Wall Street’s First Collapse

Speculators caused a stock market crash in 1792, forcing the federal government to bail out New York bankers— and the nation

Wall Street’s first bubble swelled burst in the spring of 1792, exerting a profound effect on American politics and society. Nine years after the Treaty of Paris and the acknowledgement of the former colonies— independence, both Europe and America lay in turmoil. The French Revolution was showing its first symptoms of radical violence. In March an assassin’s bullet felled Sweden’s King Gustav III, who had called for a crusade against France. In the United States, President Washington struggled to fight a war against British-backed Indians in the Midwest.Read more »

Modern America 1917 To 1941

Few periods in the history of this country can match the impact of the years between 1917 and 1941. In less than a generation America experienced the first large-scale dispatch of U.S.Read more »

Business

Growing up in a family with many members who earned their livings on Wall Street and with many ancestors and relatives who had done the same, I—as might be expected—very early heard stories of business that I found as fascinating as the tales of military action I was soaking up at the same time. The novelist Thomas Hardy explained that “war makes rattling good history,” but it was James Gordon Bennett, the founder of the New York Herald, who explained why business makes the same.Read more »

The Fire Last Time

When terrorists first struck New York’s financial district

If you go downtown in Manhattan to the offices of the old J. P. Morgan firm at the corner of Wall and Broad, you’ll see the pocked-marble scars of the first blow that terrorists struck at America’s financial heart, the Wall Street bombing of 1920. The country recovered amazingly well from that outrage, although no one was ever brought to justice for the crime, which was, until the Oklahoma City devastation, the most deadly terrorist attack in American history. On the very next day following the explosion, the Stock Exchange and curb trading resumed, however shakily.Read more »

A Bang Or A Whimper?

Will the current bull market die spectacularly, à la 1929, or—as in 1974—strangle in weird silence?

J.P. Morgan did not have much use for either the stock market or reporters. So when one reporter importunately asked him what the market was going to do one day, he replied, with about equal parts contempt and truth, “It will fluctuate.” Read more »

The Day Wall Street Turned Into Orchard Street

As long as there have been bankers and brokers, there have been people asking what would happen if they had to earn an honest living

On October 26, 1911, the old Life magazine published a cartoon entitled “When We All Get Wise.” The implication of the cartoon, of course, was that if the ordinary people of the country would “just say no,” this time to bankers, brokers, and capitalists, Wall Street would collapse, and all those people would have to go out and start earning an honest living for a change. John D. Rockefeller would have to give golf lessons to get by. Swift and Armour would be back to selling meat at retail (buying it from whom? one wonders).Read more »

100 Years Of The ‘Journal’

In June 1984 I got an odd call from an editor at The Wall Street Journal. I had submitted an article that marked the one hundredth anniversary of the first publication of Charles Dow’s stock-market average. How do you know, the editor asked, that July 3, 1984, is the right date? What is your source? Read more »

The Street

A knowledgeable and passionate guide takes us for a walk down Wall Street, and we find the buildings there eloquent of the whole history of American finance

One of the pleasant burdens of friendship, and of living in a renowned and intimidating great city like New York, is that friends planning to visit will ask me to show them the sights of some quarter of town, most usually in the borough of Manhattan, county of New York. Read more »

The Wealth Of The Nation

The most influential economist in the United States talks about prudence, productivity, and the pursuit of liquidity in the light of the past

TWENTY YEARS AGO , the American economy hummed like a well-oiled machine. We actually exported automobiles and oil. Economists worried about the “dollar gap”—whether the rest of the world would have enough dollars to buy from us—and the inflation rate was one percent. The economists of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson spoke of “fine-tuning” the economy. Today the economy moves only by sputters and spurts. We have idle capacity; interest rates have been in double digits, and recently so has inflation.Read more »

The Capital Of Capitalism

Ever since 1792, bulls and bears together have tripped the light fantastic on Wall Street’s sidewalks—and sometimes just tripped

On a cold Saturday in December, 1865, the 350 members of the New York Stock Exchange gave a party to celebrate moving into a new building on Broad Street, near the corner of Wall—the first home of their own. “One of the finest temples of Mammon extant,” the New York Times observed. Visitors poured through the spacious lower hall and up the wide stairs to enjoy refreshments in the high-ceilinged, black-walnut-panelled Board Room, whose acoustics had already been tested at a brief stock auction that morning.Read more »