Dominick & Dominick
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The early 1900s were marked by steel and rail consolidations, a bull market, the Panic of 1907, securities investigations and re-regulation. This would all end by 1913 with the newly-created Federal Reserve and the death of J.P. Morgan. Historian Robert Sobel called this era, “The end of the Golden Age,” as Victorian bankers faded into the past.
Investment banking historian Vincent Carosso wrote, “Never again would they [bankers] be so free to conduct their affairs as they had been at the turn of the century, when J.P. Morgan presided over the securities industry. His death in Rome…proved to be far more of a dividing line in the history of American high finance than was generally acknowledged at the time.” All the while, D&D quietly involved itself in NYSE governance, developing its stock business and helping companies like International Nickel and American Bank Note distribute large blocks of stock.
As D&D headed into the 1920s, Bayard Dominick passed away and Bayard Dominick, Jr. took control of the firm. He surrounded himself with men like the well-connected Andrew V. Stout and the knowledgeable Major Barnard. When he retired in the mid-1920s, Stout took the reins of the firm. Along the way, Bernon Prentice had become an important driver of new business for D&D, and he made valuable connections to the DuPont family and William Durant, co-founder of General Motors.
While securities trading was central to D&D’s business, it was also a private banking firm. Historian Susie Pak describes this world in her book, Gentlemen Bankers, saying, “A private banking partnership was not simply a job. It was an identity that required constant vigilance, a process or mode of becoming, that was fragile because of its dependence on relationships to others. If private banking was a way of life, a banker’s social ties were as much a statement of his identity and reputation as his economic associations.” In short, the senior partners at D&D gained their influence through their standing in the financial community, which allowed them to operate their style of business.
–Bart Ward is CEO of the Investment Advisory firm of Ward & Company, Ltd. Since 1993 he has written the weekly Wall Street history and market-oriented column, “The Corner.” He has his degree in history from UCLA.