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This Month in Business History

Debut of the Standard & Poors 500 Index

In 1806 Dow Jones published the first index - what became the Dow Jones Industrial Average with companies chosen from major areas of the U.S. economy as an easier way to understand the market as a whole.

In the 1920's Standard & Poor's got into the index business and began publishing their own composite indexes.;

In the March 5, 1957 the New York Times ran an article on page 41 that started:

Starting today on page 44, in the table headed "Market Averages: The New York Times is publishing the new Standard & Poor's Corporation index of 500 common stock issues. It represents the prices of shares comprising more than 90 per cent of the value of the New York Stock Exchange common stock issues held by investors.

This new gauge of the market is made possible by the marriage of a stock market ticker with an electronic computer.

On June 4, 1968 the index closed at over 100 for the first time. But it continued its rise passing multiple milestones. February 2, 1998 it closed above 1,000, on August 26, 2014 it closes over 2,000, on July 12, 2019 it closes over 3,000, and on April 1, 2021 it closes over 4,000 for the first time.

In 2007 when the index was celebrating its 50th anniversary, the company put out a press release with a list of the 86 companies that were on the original list that were still on the list in 2007 (though the names may have been a little different). This is just a few of the more recognizable names:

Herbert Block, artist. Stock market ringside. October 23, 1987. Herbert L. Block collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
  • 3M Co
  • Merck & Co
  • Abbott Laboratories
  • Allegheny Energy Inc
  • Exxon Mobil Corp 
  • Ford Motor Co 
  • PepsiCo Inc
  • General Dynamics Corp
  • Pfizer Inc
  • Boeing Co
  • General Electric Co
  • Burlington Northern
  • General Motors Corp
  • Pitney Bowes Inc
  • Campbell Soup Co
  • Goodyear Tire 
  • Procter & Gamble Co
  • Caterpillar Inc Rubber Co
  • Coca-Cola Co
  • Colgate-Palmolive Co
  • Heinz (H J) Co
  • Hershey Co
  • International Paper Co
  • Deere & Co
  • Dow Chemical Kroger Co
  • Du Pont (E I) de Nemours
  • McGraw-Hill Companies

Since its debit, the S&P 500 has become the proxy for the entire U.S. equity market.

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Print Resources

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.

Library of Congress Digital Resources

The following resources created or digitized by the Library of Congress can be used to find out more about the events of the day.

Internet Resources

Databases like S&P's Capital IQ and WRDS have historical constituent member information and a lot of financial information related to the index and the companies. These freely available online resources provide additional information on the topic.

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