Spokane Stock Exchange opens on January 18, 1897.

  • By Laura Arksey
  • Posted 1/09/2009
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8884

On January 18, 1897, the Spokane Stock Exchange opens. It is one of about 200 regional exchanges and initially trades in mining shares issued as penny stocks (shares selling below a dollar). Spokane, the railroad and commercial center of the “Inland Empire,” is corporate headquarters for most of the gold, silver, lead, and zinc mines of the region. Thus it is the logical location for such an exchange.  

Chalkboard Transactions

At its peak of operation, the Spokane Stock Exchange rivaled the mining exchanges of San Francisco, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Toronto. While other stock exchanges adopt new technologies, the Spokane Stock Exchange continued to post transactions on a chalkboard. Trading swung from brisk to so desultory that the exchange closed from time to time.

Although it occupied several buildings over the years it was always situated so that observers could watch its quotations being posted. Such transparency, though, did not extend to after-hours backroom trading, and with the introduction of state and federal regulation, its activities came increasingly under the scrutiny of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Ups and Downs

The Spokane Stock Exchange crashed along with others in 1929, recovered after World War II, and enjoyed a great expansion with the silver boom of the 1960s. Its downfall began in the 1980s when the admission of a particularly shady operator re-awoke the attention of the SEC, which threatened punitive action.

Broker loyalty vanished, and the Spokane Stock Exchange closed on May 24, 1991. It was the last regional mining exchange in the United States.

Sources: Norman Bolker, “A Market Place for Dreams,” Pacific Northwesterner, Vol. 30, No. 1 (1986), 1-11; John Fahey, “Optimistic Imagination: The Spokane Stock Exchange,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Vol. 95, No. 3 (Summer, 2004), 115-125; J. R. Finlay, “The Mining Industry of the Coeur d’Alenes,” Transactions of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, Vol. 33 (New York: The Institute, 1903), 235-271; “Benjamin Harrison, Dean of Spokane Stock Exchange,” The Seattle Times, November 5, 1993, website accessed January 4, 2009 (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/; Douglas Martin, “Meyer Blinder, Penny Stock King, Dies at 82,” The New York Times, March 4, 2004, website accessed January 4, 2009  (http://query.nytimes.com/); Brian Trumbore, “The Hunt Brothers and the Silver Bubble,” Buy and Hold website accessed January 5, 2009 (http://www.buyandhold.com/bh/en/education/history/2000/hunt_bros.html);  See also Richard Dwight Kegley, “A History of the Spokane Mining Exchanges,” Master’s thesis, University of Idaho, 1970); Spokane Stock Exchange records; John Fahey papers, both at Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Spokane.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You