Antique Stock Tickers Stock Ticker Census
The Telling of Riches or Ruin Amid Its Clicking, & Tracing Its Figures from the Noisy Crowd in the Stock Exchange to the Paper Tape in a Broker's Office Where Spectators Watch.
The New York Sun, Sunday, 8 January 1882, Page 6
There is an India ink sketch by a New York artist, which illustrates the allegorical and practical sides of Wall street speculation. The practical side is exemplified in four vignettes, and on the passé partout surrounding and inclosing them is portrayed the allegorical side. In the first vignette a countrified old gentleman is looking at the tape as it rolls from the ticker, or indicator. He is a bull; stocks are rising, and he manifests every indication of delight. On the passé partout is a hill, on the summit of which stands a bull with head tossed defiantly. At the foot a bear sits in a dejected attitude. In the second vignette the scene is the same, but the smile has left the old gentleman's face, and he is regarding the tape with some alarm. The market is beginning to weaken. On the border the bear is climbing the hill, and the bull is waiting with lowered bead. In the third vignette the old gentleman is in a distracted condition, and he is looking on the tape in dismay. The market is falling slowly. In the border the bull and the bear are in fierce conflict on the top of the hill, and the bear has a trifle the advantage. In the last vignette the irascible old gentleman has smashed the ticker with his umbrella, and is rushing off with disarranged clothing. and the tape tangles in his legs. The market has had a heavy tumble. On the border the bull is tumbling headforemost down the hill, and the bear is sitting on the summit triumphant. The scenes illustrate one of the chapters of the story of the ticker. Less exaggerated scenes of joy, doubt and despair are enacted around the unfeeling little instruments every day. The tape conveys messages of fortunes won or fortunes lost, of riches or of ruin. Wherever a ticker is placed in a public resort men gather continually around it until it ceases to give quotations. But they are chance comers who have dropped in to see how a certain stock of the market in general is going, and they are seldom large operators. The genuine speculators are to be seen hovering over the tape in the offices of the brokers near the Stock Exchange. They impatiently watch every quotation, and when operating "catch the market"—that is, buy or sell at the price then ruling before it has a chance to change. Messengers are in waiting to convey their orders to the brokers on the floor of the Exchange. The employees of the Exchange find the broker and give him the order. The broker does exactly as he is ordered. If buying "at market," he does the best he can. As he makes a purchase or a sale the reports of the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company note it, and then the work of the ticker begins.
Eight reporters are on the floor of the Exchange, and the head reporter is Mr. C. M. Beecher. They wear blue caps with gold bands, and the letters "G. & S." All are skillful telegraph operators, and are selected for their intelligence and alertness. The different stocks on the list are proportioned among them, and each one has a certain line to look out for. Wherever one sees business done he takes down the quotations. He has a pad of paper about five inches in length by three inches in width, ruled in perpendicular lines. At the head of each line is the abbreviation of a stock title, as "K. T.," for Missouri, Kansas and Texas. As he catches the quotations he jots them down in the lines under the proper titles. Having got the latest quotations on such of his stocks as are active, be hastens to the nearest to telegraphic instrument. There are thirteen instruments in different parts of the room. The reporter rattles off his quotations as fast as possible, and renews his search for information. The brokers afford them every facility for gathering in news, and often give them notes of quotations. In this way the report is made very complete, and few quotations are missed. At the close of business each reporter makes up a list of the closing prices and hands it to Mr. Beecher, who telegraphs the figures to the offices of the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company.
In the receiving-room of the fourth story of the Western Union building are six clerks with instruments before them. The central figure is the chief operator who receives all the dispatches from the reporters of the Stock Exchange. He writes them quickly and plainly on a slip of paper. and sticks it in a frame in front of him. The frame is so placed that the two operators can see the figures plainly. The operator on the right runs the stock tickers, and the one on the left the general news tickers. The first-named operator has a set of black and white keys, precisely like a piano, set before him. The keys are marked with letters and numbers. That key-board operates all the stock tickers in this city, and tickers as far away as Newark and Orange. The operator reproduces every quotation. The general news operator takes only the more important quotations. He also reproduces what appears on a tape of Kiernan's financial ticker that reels off before him. He works on a key-board of different pattern, in which the keys are set in two concentric circles. These are the two great and important divisions of the ticker. It is estimated that when business in the Exchange is running at an ordinary rate a quotation can be caught by the reporter, telegraphed to the central office, be sent out again and reappear on all tapes inside of half a minute. When business is livelier the operators fall somewhat behind in the quotations, but five minutes is the extreme time of delay. A broker makes a sale, and before he can get back to his office, a few blocks away, it is there on the ticker ahead of him. The two other operators in the receiving-room receive reports from the Mining Exchange and send them out on the mining ticker. There is another in the room which records in telegraphic dots and dashes every dispatch received from the Stock and Mining Exchanges. It is intended to act as a check on the reporters and the receiver if a dispute should arise concerning a dispatch. Opposite the operators is a complete set of instruments which they could at once use in case of accident to the other set. On the wall hangs the large gravity clock, which regulates the time tickers. It is a wonderful piece of accurate mechanism, and was made by Professor James Hamblet, the Manager of the Time Service. It is regulated each day by dispatches from the Observatories at Pittsburg, Washington and Cambridge.
The tickers in use in this city at the time of the report in November were: Stock, 867; general news, 126; cotton, 86; produce, 68; time, 82; mining, 39, and Kiernan's Financial. The Gold and Stock Telegraph Company controls individually all these tickers, except the last named, which it manages for Senator John J. Kiernan. The Kiernan financial tickers report only a few of the stock quotations, but give general financial news and any other news of interest from all over the world. He controls the portion of the city below Chambers street. The same news is furnished above Chambers street by the general news ticker of the Gold and Stock Company.
Besides having reporters in the Stock Exchange, the Company has similar reporters in the Mining, Produce and Cotton Exchanges. Their reports are received by operators in the large hall of the Western Union Telegraph Company, and are sent out from there. The same tickers are furnished to jewelers, railroads and other offices where the exact time is desired. It is an adjunct of the time-ball, which falls precisely at noon on the pole on the summit of the Western Union Building. The little instrument in a jeweler's shop beats every two seconds, and at the beginning of each hour and quarter hour strikes like an ordinary clock.
Tickers are of two kinds of manufacture. Some print a continuous line on a narrow tape, and others print two lines on a wider tape, one being the title of the stock and the other its price. The single-line instrument is run by weights, and the two-line, or three-wire, instrument is run by electrical power from the central office. The 1,563 or more tickers are on different circuits, averaging from twenty to forty tickers to a circuit. Each circuit is visited daily to see that it is in running of order. The inspectors visit each ticker twice a week to clean it, ink the pads, supply tape and ascertain if it is in good working order.
The work of the ticker is not confined to the city. Mr. George W. Scott. the Superintendent, furnished a report of the tickers in operation by the Company in other large cities. These tickers are however, not worked direct from the New York-offices. The quotations are sent to a central operator in the other cities, and he sends them to the tickers. Among the cities having the greatest number of tickers are: Boston, 111; Chicago, 142; Baltimore, 91; Cincinnati, 70; St. Louis, 69; Buffalo, 33; and Cleveland, 32. A sale in the Stock Exchange is known in Chicago within less than two minutes. The reporters and operators are so skillful that a mistake is rare. The brokers are quick to notice an error, and a correction is at once made.
Ladd, who has an office next to the Stock Exchange, is the official time-keeper. At 2:25 p.m. each day, the regular time for closing of deliveries of stock, a wire from Ladd's office is switched on to the tickers, and the familiar beats are sounded. After that time no deliveries of stock can be made.