VIEW-1904 | Interior, Montreal Stock Exchange, Montreal, QC, 1903

Interior, Montreal Stock Exchange, Montreal, QC, 1903
Wm. Notman & Son
1903, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Architecture (8646) , commercial (1771) , Photograph (77678)
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The Montreal Stock Exchange building opened its doors in 1903 on St. François Xavier Street, the "Wall Street" of Montreal. Designed by the same architect who did the New York Stock Exchange, this prestigious building was impressive because of the elegance and sobriety of its style, which was a break with the dominant architecture at the end of the century.

The Montreal Stock Exchange became a key financial institution at the beginning of the 20th century. Founded twenty-five years earlier, for a long time it had a limited number of brokers and a low volume of transactions, particularly in the banking sector. However, after 1900, its growth was spectacular. This was a period of substantial concentration of capital and business. These new companies financed their activities by issuing stocks and bonds that were bought and sold more and more on the Montreal Stock Exchange. The Montreal Stock Exchange would thus become a powerful symbol of Montreal economic power and control that businessmen exercised over the waterways, the natural resources, mines and factories of the entire country.

Source: Urban Life through Two Lenses (Consult the See Also box on this page)

Keys to History

The dramatic expansion of Canada's industrial economy required large injections of capital - long term investment in factories, railways, public utilities and resource development. Much of this capital came from abroad; English and American investors favoured Canada as a stable and lucrative place to invest. But Canadians also began to invest in their own country, buying shares (a share of ownership in an enterprise) and bonds (a long term, fixed interest loan) on Canadian stock markets. A stock exchange allowed industrial promoters to "float" shares in new ventures and allowed individual investors to exchange existing shares and bonds with other investors.

The Montreal Stock Exchange was Canada's oldest and largest exchange. As early as 1832 Montrealers were exchanging shares informally in coffee houses. In 1874 the Montreal exchange obtained a legal charter. Trading became formal and scheduled. In 1904 a grand, pillared exchange was built just around the comer from the St. James Street business district. By 1914 182 companies were "listed" on the exchange and an average 10,000 shares were exchanged every day. Other exchanges opened across the country: Toronto (chartered in 1874), Winnipeg (1903), Vancouver (1907) and Calgary (1914). In 1913 a telegraphed "ticker tape" began carrying share prices from coast to coast.

  • What

    Trading posts on the exchange floor allowed stock traders to gather and bid for shares. The price of a share reflected the changing demand for that share. By 1920 a "seat" or right to trade on the floor of the Montreal exchange cost $36,000.

  • Where

    While at the heart of Canada's industrial economy in Montreal, the Montreal exchange was very much on the margins of world capital markets. By 1910 the New York Stock Exchange annually traded 164.2 million shares. Montreal traded 2.1 million and Toronto .9 million.

  • When

    Canada's capital market emerged at a time when Canadians began to have money surplus to their daily needs and began to seek ways in which to secure their future through investment. Until the 1930s, capital markets were largely unregulated and fraud and manipulation of the market by "insiders" was frequent.

  • Who

    By 1920 the MSE had 85 members, who were often affiliated with New York and London investment companies. Ambitious financiers like James Dunn (1874-1956) and Max Aitken (1879-1964) went on from Montreal to lucrative careers in London, the world's financial capital.