Merrill, Charles Edward, 1885–1956, American stockbroker and investment banker, founder of Merrill Lynch & Co., b. Green Cove Springs, Fla. Forced by financial hardship to leave college, he arrived in New York City in 1907 and began working for a brokerage house in 1909. In 1914 he established his own company, taking Edmund C. Lynch as his partner in 1915. During the 1920s he realized the potential for profitability in chainstores and underwrote Safeway, J. C. Penney, and other companies. Recognizing the signs of an impending stock crash in 1928, Merrill advised his clients to sell much of their holdings and liquidated his own firm's stocks. He concentrated on investment banking during the 1930s, but returned to stockbrokering in 1940 after a merger and prospered by emphasizing selling stocks and bonds to middle-class Americans. At the time of his death Merrill Lynch was America's largest brokerage.
See E. J. Perkins, Wall Street to Main Street (1999).