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Early Years




I was an employee of A.G. Becker from 1958 until my resignation in 1981 and was Chief Executive from 1968-78. It was a wonderful organization and a great working experience, a view shared by many other former Becker employees.

I have had a long and deep interest in history, in the areas of family genealogy, the Civil War, golf, businesses, and other organizations. I am pleased now to be able to devote some retirement time to the task of chronicling the history of Becker.

In 1980, the year or so before my resignation, it was my goal to write a history of the firm. I intended to start with the background for its founding by A.G. Becker in 1893, and then cover the firm's early growth through 1925, the year of A.G.Becker's death. This would be a history of a man and his firm. If that work could be completed, I intended then to move forward to later periods.

In 1980, I completed some research and a preliminary review, at the Chicago Historical Society, of this early period and scanned some old records stored in the firm's deep archives. With my resignation and other personal developments after 1981, I had to put the Becker history project on hold. Upon hearing of the intended sale to Merrill Lynch of some of the firm's core operations in 1984, I contacted Randy Harris who arranged for me to receive all the records and archives of the firm which Merrill did not wish to retain. They were trucked to a warehouse I rented. Chet Netko helped obtain, deliver, and store some 50 boxes of archived material shipped from various locations. A few years later, I relocated these boxes to my basement, where they rested in peace, unopened for some 20 years.

This past summer, I was finally able to devote some time to a preliminary review of contents. Some 30-35 of the boxes contained microfiche records of individual, institutional, dealer, and firm accounts required at the time to be maintained under regulatory protocols. I arranged for this material to be destroyed by a professional commercial shredding company.

I am now undertaking a more careful inventory of the material in the remaining boxes, the contents of which cover, in some way, albeit unevenly, ninety years of history.

After completing this inventory, I intend first to concentrate on the origination and founding period of the firm starting somewhat before 1893 and running through about 1903. This story covers some of Chicago's and the country's financial history leading up to 1893-94; the demise of the predecessor firm, Hermann Schaffner & Co., of which A.G. Becker was a junior partner; the early years of the successor firm, A.G.Becker & Co.; and the unprecedented voluntary repayment by A.G. Becker of much of the deposit debt of old Schaffner Bank, generally completed by about 1903.

In reflecting on how best to "publish and distribute" the story which I hoped to chronicle, I decided to use a website, so that all former Becker employees -- and any other interested parties -- could see and read my findings as material was developed and posted. I believe the "Web" provides a rather unique and ideal media for this story, since it permits the posting, in jpg, pdf, or other formats, of replications of actual, original documents -- letters, memos, news clips, photos, advertisements, and the like. In many ways, these materials will tell parts of the story better than anything I might write.

It is also generally my plan to post text and documents in historical chronological order, and, by some method, to note the date of my posting so that readers may identify new material as added or edited.

First Posted: December 10, 2006

Edited: December 26, 2006

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