The Philadelphia Stock Exchange and the City It Made. By Domenic Vitiello, with George E. Thomas


"Triumph and Tragedy" could well have been a subtitle of this history of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. The triumph came in the exchange's first century, beginning in 1790 when merchant-financiers organized the Board of Brokers, the first stock exchange in the United States. New York also traded securities at the time, but its traders would not form a similar securities trading club, the forerunner of the New York Stock Exchange, until 1792.

Until the 1830s, the exchanges of the two cities were peers. Philadelphia's exchange benefited from the city being the capital of the country in the 1790s and the headquarters of the two Banks of the United States, while New York's   exchange thrived as its city became the largest of all U.S. cities and the nation's commercial capital. When the second Bank of the United States lost its federal charter in 1836, and then as a state-chartered bank failed a few years later, New York City and its exchange continued to grow and shot ahead. But Philadelphia became a leading industrial city, and the Philadelphia Stock Exchange (the name adopted in 1875) played an important role in financing the economic infrastructure— banks, insurance companies, roads, railroads, urban transit, and utilities— that made it an industrial center. In the century of triumph a number of America's leading financiers were Philadelphians: Thomas Willing, Robert Morris, Thomas and Nicholas Biddle, Enoch Clark, Jay Cooke, and Anthony Drexel.