Bache & Co.

Bache & Co.

Bache & Company, also known as Bache & Co., was originally founded in 1879 in New York City as a stock brokerage and investment bank under the name Leopold Cahn & Co.

Bache in its original form traces its roots to the year 1892 when Jules S. Bache, an employee and nephew of Leopold Cahn, reorganized the firm as J.S. Bache & Co. Jules Bache was the grandson of an officer who fought under Napoleon and collected art treasures for the Louvre. Over a fifty year career he built the company into one of the most successful and innovative brokerage houses in the United States.

In 1890 the firm expanded to open a second office in New York City and a branch office in Albany, the first branch established by any brokerage firm with a direct wire link to headquarters. Among the early clients of J.S. Bache & Co. were such renowned financial leaders as John D. Rockefeller Sr., Edward H. Harriman and Jay Gould.

In the tumultuous markets brought on by the Panic of 1907, Bache handled as many as 200,000 shares a day. The firm had by now established itself as a leader in commodities trading.

During the 1920s, the firm became a leader in financing railroads, automobile and mining enterprises. It headed the list of stockholders of the Chicago, Great Western Railway and acquired control of the Ann Arbor Railroad. The firm was closely identified with the founding and early growth of the Chrysler Corporation.

Bache demonstrated that it would remain a major presence on Wall Street in the Crash of 1929 by reducing the credit extended to the firm’s customers and warning them of the possibility of a reversal. Fortuitously, the firm had none of its own capital invested in the stock market and had no investment trusts to protect during the markets decline. In the dark days of the Bank Holiday in 1933, when cash was virtually unavailable, Bache attracted national attention by supplying currency to customers in New York, Detroit, and other cities.

World War II forced the closing of all of Bache’s overseas offices except the London office, which remained open throughout the conflict. The firm was among the first to employ women to fill jobs vacated by male employees in the military services. During the war Bache also introduces the first employee profit-sharing plan in Wall Street history.

Following the death of Jules Bache in 1944, his nephew, Harold L. Bache, took over the running of the business and the name was shortened to Bache & Company. The New York Herald printed “The late Jules Bache will be appreciatively remembered in the financial and business worlds. In both he was a distinguished figure, a man of great acumen and sterling integrity.”

The firm was the first to explore investments in Japan following the war, and one of its early postwar enterprises was the formation of the highly successful Japan Fund, a mutual fund composed exclusively of Japanese securities. In the 1950s, the firm pioneered American stock brokerage expansion abroad. In 1971, Bache & Company was the second major brokerage firm to go public.

As the Bache Group celebrated its centennial in 1979, it had $151 million in capital, some 10,000 shareholders, over 6,500 employees including 2,500 account executives. It was involved in practically every facet of the securities business. Its principal operating subsidiary, Bache Halsey Stuart Shields Incorporated, had memberships on 59 different securities, commodities and options exchanges in the United States, Canada and overseas. It maintained 176 offices in 143 cities in 11 countries as well as the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, operated a worldwide communications system that carried more than 50,000 words of financial information daily over 100,000 miles of private wire, and served several hundred thousand clients ranging from individuals with modest sums to invest to large pension funds, insurance companies and other institutional investors.

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