How Traders' Pranks Were Once Routine on U.S. Exchanges

April 1, 2013

By Kristin Aguilera, Deputy Director, Museum of American Finance
Bloomberg - Echoes Blog

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries floor traders at U.S. stock exchanges engaged in elaborate and often bizarre pranks. The most common were the cutting off the ties of newcomers, and the classic -- if long forgotten -- April Fool’s ritual of attaching a paper cup to a trader’s jacket and surreptitiously filling it with water.

Perhaps the biggest spur to trading-floor mischief was boredom on low volume days. An 1898 New York Times article titled “Stock Market Erratic” noted that “the market slump began at 1 p.m., and the market, which from the opening had been free from violent demonstrations of excitement, became almost dull and listless, and the gallery spectators were treated to an exhibition of floor pranks for an hour.”

A week later, the paper reported that “nearly the whole day was given over to pranks -- from throwing paper to simulated ring encounters.”

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