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A Nation of Small Shareholders

Marketing Wall Street after World War II

Janice M. Traflet

Publication Year: 2013

Immediately after the frightening Great Crash of 1929, many Americans swore they would “never” or “never again” become involved in the stock market. Yet hordes of Americans eventually did come to embrace equity investing, to an extent actually far greater than the level of popular involvement in the market during the Roaring 1920s. A Nation of Small Shareholders explores how marketers at the New York Stock Exchange during the mid twentieth century deliberately cultivated new individual shareholders. Janice M. Traflet examines the energy with which NYSE leaders tried to expand the country’s retail investor base, particularly as the Cold War emerged and then intensified. From the early 1950s until the 1970s, Exchange executives engaged in an ambitious and sometimes controversial marketing program known as “Own Your Share of America,” which aimed to broaden the country’s shareholder base. The architects of the marketing program ardently believed that widespread shareownership would strengthen “democratic capitalism” which, in turn, would serve as an effective barrier to the potential allure of communism here in the United States. Based on extensive primary source research, A Nation of Small Shareholders illustrates the missionary zeal with which Big Board leaders during the Cold War endeavored to convince factions within the Exchange as well as the outside public of the practical and ideological importance of building a true shareholder nation. In these troubled economic times, every citizen should welcome studies that shed light on U.S. financial markets. A Nation of Small Shareholders puts the role of individual investors in broader, long-term perspective.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: Studies in Industry and Society


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pp. c-c

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

I extend my profound gratitude to my family, friends, colleagues, and men-tors for helping me envision and finish this book. At Columbia University, Alan Brinkley, Elizabeth Blackmar, Kenneth Jackson, John Witt, and David Weiman were supportive in guiding me through the dissertation process. My sincere thanks also to M. K. Stack, retired member of the New York Stock Exchange, for his enthusiasm for this project and his keen insights, garnered ...

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Introduction. Sowing an “Equity Culture”

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pp. 1-12

For many people today, it is hard to remember a time when the gyrations of the U.S. and global stock markets did not command popular attention. During the second half of the twentieth century, the number of Americans owning common stock soared to unprecedented levels, stoked by a long bull market that lasted virtually uninterrupted from 1982 to early 2000. By the ...

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1 Reeling from the Great Crash

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pp. 13-39

In 1950, the “Shadow of 1929” still cast its pall on the New York Stock Ex-change, impeding a resurrection of an equity culture as well as inhibiting a return to profitability for many member retail brokerage firms.1 What happened during the Great Crash of 1929 to cast such a long shadow? Why did the NYSE’s reputation, not just the image of equity investing, deteriorate so badly? Later in the 1950s and into the 1960s, the Big Board finally began to ...

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2 Experimenting with Advertising

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pp. 40-67

By 1939, a year after the NYSE Reorganization, the stock market still languished, and many member firms, suffering from a dearth of business, struggled to survive. The Dow, only reaching 158.41 that year, was nowhere near its pre-Crash high of 381.17. Annual stock volume was 262 million shares, as opposed to more than 1.1 billion shares in 1929, and the meager stock turn-over level of 18% in 1939 paled in comparison to 119% a decade earlier. ...

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3 Marketing the “Own Your Share” Program

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pp. 68-87

When NYSE President Emil Schram announced his decision to retire in 1949, China had just “fallen” to communism, and Stalin had already instituted the Berlin Blockade, cordoning off West Berlin to prevent food and other supplies from reaching the city.1 After the United States and other countries conducted the Berlin Airlift, Stalin finally lifted the blockade in May 1949. Other crises ensued. In June 1950, while the NYSE searched for ...

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4 Courting Retail Investors during the Cold War

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pp. 88-109

In late 1953, the NYSE Board of Governors boldly authorized Rud Lawrence’s Market Development Department to launch Own Your Share (OYS), a multifaceted marketing campaign that included institutional advertising. The program aimed to promote the stock market to a mass audience. The Big Board hoped average Americans would become more actively involved in the ...

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5 Selling Stocks on the Monthly Plan

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pp. 110-131

Advertisements constituted an integral part of the Own Your Share campaign, yet NYSE executives understood that it was not enough simply to generate popular interest in the market; interest needed to translate into action. Those contemplating buying stocks after seeing OYS advertisements needed to understand how to take the next step, and be comfortable taking that step. Exchange leaders realized that many Americans had never visited a ...

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6 Creating a Nation of “Sound” Investors

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pp. 132-166

During the Own Your Share years, the NYSE energetically endeavored to spread not just shareownership, but also economic education. In Ex-change leaders’ eyes, the two tasks—“democratizing” the stock market and financially educating the public—went hand-in-hand. Broadening the nation’s shareowner base, Funston and his colleagues realized, would mean bringing into the market many individuals of modest means—and probably also of ...

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Epilogue. Own Your Share in Retrospect

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pp. 167-176

The Own Your Share campaign had a lasting impact on shaping the con-tours of this shareowner nation. During the Funston-Lawrence era, the Exchange promoted direct investing in the stock market. Yet the Big Board’s campaign helped inculcate among the public a much broader message—that it was wise for average middle-class Americans to understand how to invest in financial instruments so they could take charge of their economic well-...


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pp. 177-220

Essay on Sources

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pp. 221-234


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pp. 235-242

E-ISBN-13: 9781421409030
E-ISBN-10: 1421409038
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421409023
Print-ISBN-10: 142140902X

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Studies in Industry and Society
Series Editor Byline: Philip B. Scranton, Series Editor, Published with the assistance of the Hagley Museum and Library See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 840582106
MUSE Marc Record: Download for A Nation of Small Shareholders

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Subject Headings

  • New York Stock Exchange -- History.
  • Stock exchanges -- New York (State) -- New York -- History.
  • Investments -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Stockholders -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Finance -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
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