the time, Perry left the mines for the more familiar business of securities.

The stock exchange changed to its present name in December, 1927 and the mining exchange also took its present name.

First location of the stock exchange was at 312 California street. Next, the "big board" of the west occupied a series of quarters in the Merchants' Exchange Building, 429 California.

The exchange moved in 1918 to 341 Montgomery street; temporarily located in a one and a half story building at Montgomery and Pine, a part of the present site of Bank of America's headquarters.

Then, in January, 1930, the exchange moved into its present location, the former Sub-treasury building it had purchased at Sansome and Pine, and erected a 12-story office building on adjacent property.

The office building was sold in 1953 to Industrial Indemnity Company for more than $1,000,000. Exchange members never owed one dollar of debt on that building. They received a cash dividend from proceeds of the sale.

Trade Declines

In excess of $100,000 was spent thereafter to improve the trading floor and adjacent offices in the column-fronted Sub-treasury building.

In 1929, exchange seats sold for as high as $250,000. The greatest volume of trading was handled in the boom year 1928, a total of 31,530,016 shares worth $2,066,718,634.

The year of the crash, 1929, volume dwindled to 19,188,822 shares valued at $889,697,434.

However, 1954 was the highest volume year since 1930 with 16,302,149 shares worth $301,744,115 crossing the board.

This year's market volume is substantially ahead of 1954. Through September 19, there were 14,838,023 shares traded worth $277,022,259. This month, dollar volume for 1955 will pass the 1954 total of $301,744,115.

Outstrips L.A.

The San Francisco Stock Exchange provides one important reason why this city is known as the Pacific Coast's "financial capital." Its volume exceeds that of Los Angeles.

Through September 19 for this year, the same period as above, the Los Angeles Stock Exchange handled 14,030,052 shares worth $242,302,070.

Among the present members, Sidney L. Schwartz of Sutro & Co., is the eldest in years of membership, dating his from 1906. Bertam E. Alanson of Alanson Bros. & Co., has been a member since 1907.

There is a third generation member, David Berl, grandson of a charter member and son of Edwin D. Berl, prominent broker.

Ronald E. Kaehler has served as full-time president since 1943. William H. Agnew, partner of Shuman, Agnew & Co., is the 1955 chairman of the board of governors.

San Francisco Call-Bulletin
October 10, 1955

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