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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Postcard Thursday: Morgan's Bank and the New York Stock Exchange

We just acquired this postcard recently, showing Morgan's Bank and the New York Stock Exchange. The exchange (on the right) was new in 1904 when this card was sent, having opened on April 22, 1903. It is unclear when the image was actually produced, but notice that pediment of the NYSE is blank. While's there's a chance that this is because the image predates sculptor JQA Ward finishing his monumental work that adorns the pediment, "Integrity Protecting the Works of Man" (below), it is more likely that the pediment was erased when making the postcard to make the image easier to read.

On the left side of the postcard (behind the street vendor) is the "House of Morgan." As we write in Footprints in New York, this was among the first office buildings in New York to be electrified:
On September 4, 1882, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the dynamos at 255–257 Pearl Street rumbled to life, under the watchful eyes of engineers from Thomas Edison’s Illuminating Company. A half a mile away, at the corner of Wall and Broad Streets...Thomas Edison flipped the switch. In a moment, electric lights in the headquarters of Drexel, Morgan & Co. (the precursor to J. P. Morgan & Company) blazed on. Despite the round of applause, it was actually a bit of an anti-climax. Compared to the natural light streaming in the building, Edison’s incandescent bulbs weren’t that bright. 
But Pierpont Morgan knew they were on the cusp of a revolution. A year earlier, Edison had installed electric lights in Morgan’s mansion, run from a steam-powered generator built in a basement below Morgan’s stables. It was an awkward system—the generator was too loud, the current sometimes spotty—but Morgan was the first man in America to have electric lights at home. He knew it would only be a matter of time before Edison’s technology hit the mainstream. 
A year later, that moment had arrived. As the sun began to dip, the Drexel Morgan offices grew brighter and brighter. Uptown on Nassau Street, lightbulbs burned in the New York Times editorial offices, so “brilliant that it would be unpleasant to look at.” By 1889, Morgan had shepherded together all of Edison’s various small companies under the banner of Edison General Electric; in 1892, Morgan merged that company with Thomson-Houston Electric Company, dropping the name Edison and forming the General Electric that still thrives today.

Though Edison's Pearl Street power plant is long gone, one of the original dynamos still exists, at Henry Ford's Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.

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Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes and Nobleetc.) or

And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.

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