Brokerage Days: From Penny Ante Alley to A “Wirehouse” – Part 1

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As a young adult, I worked for a “wirehouse” in Palm Beach, Florida, “wirehouse” being the expression in those days for the large New York brokerage firms. In decades past, these companies had been some of the first to connect all their offices across the country by telegraph and later telephone wires. Hence the term, “wirehouse.” For example, Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner and Smith was a wirehouse. (Known in the trade as either Merrill, Mother Merrill, or MLPF&S.) Buffalo Bill and Moosejaw Brokerage Firm in Timbuktu was not a wirehouse.

The firm I worked for, which I refer to by its fictitious name of Dewey, Cheatam, and Howe, had a large office in Palm Beach because of the vast number of rich people who lived there. Unfortunately, all the other wirehouses had offices in Palm Beach, as did all the major New York banks. Each day a fierce battle went on to get clients, usually stealing them from other firms who were trying to steal your clients. One big happy family.

Christian Bale as the deranged stockbroker and serial killer in American Psycho. Many guys I knew in the brokerage business thought this a natural combination.

[Image courtesy of Neoseeker.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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