Introducing a New Database of 19th Century Railroads Before Cowles and Macaulay

68 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2017 Last revised: 16 Mar 2021

See all articles by Edward F. McQuarrie

Edward F. McQuarrie

Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business

Date Written: March 16, 2021


This paper describes an effort to extend the record of US stock market returns past the 1871 terminus of the Cowles (1938) data familiar from Schiller (2015). I combined the archival data supplied by Goetzmann, Ibbotson and Peng (2001) with data supplied by Sylla, Wilson and Wright (2006), and added newly compiled data from contemporary 19th century periodicals to create a monthly index of railroad stock prices from 1831 through 1870. Dividends and capitalization were added to these price series by utilizing other 19th century publications by Poor (1860) and Martin (1871). The result is a new index of the total return received by investors from holding most of the largest US stocks during the period. A feature of the new index is the incorporation of stock dividends and other non-cash distributions into total return, elements historically neglected because difficult to locate and evaluate. In combination with Cowles’ data, the new index highlights differences that distinguish the outcomes of 19th century US stock market investing from more recent 20th century investment outcomes. [This paper has been superseded by later work. See revision notes that follow this Abstract.]

Appendices A, B, and C to this paper have been uploaded here respectively: .

Keywords: Historical Stock Prices, Railroads, 19th Century

JEL Classification: N21, N31, N81

Suggested Citation

McQuarrie, Edward F., Introducing a New Database of 19th Century Railroads Before Cowles and Macaulay (March 16, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Edward F. McQuarrie (Contact Author)

Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business ( email )

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA California 95053
United States

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