A sketchy, parochial study of the New York Stock Exchange that fails to convey the significance of the Big Board as an international financial institution. Sloane, a New York Times reporter on the business beat, presents a brief anecdotal history of the NYSE from the Buttonwood Tree Agreement of 1792 (when government bonds were brokers' stock in trade) to the present, a transitional period in which the floor's traditional auction market is threatened with extinction by a computer-based trading system. The bulk of the text, though, concentrates on leading lights since the 1929 Crash, starting with patrician Richard Whitney--whose breaches of trust while serving as the last unpaid president of the Exchange not only landed him in prison, but also induced the Board of Governors to put salaried professionals at the helm. Sloan then devotes a chapter to each of the six chief executives who've held office since 1938: William McC. Martin, a fiscal puritan from St. Louis who moved up to chairman of the Federal Reserve Board; Emil Schram, a bureaucrat wise enough in the ways of Washington to keep the Big Board open during World War II; supersalesman G. Keith Funston, who left just before Wall Street's go-go years became a fond memory; Robert W. Haack, who picked up the pieces in 1967; abrasive James J. Needham, a former SEC commissioner, who was forced to resign because floor members who execute orders (as opposed to ""upstairs"" members who hustle business) lost confidence in his ability to represent their interests. The head man now is William M. Batten, retired chairman of J. C. Penney Co., whose responsibility it is to see that the NYSE plays a leading role in the government-mandated national market system. Sloane also covers representative types among the Exchange's members and staff, including specialists, floor brokers, clerks, price reporters, messengers, and the like. As with the stars of the show, however, he gets bogged down in petty details of policy disputes that are of real interest only to insiders. Anatomy without perspective.