Cover image for Wall Street to main street : Charles Merrill and middle-class investors
Wall Street to main street : Charles Merrill and middle-class investors
Perkins, Edwin J.
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Publication Information:
Cambridge, Eng. ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xiv, 283 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : portraits ; 24 cm
Introduction -- 1. The return to Wall Street -- 2. Growing up in Florida -- 3. A northern education -- 4. The lure of New York -- 5. Off to a flying start -- 6. The booming twenties -- 7. The Safeway decade -- 8. Reform on Wall Street -- 9. Third career: new strategies on Wall Street -- 10. Testing new strategies: the war years -- 11. Sharing power with Win Smith -- 12. The postwar years, 1945-1950 -- 13. Last years at the helm, 1951-1956 -- 14. Merrill's legacy -- Epilogue: Merrill Lynch in the 1990s -- Appendix: Unpublished manuscripts -- Bibliography -- Index.
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HG4928.5 .P35 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Wall Street to Main Street, first published in 1999, focuses on the spectacularly successful career of financier Charles Merrill (1885-1956), the founder of Merrill Lynch & Co., the world's largest brokerage and investment firm. Merrill was the most innovative entrepreneur in the United States financial services sector in the twentieth century and the most important figure in promoting common stocks as a prudent long-term investment vehicle for members of the American middle class. With more than 100 branch offices across the nation, his firm solicited millions of middle-class households and became famous for bringing Wall Street to Main Street in the post-World War II era. Today, American investors hold, either directly or indirectly through mutual funds, a greater percentage of common stocks in their financial portfolios than do the citizens of any other country. Based on archival sources, this book is the first biography published about the career of this major Wall Street figure.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Just before World War I, Charles Merrill and Edward Lynch formed a partnership to do business investing in stocks and bonds. After the war, though, Merrill focused on his investment in Safeway Stores and other chain retailers. Merrill, Lynch abandoned the brokerage business for banking and underwriting in 1930; but after Lynch died, Merrill returned in 1940 to the business of selling securities and revolutionized the industry. His goal was to allow individuals to take advantage of the benefits of long-term investing. While preparing an entry on Merrill for the Dictionary of American Biography, Perkins, who is a University of Southern California history professor, was surprised to discover that no biography of Merrill, who died in 1956, had been published. With access to company archives and cooperation from Merrill's family, Perkins provides this scholarly portrait of Merrill's business career. Perkins acknowledges that Merrill's personal life--three wives, a number of affairs, strained relations with his children, including poet James Merrill--may also be of interest, but he leaves those details to a future biographer. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)0521630290David Rouse

Library Journal Review

Readers who enjoy biographies and the history of business will find food for thought in this very comprehensive history of the world's largest brokerage and investment firm, Merrill Lynch, and biography of founder Charles E. Merrill (1885-1956). Perkins, a history professor at the University of Southern California and a specialist in U.S. financial services, focuses on Merrill's business career rather than his personal life, although Perkins does delve into Merrill's upbringing near Jacksonville, FL, and his education at Amherst. Scholarly and detailed but readable, the book discusses Merrill's success with the Safeway food chain, the business climate during the 1920s and 1930s, his relationship with Edmund Lynch (who died in 1938), and the war and postwar years and his success in opening offices nationwide (100 by 1950) that attracted flocks of middle-class investors to the stock market. Perkins concludes with a look at the firm today. For business and general collections.√ĄSteven J. Mayover, Free Lib. of Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

As a founder of Merrill Lynch in 1914, Charles Merrill's name is instantly identified with financial services. Perkins (history, Univ. of Southern California), author of several other books on business history, has written a very accessible biography of Merrill, providing extensive coverage of his professional and personal life, including his childhood, education, and marriage. Prior to the Great Depression, Merrill's firm was an important underwriter for the stock offerings of major retail chains. Companies such as S.S. Kresge and J.C. Penney were growing rapidly because they were pioneering new concepts in retail distribution. Perkins describes how Merrill became wealthy by investing in the stock of such companies, including the California-based food chain Safeway. Foreseeing the Great Depression, he liquidated many of his investments, decreased his interest in Merrill Lynch, and spent most of the 1930s overseeing his investments in Safeway. Perkins relates how Merrill returned to the stock brokerage business in 1940, building a nationwide chain of offices dedicated to expanding stock ownership to middle-class investors, and how he continued as a leading innovator on Wall Street until his death in 1956. This readable and well-documented work is recommended for public, academic, and professional libraries. G. W. Goodale Castleton State College

Table of Contents

1 The return to Wall Street
2 Growing up in Florida
3 A Northern education
4 The lure of New York
5 Off to a flying start
6 The booming twenties
7 The Safeway decade
8 Reform on Wall Street
9 Third career: new strategies on Wall Street
10 Testing new strategies: the war years
11 Sharing power with Win Smith
12 The postwar years, 1945-1950
13 Last years at the helm, 1951-1956
14 Merrill's legacy
Epilogue: Merrill Lynch in the 1990s