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Pocketmags Digital Magazines
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Panic on Wall Street

Ninety years ago, the buoyant US economy suffered a cataclysmic earthquake from which it would take an entire decade to recover. Nige Tassell recalls the events and aftermath of the Wall Street Crash of 1929
Scores of people milled about the entrance to the Stock Exchange on 24 October 1929, as the market went through the greatest shake up in its history. It was a light tremor heralding the earthquake to come


On Tursday 24 October 1929, Wall Street – a narrow thoroughfare at the southern tip of Manhattan Island – was unusually busy. Extremely busy. The street’s most significant building, the New York Stock Exchange, didn’t open for business until 10am, but vast crowds were gathering.

Millions of dollars in securities were transported around Wall Street on 25 October, the day after the market’s first major drop

This didn’t mean good news. It was neither a homecoming nor a victory parade. Instead, the atmosphere was thick with concern, with fear, with panic. In the last hour of trading the previous afternoon, the financial market had plummeted, with 2.6 million shares being sold in a chaotic last flurry of business. Flurry is perhaps too gentle an adjective. It was a hurricane.

The very visible concern on the streets of Lower Manhattan the next morning was understandable. The market maintained its downward spiral for the rest of that week and into the next. The following Monday saw it drop 12.8 per cent in value. On Tuesday – henceforth known as Black Tuesday – a further 12 per cent fall was recorded. Tose who had gathered the previous Tursday to show concern were now crestfallen and broken. As the New York Times reported, the sense of resignation on Wall Street, the reality of personal financial ruin, was ubiquitous. “There were no smiles. There were no tears, either. Just the camaraderie of fellow sufferers. Everybody wanted to tell their neighbour how much he had lost. Nobody wanted to listen. It was too repetitious a tale.”

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About BBC History Revealed Magazine

The 12th century can be seen as a pivotal moment in Japanese history, an era which saw beginning of the ascendancy of one of history’s most iconic warrior classes: the samurai. This month we explore the dramatic civil war that heralded their rise to power – and the formation of the first shōgunate. Plus: The black market for medieval relics, why the Wall St Crash of 1929 shook the world, how British humanitarian Nicholas Winton saved almost 700 children from the Nazis, the English pirate who inspired Captain Jack Sparrow, and more