Some birthday thoughts as Ticker writer turns 78


September 06, 1994|By JULIUS WESTHEIMER

On my birthday today (No. 78), with the Dow Jones industrial average standing at 3,885.58, down 15.86 points on Friday but up 4.53 for the week, I write a few personal financial thoughts, memories and nostalgic tidbits:

On the day I was born, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 1916, the Dow Jones industrial average closed at 94.51, up one point, on volume of 1,368,000 shares, slightly above average for those days.

(To digress a bit, one of my earliest memories is of my father -- a Baltimore-based New York Stock Exchange member -- telling me at the dinner table of our Bolton Hill home, where I was born, "Son, New York Stock Exchange volume today was 1 million shares and that's the break-even point for most brokers." (Today, average daily volume is about 280 million shares.)

ANCIENT DOW STOCKS: In September 1916, the 20 stocks in the Dow Jones industrial average were American Beet Sugar, American Can, American Car & Foundry, American Locomotive, American Smelting, American Sugar, AT&T, Anaconda Copper, Baldwin Locomotive, Central Leather, General Electric, Goodrich, Republic Iron & Steel, Studebaker, Texas Co. (now Texaco), U.S. Rubber, U.S. Steel (now USX), Utah Copper, Westinghouse and Western Union.

THE NEW BREED: Of those, only AT&T, General Electric, Texaco, U.S. Steel and Westinghouse remain in the Dow. And note the preponderance of heavy industrial stocks in the 1916 Dow, compared to some of today's newer Dow Jones issues, namely American Express, Coca-Cola, Disney, McDonald's, Merck, Philip Morris.

BIRTH-DAY PAPER: Three years ago a thoughtful reader sent me a framed copy of the "Financial Edition: Giving Closing Quotations" of Page 1 of The Evening Sun (1 cent) of the day I was born. Some headlines of Sept. 6, 1916, include the 3-column lead: "Bucharest German Objective; British Drive Near Combles; Slavs Take More Prisoners." Other headlines: "U.S. Steel Beyond Par ($100 a Share) For First Time; Starting at 92, It Climbs on Bull Activity" . . . "Sharp Conflict Expected With Allied Powers" . . . "German Peace Terms To Be Discussed."

DAYS DWINDLE DOWN: Favorite birthday reading: opening lines "September Song," from "Knickerbocker Holiday," an early 1930s Broadway musical: "It's a long long while/ from May to December/ but the days grow short/ when you reach September./ When the autumn weather/ turns the leaves to flame/ one doesn't have time/ for the waiting game. And the days dwindle down to a precious few."

FAVORITE POEM: And on my birthday I always read, from Omar Khayyam's "The Rubiyat" these lines: "The Moving Finger writes/ and, having writ, Moves on. /Nor all your Piety nor Wit/ Shall lure it back to cancel half a line/ Not all your tears wash out a Word of it."

LOOKING BACK: On the day I was a Bar Mitzvah on Saturday, Sept. 29, 1929 (the stock market was open on Saturday mornings then), the Dow Jones industrial average closed at 347.17. The Crash that set off the Great Depression of the 1930s had begun a about month earlier from DJ 381.17 on Sept. 3, 1929, and by July 8, 1932, the Dow index had sunk sickeningly to 41.22, its lowest point. The Dow did not regain its pre-Crash level until Nov. 23, 1954, about a quarter of a century later.

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