A few days ago, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced it is selling a “catastrophe” bond worth $125 million, in order to cover the damage from future natural disasters.
The New York City transportation system has a 109-year-old history, but it has “never faced a disaster as devastating” as Hurricane Sandy, the chairman of the MTA, Joseph J. Lhota, said in a statement. After Sandy smashed the city in October 2012, the “Metro-North Railroad lost power from 59th Street to Croton-Harmon on the Hudson Line and to New Haven on the New Haven Line. The Long Island Rail Road evacuated its West Side Yards and suffered flooding in one East River tunnel. The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel is flooded from end to end, and the Queens Midtown Tunnel also took on water and was closed.”
For the past few months I have been a guest contributor to Bloomberg’s Echoes blog, which is edited by historian Stephen Mihm and focuses on the history of business and finance. While most of my columns have tied in with significant anniversaries or events in financial history, for this week’s post I was invited to instead write an article on one of the Museum’s collections.
I have several favorite collection items, but I chose to focus on the Graham-Newman Collection. It’s a fascinating archive of business documents, personal correspondence, rare first edition books and personal effects belonging to Warren Buffett’s mentor and the father of value investing, Benjamin Graham, and his business partner, Jerry Newman.
And, as I assert in my article, within this collection may lie the answer to the on-going debate over the origins of the hedge fund industry.
The focus of this video is the Bull and Bear Statue, an object on display at the Museum of American Finance, on loan from LaBranche & Co. The statue previously stood at the entrance of the Stock Exchange Luncheon Club, which was located on the seventh floor of the NYSE. This club was an exclusive place for traders and brokers to discuss the trades of the day and to unwind with fresh seafood and drinks after work.
There are a number of theories for the origin of bull and bear markets – too many to be included in this short video. The term “bull” was used in association with markets as early as 1714. A bull is a person who buys commodities or securities, optimistically anticipating a rise in prices. He may also be someone who tries, by studying stock trends, to contribute to a rise in the market. The longest bull market trend was in 1949, which lasted eight whole years.
The term “bear” dates back to 1709, when it was used as shorthand for the bearskin jobber occupation. The title “bearskin jobber” originates from a proverb highlighting the practice of selling bearskins before catching the bear. In a more modern sense, a bear is someone who expects prices to fall, thus selling stocks in hopes of a future compensation.
In light of its ancient connotations, the bull and bear statue was an emblem of success for Luncheon Club members, as they would superstitiously rub the horn of the bull and hope for their trades of the day to go up. Although the club has closed, the bull and bear symbol remains pertinent to traders and brokers today, as the statue remains an important icon of the history of finance.
To find out more about this historically significant statue, watch the video: “Taking Stock of History: The Bull and Bear Statue.” Additionally, LaBranche & Co. invites the public to view and to touch this statue, here at the Museum of American Finance.
Julia Edwards is a Senior Museum Intern at the Museum of American Finance.
Video by Senior Museum Interns Kelly O’Brien and Julia Edwards.
Welcome to the Museum of American Finance’s new blog! We are currently in the process of launching several exciting new social media initiatives. In addition to the Museum’s current new media offerings such as our website, MoAF.org; our new wiki, Recessipedia.com; and our Facebook group and fan pages, we will be rolling out a YouTube channel that will aggregate Museum videos and serve as an online arena for shorter, informal video features. We plan to profile staff members, provide sneak peeks into the creation of upcoming exhibitions, focus on important objects from the archive and document the behind-the-scenes accounts that usually remain hidden from visitors. In addition, the Museum can now be followed on Twitter via our handle, @FinanceMuseum (recent tweets can also be viewed on the blog in the top right hand corner of the page).
These new media platforms will provide fresh venues for the Museum to spread the word about upcoming events and programs, and connect visitors in new and innovative ways. These platforms will help create a more accessible museum experience, and will enable more interaction between the Museum and patrons – both in New York and beyond – allowing visitors to continue their education about finance and financial history after they leave the Museum. We look forward to hearing from you via comments and e-mails, and invite you to tell us what you’d like to see on the blog, what you’re interested in learning about the Museum, and how you think we’re doing.