Short Biography of Charles Merrill
Known as a great salesman and recognized for bringing investing to the average man, Charles Merrill had ideas that set him apart from any Wall Street guru of the day. While his friends coined him ‘Good Time Charlie Merrill’, he took investing seriously, even advising his clients to sell their stocks after predicting the Great Depression.
Born to a physician, young Charles attended John B. Stetson in Florida then Amherst College. Little known knowledge is that Merrill was an avid baseball player and tried at the semi-professional level. Not able to make ends meet financially, he tried working in the newspaper industry and even attempted law school; however, he found them unfulfilling. He finally landed a job with a textile firm as a regular office boy. The business world intrigued him so much that within two years he had worked his way up to director of the company. By 1910, Merrill created a bond department and oversaw its management. He was doing so well that Wall Street took notice. Not wanting to limit himself to one type of business, Merrill became a sales correspondent and manager of a firm that already had its place on Wall Street.
Within one year, Charles Merrill saw he could probably do better on his own in the investment world. He was rather gifted at analyzing and choosing stocks, and offering solid investing advice to new companies joining the market. As a result, he started his own company: Charles E. Merrill & Co. After doing well from the get-go, Merrill would be offered greater assets if he could find a business partner. One month after the savvy Edmund Lynch joined the team, the company came to be known as Merrill Lynch & Co.
Merrill and Lynch began underwriting stock options for chain stores, in which the two faired very well. Through underwriting and by accepting stocks as commission, Merrill and Lynch not only built up their business wealth, but their private wealth too. Merrill soon became the biggest shareholder in Safeway Foods, Inc. and worked to spread the grocery store all over the US. Within twenty years, Safeway Foods was on its way to becoming the nation’s largest grocery supplier.
Predicting the Stock Market Crash of 1929, Merrill sold most of his stocks and retired from the Market. But within ten years, he was back in business and united Merrill Lynch & Co. with other top names in the business to become the largest brokerage firm in the world. Charles Merrill worked hard to bring Wall Street to Main Street, which was his slogan. He wanted to spread his financial knowledge of the stock market to every household in the U.S., and with nearly 100 offices nationwide, he sent out pamphlets, brochures, and held seminars about the joys and simplicity of investing. He would explain that it wasn’t just a game for the wealthy, but a way for the average, middle-class man to make great profits over time. In his will, Charles Merrill left nearly six million dollars to institutions to offer classes on free enterprise to students and the public.