Jas. H. Oliphant & Co. Inc. was a securities broker and a member firm of the New York Stock Exchange specializing in providing research and execution services to institutional clients. The firm went public in 1972 after acquiring the business of Jas. H. Oliphant & Co., a New York limited partnership founded in 1898. The board made its decision to dissolve the 77-year-old firm in December 1975.
The reason: May Day—May 1, 1975. Fixed commissions had been the norm for the past 183 years, since the signing of the Buttonwood Agreement on May 17, 1792. But on May Day, the US Securities & Exchange Commission mandated the deregulation of the brokerage industry. The securities industry lobby had battled very hard to keep Congress from passing HR 5050, mandating the end of the fixed commission system. They had argued that Congress should allow the industry to fix the problem, and also argued that without Congressional approval, the SEC should not act administratively on this issue. However, Congress did adopt the legislation ending fixed commissions. The New York Stock Exchange announced within days that it would accept the SEC ruling.
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.