Our History

Organized in 1986 by John D. Kuhns, Kuhns Brothers subsequently acquired the shares of an organization that began operations in New York City in 1842.

Historically, the Firm was active in financing prospectors in the California Gold Rush, and was a founder of the Bank of California. The Firm was one of the few organizations exempted from the Glass-Steagall Act of 1934, conducting an active commercial banking business in the United States and abroad until the 1960's.

Kuhns Brothers's historical highlights include the following events:

1842 — Two New Yorkers, Davis Heran and James Lees, establish Heran & Lees, a commission merchant house and dry goods broker in New York City.

1849 — The Firm is involved in financing the California Gold Rush, and is a founder and shareholder of the Bank of California.

1854 — Henry Bell Laidlaw enters the employ of the Firm, now known as Hewitt Lees & Company.

1866 — The Firm begins to assume the role of a private banker. Henry Bell Laidlaw becomes the partner of James Lees.

1873 — Henry Bell Laidlaw assumes leadership of the Firm, which changes its name to Laidlaw & Co.

1878 — Laidlaw & Co. becomes a member firm of the New York Stock Exchange, which it would continue to be until 1987.

1880 — The Firm is located to 14 Wall Street where it operates for 30 years, moving to 20 Wall Street in 1910, where it would remain until the 1960's.

1894 — James Lee Laidlaw, the eldest son of Henry Bell Laidlaw, becomes a partner of the Firm.

1901 — The Firm acquires a substantial stock brokerage business, or "wire house," making it the first NYSE member firm to establish securities branches in Toronto and Montreal.

1902 — Henry Bell Laidlaw dies. Under his leadership, the Firm expanded from a small private bank to an influential international banking and brokerage concern.

1934 — The Glass-Steagall law is passed, prohibiting financial organizations from acting as both commercial banks and brokerages. The Firm is one of the few organizations that is grandfathered, and remains in both the investment banking and commercial banking businesses until it exits the commercial business in the 1960's.

1945 — By the end of World War II, Laidlaw & Co. is actively engaged in investment banking, asset management, securities brokerage and commercial banking, with offices on the east coast of the United States and across Europe.

1961 — Hambros Bank Ltd., London's largest merchant bank, becomes a limited partner of Laidlaw & Co. The Firm exits the commercial banking business, selling its assets to Empire Savings & Loan.

1978 — The Firm acquires Adams & Peck and the Firm's name is changed to Laidlaw, Adams & Peck.

1986 — Laidlaw, Adams & Peck sells a controlling stake to Kuhns Brothers & Co., an investment organization owned by John D. Kuhns and Swiss Re Insurance, and changes its name to Kuhns Brothers & Laidlaw, Inc. Mr. Kuhns becomes Chairman & CEO of the Firm, and moves its offices from the Wall Street area to the Laidlaw Building in mid-town Manhattan at the corner of 40th Street and Madison Avenue.

1988 — In the aftermath of the crash of 1987, the Firm sells portions of its business assets to separate institutional buyers, giving each limited rights to use the Laidlaw name for an 18 month period. Mr. Kuhns buys out Swiss Re and the Firm changes its name to Kuhns Brothers, temporarily exits the broker dealer business to become a private investor, and moves to Connecticut.

1996 — Kuhns Brothers re-enters the investment banking business, focusing on private placements and financial advisory assignments generally involving electric power and power technology organizations and projects.

1999 — The Firm re-establishes its broker/dealer, Kuhns Brothers Securities Corporation, and a separate registered investment advisory business, and subsequently re-opens its offices in New York City where it continues today.