Exchange, a gathering place for the transaction of business. In Venice, Genoa, and other Italian cities, regular commercial gathering places existed at an early day. The modern institution of exchanges, however, dates more particularly from the 10th century. In continental Europe the name Borse in German, bourse in French, and birzha in Russian, originated from the belief that the first gathering of the kind took place in the early part of the 16th century at Bruges, in Flanders, in the house of a family of the name of Van der Beurse. According to another tradition, the first exchange was held at Amsterdam in a house which had three purses hewn in stone over the gates, thus accounting for the use of the word bourse. Previous to the latter part of the 16th century the London merchants used to meet without shelter in Lombard street. Sir Richard Gresham, having seen the covered walks used for exchanges abroad, contemplated erecting a similar building in London. The scheme was carried into effect by his son Sir Thomas Gresham, who offered to erect a building if the citizens would provide a plot of ground.
The site north of Cornhill, in the city of London, was accordingly purchased in 1566 for about £3,600. On Jan. 23, 1570, Queen Elizabeth caused it to be proclaimed the Royal Exchange." This structure was destroyed in the great fire of 1666. The new exchange was commenced at the end of 1667, and publicly opened for business Sept. 28, 1669. This building, which was 210 ft. by 175, cost nearly £60,000, and was destroyed by fire Jan. 10, 1838. The corner stone of the present royal exchange was laid in 1842, and the building was opened Oct. 28, 1844, by Queen Victoria. It is an imposing edifice, embellished with many statues, and cost £180,000. The area appropriated to the meetings of the merchants is 170 ft. by 112, of which 111 ft. by 53 is uncovered. Here the English, German. Greek, Mediterranean, and other foreign merchants, all have their appropriate places and corners, and meet daily for the transaction of business. The busiest hour is from 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 P. M. The two great days on 'change are Tuesday and Friday, when an extra meeting for transactions in foreign bills of exchange takes place previous to the regular meeting, which is attended by the principal bankers and merchants of London, and which derives great importance from the immense business transacted within about half an hour.
The whole foreign commerce which centres in London is here concentrated in a handful of bills of exchange. There is much less excitement than at the general exchange. A few brokers pass between the bankers and merchants, and the bills are bought and sold almost in a whisper.-The most celebrated continental exchange is the bourse of Paris, which was inaugurated in 1824. The building has the shape of an ancient peripteral temple, and is calculated to hold more than 2,000 persons. The Paris exchange is a combination of a stock and bill exchange, and confines itself chiefly to these branches of business. The St. Petersburg exchange, built between 1804 and 1810, approaches the Paris bourse in splendor. The Hamburg exchange resembles it both in shape and grandeur. The exchange of Amsterdam was finished in 1013, and is an edifice of great magnitude. The bourse of Antwerp, one of the oldest and most remarkable of Europe, which was chosen by Sir Thomas Gresham as a model for the first royal exchange in London, was totally destroyed by fire, Aug. 2, 1858, and has since been rebuilt in the rue de la Bourse. A large portion of the commerce of the world was transacted in it for a considerable time.
At Amsterdam, Hamburg, Vienna, Constantinople, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Frankfort, etc, the exchanges are numerously attended, but the exchange of London stands unrivalled in Europe for the magnitude of its transactions.-The merchants1 exchange in New York was founded in 1817. Its first building, in Wall street, between William and Pearl streets, was built of Westchester marble, three stories in height, with the city post office in the basement, and insurance and other offices on the third floor. It was opened in 1827, and was destroyed by the great fire of Dec. 16, 1835. The second exchange, on the same site, was built of Quincy granite, at a cost, including the value of the ground, of $1,800,000. It was subsequently sold to the general government to be used as a custom house. The present exchange has an imposing marble front in Broad street, near Wall street, with entrances also in Wall and New streets. Buildings for similar purposes, and generally of large size and great cost, exist in all the principal cities of the United States.