The Municipal Forum grew out of a series of informal lunches in the 1930's by a group of men in the municipal bond business. A number of the people who used to attend those lunches included Dana B. Scudder of National City Bank, Floyd Stansbury, and James J. Carpenter of Bankers Trust Company, Glen Thompson of Chemical Bank, Wilbur Merritt of First Boston Corporation and William J. Wallace and John F. Thompson from Savings Bank Trust Company. Many in the group were in the Municipal Credit Analysis side of the business; some like Floyd Stansbury and Jim Carpenter were in the syndicate side. Most of the luncheon discussions were informal among the participants, but there was much to discuss, particularly municipal credits There had been many defaults during the depression, and these were in process of being cured, largely through negotiation with bond holders' committees. The usual format was exchange of longer refunding bonds for those in default, some with the same and some with lower rates of interest. Such exchanges took place for Miami, Detroit, Atlantic City, Arkansas Highway bonds, and many smaller issuers. New York City, though not in default, was operating under a "bankers agreement" negotiated by then Governor Herbert H. Lehman. Dealer firms and investment advisors were producing much more credit research, and many of the luncheon participants were engaged in this.
Jim Carpenter was a gung-ho sort of person, and was a disciple of Dale Carnegie ("How To Win Friends and Influence People"). It was this background which led him to organize the Municipal Forum. Following his initialive, Jim served as President for the first two years.
Membership of the Forum has fluctuated over the years. In the mid-fifties, there was a move to take "New York" out of the name in an effort to obtain more non-resident members, but this change in name was not made. In 1983-1984 with a strong program and a push by the membership committee, total members increased some 200 to about 450. (The name of Richard Gage is mentioned in connection with this effort.)
In the very early years, Forum membership was largely in the credit analysis side of the business, but soon broadened to cover all aspects -- sales, syndicate and trading in the dealer and bank dealer firms, intitutional portfolio managers, municipal bond approving attorneys, editors of trade publications, brokers who match trades between firms and provide wire service access to markets, the rating agencies, and issuers, especially New York State and City and the important issuing authorities. Down through the years representatives of each of these categories have been Presidents of the Forum and have served on the Board of Governors.