As noted in Background, this website presents a “chronicle” of the birth, life, and death of A.G. Becker & Co. The story which follows is indeed a “chronicle,” which is “a factual written account of historical events in the order of their occurrence.” In contrast, a “history” is a “study of past events including interpretations and evaluations.”
From time to time in the Chronicle, a personal interpretative comment may disrupt a straightforward recording of events and developments. If so, the author apologizes. The author has made every effort to withhold comment and opinion about the course of events being described. However, the author has provided, in the Epilogue, a personal evaluation and critique on the events in Becker's history and in particular comments on the events taking place over the last twenty years of Becker's life.
Various readers may have factual corrections or elaborations to suggest as related to some part of the Chronicle. They are invited to provide the author and all readers of that information by email and/or through the Comments/Reflections component of the site. In addition, readers may have views and opinions about the course of events about which they are reading, or what they remember or were told about those matters. Again, all such readers are are encouraged to express these comments in the Comments/Reflections section. Subject to the conditions published in that section, readers' comments/reflection will be recorded and thus become a part of the whole Becker Chronicle.
As will be noted, the author has separated from the main story some eight “sub-stories” (in Appendices). Some of these topics precede the establishment of Becker (such as the early Chicago financial situation), whereas others, in whole or in part, run in parallel with the main story (such as Becker's communications and investment programs). Given the significance of these sub-stories, the author concluded that rather than sprinkle this material throughout the main story, a separate treatment would better inform and engage the reader as to these aspects of the firm’s history.
The author estimates that over the life of A.G. Becker & Co. - some 90 years – perhaps as many as 10,000 persons were at one time employed by the firm. Most of this universe were employees in the 1970-1984 era. It is impossible to research, become acquainted with, and mention each person that was at sometime an employee of Becker. The Becker archives at the Newberry Library do have, in various places, lists, or singular mentions of many employees whose names do not appear in the Chronicle. By appointment, the Becker archives are available to the public.
For employees in leadership and other senior roles, whether partners, shareholders, managers or supervisors, the author has attempted to mention names of such persons including members of various Boards of Directors, from the earliest days of the firm, but especially from about 1955 forward, when the firm began to record and store such information. A brief biographical sketch is provided on a little under 200 key employees, professional advisors, or family persons connected to the firm, including also various representatives of S.G. Warburg and Paribas. Via these sketches, there are links to personal photos (if they exist in the archives), or in other cases, to group photos including Boards of Directors in which the particular person appears. The author regrets that the archives do not hold more photos and more personal data on more employees, but what is available is being displayed (and with some appreciable effort!!).
In 1975 and 1977 the firm published an “Organizational Summary” in which a brief biography was printed for a number of management and supervisory employees. These biographical sketches, for those persons employed and included in the Summary, have been in many cases used as the basic biographical sketch for many employees, sometimes augmented and updated by the author’s personal knowledge, research, or through information submitted by the employee, or via an obituary.
As will be noted, of the some 200 or so former employees of and close advisors to Becker for whom the author has provided a personal biographical file, more than half are deceased, or believed to be so. A reasonable guess is that roughly the same proportion of the total number of people who were at sometime an employee of the firm are now deceased (but that means that many hundreds are still alive!). The author regrets not completing this Chronicle twenty or so years ago when more colleagues would have been able to learn in more detail about Becker's very interesting and illustrious history. Hopefully the various children, grandchildren, and other relatives and friends of deceased employees -- as well as all still living employees -- will enjoy the story of the organization which was held in such high regard by those who worked there.
Finally, it might be mentioned that “market conditions” during different phases of the Becker story are not regularly and consistently mentioned. During any specific period of time, market conditions very much impact how a securities firm is operating for that period – and, quite often, the contemporary attitudes of employees are effected. The author has attempted to provide this background information when it was generally available in the archives – usually, in an applicable annual shareholders' report. On balance, no special effort has been made to describe the market conditions during which Becker was operating at different stages. An analysis of the firm's operating results could not intelligently be completed without such information, but that is not a purpose of the Chronicle.
Suffice it to say, when a person's name, or a word or phrase appears in "brown" and/or is underlined, a "click" on that word or phrase will take the reader to a file with more underlying information about that clicked item. This is one reason why a website is better than a book in telling the Becker story.
So, with all that said and having read the Preface, Background, Introduction and four Appendices earlier mentioned, let's now move on to the Founding chapter of Becker's history.