Catching Lightning in a Bottle: How Merrill Lynch Revolutionized the Financial World
by Winthrop H. Smith, Jr. '71, P'08,'02,'99
“The sheer magnitude of Merrill’s fall is hard to take on-board. The book sheds vital light on two eras: the early years that saw the expansion of the firm and of populist finance and on the bleak-post-millennial decade when its confidence and vision collapsed along with much of Wall Street’s reputation".– The Economist
- Listen to a conversation about the book between Win Smith ’71 and Cullen Murphy ’74, chair of the Amherst College Board of Trustees.
- Read an excerptand review.
- Learn more about the author.
- Visit Amherst Reads on Goodreads and start a discussion.
Catching Lightning in a Bottle traces the complete history of Merrill Lynch and the company's substantial impact on the world of finance, from the birth of the once-mighty company to its inauspicious end. Throughout its ninety-four year history, Merrill Lynch revolutionized finance by bringing Wall Street to Main Street, operating under a series of guidelines known as the Principles. These values allowed the company to gain the trust of small investors by putting the clients' interests first, driving a business trajectory that expanded capital markets and fueled the growth of the American post-war economy. Written by the son of Merrill Lynch co-founder Winthrop H. Smith, this book describes the creation and evolution of the company from Charlie Merrill's one-man shop in 1914 to its acquisition by Bank of America in 2008.
Author Winthrop H. Smith Jr. ’71 spent twenty-eight years at the company his father co-founded, bringing a unique perspective to bear in telling the story of the company that democratized the stock market and eventually fell from its lofty perch.