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An Emerging Market: The NYSE From 1815 to 1871

By William N. Goetzmann and Roger G. Ibbotson


This paper analyzes a new database of substantially all stocks listed on the NYSE over its early history. We collect prices and dividends from primary sources -- i.e. financial periodicals -- for all listed stocks on the New York Stock Exchange over its early history. We construct a monthly index of NYSE equity prices over the 1815-1871 period, and a monthly index with dividends over the 1825-1871 period. We find that NYSE equities returned between 7.7% and 11.8% per year in arithmetic terms between the years 1825 and 1871. We also find that income returns represented a high proportion of total return for stocks in the nineteenth century. This may be due to differences in taxation, or may be due to the changing public attitude towards substitution of capital gains for income.

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