Photos originally published October 14, 1973
The scene looked like it was from a movie — the hustle and bustle of traders (mostly tie-clad men) working the floor, shouting and gesturing. It was calm and chaotic, sometimes both at once.
Welcome to the Minneapolis Grain Exchange in 1973.
At the time, the pace was particularly frenetic — wheat prices had risen above $5 a bushel for only the second time in the history of the exchange thanks to a domestic grain shortage. (The United States had sold about 440 million bushels to the Soviet Union the year before.) It was another moment in the exchange's storied history.
The nonprofit, membership organization, began as the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce in 1881, formed as a regional cash marketplace to promote fair trade and to prevent trade abuses in wheat, corn and oat. It became the Minneapolis Grain Exchange in 1947 — MGEX for short — as the term Chamber of Commerce started to be associated with civic and social organizations.
Eventually, electronic trading started to become more prevalent, and by 2008 it accounted for more than 70% of the trading volume. Maintaining two trading systems wasn't viable anymore, and that fall the board of directors voted to switch to an all-electronic system. Jobs were lost, and hearts were broken.
"Everyone's being impacted by this decision, and it's extremely emotional," Mark Bagan, then president and CEO of the exchange, said at the time.
Although the move would generate $500,000 in annual savings and revenue increases, money wasn't the only reason why the change was made.
"This was not a financial decision as it was: How do we grow our marketplace?" Bagan said. Officials had hoped it would strengthen the exchange in the world of round-the-clock trading.
So on Dec. 19, 2008, the Minneapolis Grain Exchange closed the open outcry futures floor. After more than a century, face-to-face trading was a thing of the past.
MGEX is going strong and still trades about 1 million bushels a day — it's just a little quieter now.