February 8, 2007

E.F. Hutton

And the man behind the brand is...
Edward Hutton

For someone who would be included among America’s greatest capitalists Edward Francis Hutton’s business career got off to an inauspicious beginning. At 17 he secured a position in the mailroom of a prestigious New York mortgage company. Hutton’s climb from the ground floor didn’t get far. He took leave on an unauthorized vacation and was summarily fired.

Hutton next surfaced as a check writer in the Manhattan Trust Company.
The president criticized his sloppy penmanship one day and suggested a stint in night school. Hutton quit in a huff. But he did enroll in Packer’s Business School. Hutton became convinced that capitalism was the key to success. With a friend Hutton purchased a seat on the Consolidated Stock Exchange, forming the brokerage of Harris, Hutton & Company.

Strikingly handsome, Hutton hobnobbed in New York’s high society where he fell in love with the daughter of one of the leading members of the New York Stock Exchange. When he asked for her hand in marriage Hutton was dismissed as a worthy suitor because the Consolidated Stock Exchange was viewed by the Big Board as a street bazaar for hucksters and third-rate brokers. Hutton didn’t hesitate - he dissolved the partnership and married the girl in 1902.

On their honeymoon to the West Coast Hutton realized that San Francisco and Los Angeles possessed no direct link to Wall Street. Financial information arrived slowly via a patchwork of telegraph feeds with stock quotes. Hutton became determined to establish a quality national brokerage to serve the west coast.

He began his married life by accepting a partnership with his cousin in a Cincinnati bond house. Hutton found himself trapped in a sleepy, unaggressive house with no interest in his plans to set up a coast-to-coast financial network.
He went back to New York and purchased a seat on the New York stock Exchange with his friend George Ellis. E.F. Hutton & Company began trading on October 12, 1903.

Hutton proved to be a financial salesman extraordinaire. He beat the streets uncovering new accounts until he was ready to pursue his dream of a west coast brokerage. His plan called for a private wire from New York to San Francisco providing investors with critical time for securities decisions. It wasn’t going to be easy.

Western Union went only as far as Salt Lake City and was in no hurry to stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Hutton proposed to shoulder half the price of construction and maintenance of a line from Utah to San Francisco, up to $50,000. When it was completed Hutton had the only private transcontinental wire in the country.

When the E.F. Hutton office opened in December of 1904 his San Francisco brokers could execute orders in minutes as opposed to hours and more for other houses. The biggest players in San Francisco were soon E.F. Hutton clients.
For years many investors on the West Coast thought E.F. Hutton was the Stock Exchange.

Much less known in New York the brokerage continued to be aggressive.
Rather than wait for clients Hutton established hotel branches for the convenience of wealthy travelers. Ellis proved to be the ideal partner for the mercurial Hutton; he was methodical, cautious and reserved.

Tragically both his wife and son died before Hutton was 45. He married the daughter of C.W. Post, who founded the Postum Cereal Company. It was a curious pairing of opposite personalities but his staid, proper wife convinced the impulsive Hutton to take the chairmanship of Postum Cereal. In 1923 he stepped away from his senior partnership in E.F. Hutton & Company.

With Postum Hutton directed the merger of fifteen nationally known grocery manufacturing companies into the General Foods Corporation in 1929. Hutton served as chairman of the new conglomerate until 1935. Coincidentally, he divorced his second wife that same year.

In later years Hutton founded the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, to give awards to individuals and organizations that promote patriotic ideals. He penned a newspaper column titled “Think it Through” which appeared in more than 60 papers across America before he passed away at the age of 86.

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