Five Famous Stock and News Tickers

In our modern world, fast transmission of news headlines and other information, such as stock quotes, is essential. For over 146 years, the same medium of transmitting these news headlines has been used and that is the ticker format. News and stock tickers are used in both the virtual world and in the real world. Cell phones and computers have ticker apps, and real-time tickers can be found in and on the outside of buildings. Many of the famous real-world tickers can be found in New York City, but there are some in other cities as well. Here are five of those tickers from both the past and the present:

A Russian Hughes telegraph machine on display at a museum in Finland. 

1.) Edward A Calahan’s Ticker Tape Machine
The great-great grandfather of all tickers is Edward A. Calahan’s (1838-1912) stock ticker telegraph machine. This telegraph machine was invented by Edward A. Calahan in 1863 and was derived from the earlier telegraphic printer created by David E. Hughes in 1856, which was a revolutionary machine for the early telegraph industry in the 1850s-1860s. Prior to its invention, the only way to pass on the latest quotes was to dispatch a courier with a handwritten note, who would make a daily trek across town to deliver the quotes to their destination. Calahan took quote reporting to the next level by using the Hughes machine to print the quotes up via small ribbons of paper – or ‘ticker tape’ (now you know where ticker tape has its beginnings!) via a telegraph transmitted at a sending station at another location.

Calahan premiered his invention in New York City in 1867 and over the next decade, it would be found in banks and stockbrokers’ offices all over the city. This machine gave banks, stock brokers, and more the ability to instantaneously transmit the latest stock quotes over a long distance. Gone were the days when couriers would have to run across town with the latest quotes, hoofing it to get the quotes to their destination before the work day ended! Over time, the ticker tape machine was used worldwide for transmitting the day’s stock quotes, until newer stock ticker machines based on the same technology began to supersede it beginning in the 1930s.

The ticker tape machine was an early example of a printer, and in particular the ribbon printers of the late 20th century. The name is onomatopoeic and comes from the sound of the ticking telegraph reels and the operators ticking away at their telegraph keys! This telegraph machine was also an even earlier example of information being transmitted or broadcast in real-time. As a matter of fact, real-time stock quote tickers would not become a reality until 1996, some 129 years after the invention of the Hughes telegraph!

2.) The One Times Square Ticker

The One Times Square ticker circa 2005.

No listing of famous tickers would be complete without the world-famous One Times Square news ticker!

The One Times Square ticker (also known as the “zipper”) was unveiled to the world in 1928 by The New York Times newspaper to announce the results of the US presidential election. When it was first created, the ticker was powered by 14,800 lamps!

On the evening of August 14, 1945, the ticker was used to relay news about Japan’s surrender to crowd waiting in Times Square. When the headline “Official – Truman Announces Japanese Surrender” came scrolling over the ticker, over 750,000 people waiting in the square cheered. War was over. This image – and the iconic image of the sailor kissing a nurse – were immortalized by Life magazine when they were displayed on the cover the following week.

With the exception of five years (1975-1980) when it was turned off, the ticker has been used to announce many of the major news headlines of the 20th and 21st centuries, ranging from the end of World War II to Apollo 11 landing on the moon, the Apollo 13 disaster (images of people anxiously watching the ticker for the latest news about Apollo 13 are famous), and the many events that have happened in the US since 9/11.

Today the ticker is owned by Dow Jones, who also own and operate The Wall Street Journal.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange’s Market Center.

3.) The Tokyo Stock Exchange’s Market Center
Chances are you’ve seen it while watching a report on the day’s financial news headlines, in particular financial news pertaining to the Asia-Pacific region. It’s not very historic or groundbreaking, but the ticker at the Tokyo Stock Exchange is famous in its own right!

The ticker surrounds the Market Center, which was the trading floor of the TSE until it went fully electronic in late 1998 and the floor was closed. During the heyday of the Japanese economy from the 1970s-early 1990s, this was the place where stock traders buzzed with excitement over Japan’s juggernaut of an economy. These days, the Market Center is the place where reporters from around the world report financial news stories from Japan and Asia in general.

In the background behind the Market Center is the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s state of the art ticker board, which displays all the latest stock quotes from around the world.

Girls operate a stock ticker at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in NYC. 

4.) The Waldorf Astoria Hotel
Another famous NYC ticker is the stock ticker that runs along the wall of the Bull and Bear Pub located inside the hotel! This ticker comes in handy for the patrons who want to know the latest stock quotes while they eat, and celebrate gains….or a rival company’s losses!

In the days of old, another stock exchange board could be found at the hotel. That board has been made famous in the picture on the right, taken by Underwood and Underwood in 1918.

5.) The US and Cuban News Tickers in Havana
During the 2000s, a curious propaganda war broke out between the US and Cuban governments. At the US interests section in Havana, a news ticker was erected which displayed the latest news headlines from around the world, as well as headlines which vilified the Cuban government. Not long afterwards, the Cuban government erected billboards and flags displaying anti-American slogans, pictures, and so on which blocked the ticker from view by the Cuban public.

In 2009, the American ticker was turned off after the Obama administration came to power in the US. The propaganda feud seems to have died out since then.

Ever since the first ticker machines came into existence, building tickers have been a way to quickly relay information to passers-by. Most importantly of all, some tickers, suck as the One Times Square ticker, have become historical landmarks in their own right! Over time, these tickers will continue to relay news and information to future generations to come.

(Image Attributions: Hughes telegraph machine: Olaf. One Times Square: interrupt. TSE Market Center: ehnmark. All images used courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

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