A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 09, 2008
“The tape tells the story” (Wall Street proverb)

Wall Street used to receive stock quotations from ticker tape, roughly from 1867-1960s. The expression “The tape tells the story” is cited in print from at least 1896.

The once-popular Wall Street adage—like ticker tape—is historical today.

Wikipedia: Ticker tape
Ticker tape was used by ticker tape machines, the Ticker tape timer, stock ticker machines, or just stock tickers.

The term “ticker tape” came from the sound made by the machine as it printed, and tape simply refers to the machines using a paper tape printout as a rolling display of stock prices. In 1867, Edward A. Calahan of the American Telegraph Company invented the first stock telegraph printing device. Early versions of stock tickers provided the first mechanical means of conveying stock prices ("quotes"), over a long distance over telegraph wiring. In its infancy, the ticker used the same symbols as Morse code as a medium for conveying messages. Previously, they were hand-delivered via written or verbal messages. Since the useful time-span of individual quotes is very brief, they generally had not been sent long distances; aggregated summaries, typically for one day, were sent instead. The increase in speed provided by the ticker allowed for faster and more exact sales. Since the ticker ran continuously, updates to a stock‚Äôs price whenever the price changed became effective much faster and trading became a more time sensitive matter. For the first time, trades were being done in what we think of as near real-time.

By the 1880s, there were about a 1,000 stock tickers installed in the offices of New York bankers and brokers. In 1890, members of the exchange agreed to create the New York Quotation Co. in order to buy up all other ticker companies. The move was done to provide accuracy of reporting of price and volume activity.

Stock ticker machines are an ancestor of the modern computer printer, being one of the first applications of transmitting text over a wire to a printing device. One of the earliest practical stock ticker machines, the Universal Stock Ticker developed by Thomas Edison in 1869, had an alphanumeric printing speed of approximately 1 character per second. A special typewriter designed for operation over telegraph wires was used at the opposite end of the telegraph wire connection to the ticker machine. Text typed on the typewriter got displayed on the ticker machine at the opposite end of the connection.

Stock tickers in various buildings were connected using technology based on the then-recently invented telegraph machines, with the advantage that the output was readable text, instead of the dots and dashes of Morse code. The machines printed a series of ticker symbols (usually shortened forms of a company’s name), followed by brief information about the price of that company’s stock; the thin strip of paper they were printed on was called ticker tape. As with all these terms, the word ticker comes from the distinct tapping (or ticking) noise the machines made while printing.

Newer and more efficient tickers became available in the 1930s and 1960s but the physical ticker tape phase was quickly coming to a close being followed by the electronic phase. These newer and better tickers still had an approximate 15 to 20 minute delay. Stock ticker machines became obsolete in the 1960s, replaced by computer networks; none have been manufactured for use for decades.

27 October 1896, New York (NY) Times, “The Financial Markets,” pg. 10:
Woerishoffer & Co. say in a letter to customers:
“The election of McKinley is about as well assured to-day as any event in the future; and on the theory of stock speculators themselves, the quotations on the tape tell the story.”

Google Books
April 1901, McClure’s Magazine, pg. 541:
Professional Wall Street will always tell you that “ the tape tells the story.” The little paper ribbon therefore must be made to tell such stories as the manipulator desires should be told to the public. He must produce cetain effects which should preserve an appearance of alluring spontaneity.

Chronicling America
5 April 1901, Washington (DC) Evening Times, pg. 7, col. 6:
But control is obtainable in other ways, and it is considered that the tape tells the story.

28 January 1904, Wall Street Daily News, “Tape Talks,” pg. 1:
However, nothing official transpires to this effect—but it is an old axiom on the floor that—“The tape tells the story.”

5 October 1904, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, pg. 11:
Naturally Wall street disregards the denials, for Wall street is properly suspicious of all official statements, and believes implicitly that “the tape tells the story.”

3 December 1905, New York (NY) Times, pg. 13:
On the New York Stock Exchange there is a favorite proverb, “The tape tells the story,” but this may, of course, not be true when applied to the steady decline of Russian bonds abroad and the bearing of this on the payment of interest, or even principal.

4 August 1907, Dallas (TX) Morning News, pg. 18:
“Every now and then,” says the Wall Street Journal, “when a big corporation is about to declare a dividend, and Wall street is debating what it will be, some one will say: “The tape tells the story.” It explains this remark by saying that the members of some directories, after they have concluded what they are going to do in the way of dividend declarations, withhold the information long enough to put themselves on the right side of the market, and the tape, as the tattler of their speculations, “tells the story,” in a cryptic way, of the forthcoming event. The story merely throws another ray of light on Wall street’s standard of morals. It shows that in Wall street the dealer is expected to avail himself of any opportunity that may come to him to get a peep at the bottom card.

Google Books
Studies in Tape Reading
By Richard Demille Wyckoff
New York, NY: The Ticker Publishing Company
Pg. 126:
You have often stated that the tape tells the story; since this is true, and a chart is but a copy of the tape, with indications of accumulation or distribution, as the case may be, why not follow th chart entirely, and eliminate all unnecessary time devoted to study of earnings, etc.?

Google Books
Investment and Speculation:
A Description of the Modern Money Market and Analysis of the Factors Determining the Value of Securities

By Thomas Conway and Albert William Atwood
New York, NY: Alexander Hamilton Institute
Pg. 125:
The Wall Street adage is that “The tape tells the story,” which means that the market does not lie. No matter what may be the speculator’s knowledge or information he cannot afford to disregard the market indications, for these may reflect the operation of factors that he does not know.

23 August 1932, Oakland (CA) Tribune, pg. 1, col. 3:
“Tape Tells the Story” Axiom
Still Holds Good for N. Y.
Stock Board, Expert Says

WALL STREET, New York, Aug. 23.—When security prices were dropping less than three months ago into what appeared to be the bottomless pit of values, Wall Street, as always, proclaimed that “the tape tells the story” and that the real facts of the credit and business situation justified the quotations of that day.

Google Books
Commonsense Speculation
By Harris Joseph Nelson
New York, NY: Barron’s, the national financial weekly
Pg. 35:
“The tape tells the story” is the dictum accepted by those most versed in stock market lore.

Google Books
The Money Game
By Adam Smith
New York, NY: Dell
Pg. 254:
The tape tells the story, they say, and they sniff and inhale the atmosphere and proceed on what their Indian-guide awareness tells them.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • (0) Comments • Thursday, October 09, 2008 • Permalink