|Brazil’s first securities exchange|
January 28, 1817 was the opening day of the Salvador Commercial Square, in the state of Bahia. It was the first securities exchange on Brazilian soil. Rio de Janeiro, then the capital of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves, would not establish a similar institution until two years later.
At the time, Brazil was actually not far behind the northern hemisphere. The New York Stock Exchange had been created in 1792 and construction on Paris’s monumental Bourse had begun in 1807, commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte.
Commercial Square was the Portuguese euphemism for a securities exchange. The two terms are considered synonymous in article 96 of the Portuguese Commercial Code of 1833.
In 1811, the Portuguese Crown donated the coastal property where the Salvador and Rio de Janeiro exchanges would be built. But both the procurement of necessary funding and the construction of the Salvador building were placed in the hands of private enterprise, represented by a committee of merchants. For the Rio exchange building, the money came from the state–owned Banco do Brasil and construction was assigned to a government agency — the Royal Board of Commerce and Navigation. These differences among the entities responsible for the work explain why the exchange in Bahia could be inaugurated before its Rio de Janeiro counterpart.
The design and construction of the three–story building, as well as the classical lines of the Salvador Exchange, were by the architect and military engineer Cosme Damião da Cunha Fidié. The central portico follows the 16th century style known as Palladian, originating in the work of Italian architect Andrea Palladio. Yet the windows and doors, with their diamond–shaped frames, are typical Bahia style. The building is preserved to this day in Salvador and is now known as the Palace of the Commercial Association of Bahia.
The first headquarters of the Rio de Janeiro Exchange have also been preserved, facing Candelária Church in the city center. The vastness of its ground floor recalls its primordial role. It is clearly the trading floor of an exchange. Now it houses a cultural institution, the Casa França–Brasil. The neoclassical construction was designed and executed by the French architect Grandjean de Montigny, a member of the celebrated French Artistic Mission that arrived in Brazil in 1817 during the reign of Dom João VI.