Merrill Lynch was founded on January 6, 1914, when Charles E. Merrill & Company opened for business at 7 Wall Street in New York City. A few months later, Merrill's friend, Edmund C. Lynch, joined him, and in 1915 the name was officially changed to Merrill, Lynch & Company. At that time, the firm's name included a comma between Merrill and Lynch. In 1916, Winthrop H. Smith joined the firm.
In its early history, Merrill, Lynch & Company made several successful investments. In 1921, the company purchased Pathé Exchange, which later became RKO Pictures. In 1926, the firm made
its most significant financial investment at the time, purchasing a controlling interest in Safeway, transforming the small grocery store into the country's third largest grocery store chain by the early 1930's. Following this investment, the company further increased its investment banking focus by transferring its retail brokerage services to E.A. Pierce.
In 1940, the firm merged with E. A. Pierce & Company and Cassatt & Company and was briefly known as Merrill Lynch, E. A. Pierce, and Cassatt. However after Edmund Lynch's death in 1952, the company changed its name to Merrill Lynch & Company and was officially incorporated. The company became the first on Wall Street to publish an annual fiscal report in 1941.
In 1941, Fenner & Beane joined the firm, and the name became Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Beane. On December 31, 1957, The New York Times referred to that name as "a sonorous bit of Americana" and said "After sixteen years of popularizing [it], Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner, and Beane is going to change it—and thereby honor the man who has been largely responsible for making the name of a brokerage house part of an American saga," Winthrop H. Smith, who had been running the company since 1940. The merger made the company the largest securities firm in the world, with offices in over 98 cities and membership on 28 exchanges. At the start of the firm's fiscal year on March 1, 1958, the firm's name became Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith and the company became a Big Board member of the New York Stock Exchange.
Merrill Lynch rose to prominence on the strength of its brokerage network (15,000+ as of 2006), sometimes referred to as the "thundering herd", that allowed it to place securities it underwrote directly. In contrast, many established Wall Street firms, such as Morgan Stanley, relied on selling groups of independent brokers for placement of the securities they underwrote. Until as late as 1970, it was known as the "Catholic" firm of Wall Street. The firm went public in 1971 and has since become a multinational corporation with over US $1.8 trillion in client assets, operating in more than 40 countries around the world. In 1978, it significantly buttressed its securities underwriting business by acquiring White Weld & Company, a small but prestigious old-line investment bank.We currently have the following pieces in our inventory that are from, or were issued to, this historic firm: