"The growth of this business is of great monument to the stock exchange, for it is through the instant dissemination of the quotations made on its floor that the active and continuous interest in the markets is sustained." - Horace L. Hotchkiss, 1867 One of the original founders of the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company
1) Evolution of The Stock Ticker
The stock ticker evolved from telegraph technology. Many inventors of the 19th-century such as Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell got their start as telegraph operators. Their experience as telegraphers provided them with a good understanding of the principles of electricity, electromagnets, mechanical devices, and machining tools.
2) Law's Gold Indicator
In 1867, Mr. S.S. Laws invented the "gold indicator," which was then used by the Gold Exchange on Wall Street. Mr. Laws was the President of the Gold Exchange at the time. The Laws Gold Indicator was a device that displayed the price of gold by using double-faced panels that flipped to the appropriate numbers. One side of the panel faced out the window of the Gold Exchange and was visible to New Street, and the other side of the panel was visible to the traders inside the exchange. Laws was assisted by F.L. Pope, who would later become an early partner of Thomas Edison.
3) Edison Stock Printer
Thomas Edison worked on a device called the Edison Telegraph Printer. This device was designed to make it possible for a lower-skilled person to run a telegraph apparatus because it printed out a message in readable text. The Edison Telegraph Printer dates to approximately 1867 when Edison was a young telegrapher working in Boston. This type of technology would evolve into the introduction of the first stock tickers.
4) Calahan's Stock Printer
In 1867, Mr. E.A. Calahan of the American Telegraph Company invented the first stock telegraph printing instrument. It was his idea at the time that prices might be furnished through some form of telegraphy. The distinct sound of this telegraph printing instrument eventually earned it the name of "stock ticker." In this same year, on the site of the Mills Building on Broad Street, opposite the New York Stock Exchange, was an old building used for the trading of gold and stocks. Two prominent brokerage firms were located off the main hallway of this building. Young men were used as runners between the exchange and the brokerage offices. Each runner was dedicated to an active stock. The commotion, noise, and crowded quarters once resulted in Mr. Calahan literally being swept back out into the street and drenched in an April shower. By the time Mr. Calahan had produced his fourth stock ticker he had a subscription list of 100 clients via word-of-mouth alone.
5) Laws' Stock Printer
One of the first competitors to the Calahan Stock Ticker was the Laws Stock Printer. Observing the tremendous success of the Calahan ticker, Mr. Laws decided not to limit himself to gold prices. He produced the Laws Stock Printer. Mr. Laws retired early from this business and sold his rights to the Laws Gold Indicator and the Laws Stock Printer to the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company. Gold & Stock discontinued the Laws Stock Printer, and continued to use the Laws Gold Indicator until gold ceased to be quoted at a premium.
6) The "Unison Device"
A note about the "unison device": Four years after the Calahan Stock Ticker was introduced in 1867, Mr. Henry Van Hoevenbergh invented a device which brought all the tickers on a network into unison from a central transmitter. Before this time, a runner would have to go to the client's location and reset the ticker by hand. The first unison device was tested on a Laws Stock Printer. This was a crude and unreliable mechanism. Thomas Edison improved on this design significantly (spring of 1871) and received a patent for his "screw-thread unison" device. It is comprised of a lever with the free end traveling on a spiral or worm, on the type-wheel shaft, until it met a pin at the end of the worm, thus obstructing the shaft and leaving the type wheels at the zero point until released by the print lever. All the mechanical tickers after this point incorporated this unison device, which made the ticker's wide appeal possible.