Robert Newburger, NYSE Floor Trader for 55 Years, Dies at 102

Robert Newburger, who began trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in 1940 and didn’t stop for 55 years, has died. He was 102.

He died Sept. 15, according to an online death notice. It gave no further details.

Through his 90s, Newburger remained involved on Wall Street as executive director of the Alliance of Floor Brokers, an unpaid position that kept him in the community he loved. With his wife, Ann, he celebrated his 100th birthday in May 2013 by ringing the closing bell of what is now NYSE Euronext.

“The New York Stock Exchange is not a cold, heartless organization,” the New York Times quoted him saying in 2009. “It isn’t eighths and quarters or decimal points -- it’s people. There are so many people that I love, and that I dare say love me.”

When Newburger joined the stock exchange in 1940, the floor bustled with 1,366 brokers -- the maximum set by rule. He watched that number dwindle to about 430 people daily, as competing exchanges and then electronic trading cut into floor activity.

His first job, in 1935, was at Newburger, Henderson & Loeb, where his father, Lester, was a senior partner. The firm was one of New York’s oldest and had given Benjamin Graham, the pioneer of value investing, his first job, delivering checks and securities.

When the firm, then called Newburger Loeb & Co., collapsed in the 1970s -- it had remained a manual operation even as other firms were using computers to track accounts -- Newburger lost several million dollars, by his estimate.

‘Happier Man’

He credited friends for his recovery. Though some were competitors on the trading floor, they loaned him money until he was able to rebuild his finances.

“This is dumb to say, but by George, I’m a much happier man living in modest circumstances than I ever was when I was really, really, really well off,” he said in a video interview with the Times.

Back then, “I could eat in the finest restaurant and find fault with it,” he said. “Now if I eat in any restaurant I’m happy to be there.”

Robert Lester Newburger was born on May 22, 1913. With no room for him at the family firm when he graduated high school, he started college. He found a place at the firm in 1935, before he earned a degree, and became a partner at the end of 1937. He became a floor broker in 1940, and with the exception of his service in the U.S. Army during World War II, that’s where he remained.

History Lessons

Following the demise of his family firm, he traded for Wheeling, West Virginia-based Hazlett, Burt & Watson until 1995, when he joined the Alliance of Floor Brokers.

“Bobby still makes his rounds around the floor as often as he can,” Patrick Armstrong, the group’s co-president, said in a 2011 interview. “Everybody knows who Bobby is. The stories he can tell and the rich history that he knows about the exchange are invaluable to the younger generation of people down here.”

His children are John Newburger, Susan Kauchmer and Kay Wisniewski. He lived in Manhattan and Quogue, on New York’s Long Island.