The earnings gains came from trading in bonds and commodities as well as advising companies and underwriting securities.
Salomon's profit was more than twice the average estimates by analysts. It marked the third consecutive profitable quarter for the firm, which suffered through 1994 and the first half of 1995, amid trading losses, book-keeping problems and employee defections.
Deryck C Maughan, chairman and chief executive of the firm's securities unit, said: "Salomon Brothers produced excellent results for the quarter. Our objective is to build our underwriting and advisory revenues and to maintain effective control of our risk."
Analysts said Salomon, like the rest of Wall Street, had benefited from buoyant markets, increased underwriting and the record pace of corporate mergers.
"They are doing what they've always done,'' said James Mulvey, a securities analyst at Dresdner Securities Inc. "They're primarily a trading house, and trading was good for them this quarter."
But concerns remained about the firm's ability to deliver consistent results or returns superior to its rivals. Tony Russ, an analyst at Shelby Cullom Davis & Co, said: "I still think this glass is half empty, when you have as big as quarter as this is and you only get a return of 26 percent on equity."
With $4.06bn of equity capital and $191bn of assets, Salomon is the biggest bond trader in the world and among the biggest oil traders.
Bond trading provided the bulk of the firm's revenue, rising to $732m from $398m a year earlier. The firm also gained in investment banking, where revenue rose seven-fold to $181m.
Salomon was the second-largest underwriter in the US, with sales of $27.2bn in US stocks and bonds for the first quarter.