The orders surged in. Sell, sell, sell.
Fifty years ago today, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Michael Robbins heard a murmur.
It started at the booth of a Texas firm, Eppler, Guerin & Turner, and got louder, until the 30-year-old trader realized what it was: the sound of a selloff.
Bloomberg reports that in the order room of Thomson McKinnon Securities, a 21-year-old clerk named Arthur Cashin Jr. answered the ringing phone. It was a broker on the exchange floor asking if any news had come over the wire. He’d heard a rumour that something may have happened to the U.S. president. Cashin told him no.
The Dow Jones news ticker machine in those days was as big as a refrigerator. It chattered, then it spit out paper with the latest breaking news. For special stories, such as company earnings, a bell on the machine would ring. For important economic data, the bell would ring twice. On November 22nd 1963, right after Cashin hung up with the trader, it rang three times.
The day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas was a day that changed so much. From Texas to the New York Stock Exchange floor where, Robbins said in an interview, the whole world was reflected, those who remember say they’ll never forget.
That morning, just like every morning, Robbins said he traded his jacket for the blazer he wore on the exchange floor. Attached was his member number, 718. He put on comfortable shoes. While today most of the exchange’s trades are executed by computers in Mahwah, New Jersey, back then Robbins could walk seven miles before quitting time.
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