The Work of Wall Street, Sereno S. Pratt, 1909, pages 133-139:



    "OUR current political economy," wrote Walter Bagehot thirty years ago, "does not sufficiently take account of time as an element in trade operations." It can not be said, however, that Wall Street does not take account of time. Speed with accuracy, promptness in all things--this is the cornerstone of modern finance. Most of the tools of Wall Street are time-savers. The six most important are:
    The stock indicator.
    The telegraph.
    The cable.
    The telephone.
    The news slips.
    The market reports.
    There was active speculation before the introduction, in 1867, of the stock indicator, or "ticker" as it is called, but it is difficult to conceive now of a market deprived of its use and compelled to rely upon quotations carried by brokers from office to office. The very life of the Street seems to depend upon accurate, immediate, and continuous quotations from the Stock Exchange.
    These are provided by the stock indicator, a marvelous little instrument which prints upon a narrow ribbon of paper the sales and prices made in the Board room. The paper, which is in a roll or spool, feeds itself into the ticker, and after receiving there the printed impressions falls into a basket placed beside the machine. In the vernacular of the Street this paper is called the "tape."
    The Exchange has always zealously guarded its quotations, and has endeavored to prevent them from reaching rival institutions or the bucket-shops. But it supplies the quotations to its members and the outside public simultaneously. Its own corps of reporters obtain the sales as they are made in the Board room and carry them to four telegraph stations placed in convenient parts of the room. These send the quotations instantly to a gallery where the employees of the two ticker companies are stationed. One of these, the New York Quotation Company, is owned and controlled by the Exchange, and it supplies the quotations to its members. Its tickers, about 1,000 in number, do not extend outside of the Wall Street district. The other company, the Gold and Stock, is independent of the Exchange, but gets the quotations simultaneously with the other, and has the right to sell them, under certain restrictions hereafter noted, to any one desiring them. As a matter of fact, tickers are to be found in almost every public place. They are indispensable adjuncts of every banking and brokerage office.
    A number of years ago the Stock Exchange had a long controversy with the then existing ticker company. It was charged that the latter supplied indicators to bucket-shops, and the Exchange was bound to break up this abuse of its quotations. The controversy was carried into the courts, and the question was raised as to the right of the Exchange to withhold its quotations from the public. In the end the Exchange made a satisfactory contract with the company, supplying the public with quotations, and established its special service for its own members.
    While the quotations are reported as soon after they are made as it is possible to gather them, it takes some time, of course, to get them to the indicator, and it follows that the ticker is always a little behind the actual market. On an ordinary day the difference in time between, say, the close of the market and the record of the final sales on the tape may not amount to more than one or two or three minutes, but on a very active day, when the transactions are heavy, it has taken the ticker ten minutes and even more to record the accumulation of sales. The speed with which the sales made in the Exchange reach the public is marvelous, and proves the perfection of the system employed. Occasionally a mistake is made, but there is always a swift correction.
    As there are more than four hundred different stocks and bonds more or less regularly traded in at the Exchange, many of them bearing the long names of their corporations, it is necessary to use abbreviations in reporting quotations on the tape. To the uninitiated the tape appears to be a meaningless jumble of letters and figures almost as undecipherable as a cable code or Egyptian hieroglyphics. But the broker and regular habitué of the Street learns to read it as readily as a priest reads his Latin. A large chart containing the abbreviations goes with each ticker, but it is rarely consulted. Here are the abbreviations used for a few of the more active stocks:
SThe American Sugar Refining Company.
ACPAmalgamated Copper Company.
STChicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul.
RIChicago, Rock Island & Pacific.
CEN  New York Central & Hudson River.
AAtchison, Topeka & Santa Fe.
RGPhiladelphia & Reading.
WWestern Union Telegraph.
UUnion Pacific.
MPMissouri Pacific.
2sU. S. 2s Con. 1930.
XEx-coupon Dividend or Interest.
URUnder the Rule.

    In view of the great volume of business during the past two years, it has been necessary to abbreviate many of the abbreviations so as to be able to report all the sales swiftly.
    Several of the abbreviations are responsible for the popular Street nicknames of leading stocks. For instance, because MP stands on the tape for Missouri Pacific, that stock is generally called " Mop." NP stands for Northern Pacific, which goes by the name "Nipper," the common being called "little" and the preferred "big." PO standing for People's Gas Light and Coke Company, that stock is often called "Post-office." The same law of economy in the use of words applies to all the active stocks.
    Below is a section of a stock tape just as it comes from the ticker.
sample ticker tape

    This, being interpreted, reads: St. Louis & San Francisco preferred stock, 200 shares at 76; St. Louis & San Francisco, common, 100 shares at 641/4; Standard Rope and Twine income bonds, 10 at 73/4; Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul common stock, 100 shares at 1615/8; United States Steel preferred stock, 200 shares at 941/4; 100 shares do. at 943/8; Reading first preferred stock, 200 shares at 811/2; Atchison Adjustment bonds, 66 at 923/4; St. Louis & South Western first bonds, 20 at 99; Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul stock, 100 shares at 1615/8; St. Louis & San Francisco second preferred stock, 100 shares at 76; Glucose Sugar Refining Company stock, 100 shares at 453/4; Kanawha & Michigan Railway, 353/4 bid, offered at 36; Atchison preferred stock, 100 shares at 971/8; Union Pacific stock, 100 shares at 1003/4; St. Louis & San Francisco common stock, 100 shares at 641/8; do. second preferred, 100 shares at 76; Chicago, Burlington & Quincy 4s, 14 bonds at 961/8; Standard Rope and Twine income bonds, bid 73/4, offered 8; American Sugar stock, 100 shares at 121; Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul stock, 100 shares at 1615/8; 200 shares do. at 162; Mexican Central Railway stock, bid 263/4, offered at 27; St. Louis & San Francisco, second preferred stock, 100 shares at 76."
    "The letters and figures used in the language of the tape," says a noted Boston operator, "are very few, but they spell ruin in ninety-nine million ways."
    Notwithstanding the abbreviations, the number of printed impressions every day is very large, although much less than the number of shares sold. For instance, on April 30, 1901, when 3,234,339 shares were sold, besides a large number of bonds, the printed impressions on the tape numbered 79,200. The New York Quotation Company has a delicate little machine for taking an accurate count of the characters printed on the tape, and it has kept a record for a number of years past. The record is as follows:
 YEAR.Number of shares traded in.Number of impressions
on stock tape.

    Last year it took ninety-nine thousand pounds of paper to supply the thousand tickers of the New York Quotation Company.
    The chart below, while applying only to the number of printed impressions on the tape, is given because it is also valuable as showing the volume of stock and bond transactions in the past eleven years. As the sales are almost always heaviest in the bull years, the chart may be taken as a bird's-eye view of the stock market since 1890.
tape usage chart

    The ticker, among its other offices, is a timekeeper for the Street. The rule for delivery of stocks being very strict, and the time for delivery expiring at 2.15 P. M., the ticker every day at fourteen minutes after two prints "time" on the tape, and shortly after the instrument gives fifteen distinct beats, at the end of which it is exactly settlement time. Nearly every timepiece in the Street is regulated by the tape.
    Besides the thousand stock tickers operated by the New York Quotation Company, the Gold and Stock Company operates about seven hundred and fifty, rented to customers in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Jersey City. No one can rent one of these machines whose name has not been approved by a committee of the Exchange. This rule is being observed to prevent the tickers being placed in bucket-shops. Besides the stock tickers, there are one hundred machines reporting the grain and produce quotations of the New York Produce Exchange, one hundred giving the quotations of the Chicago Board of Trade, fifty giving the quotations of the Cotton Exchange, and twenty-five reporting the quotations of the Coffee Exchange. There are also upward of seven hundred other tickers supplying financial, sporting, and general news. Some of these tickers print the news on a broad ribbon of paper just as if it had come from a typewriter. Outside of New York there are twenty cities which have ticker services of their own. No better proof is needed of the universality of speculation.