Dutch colonists construct a wooden stockade across lower Manhattan to protect the north side of their settlement against attacks by the British and Indians. By the turn of the 18th century, the British have taken over the colony and dismantled the barrier, turning it into a paved lane called Wall Street.
A devastating fire, probably the work of colonial arsonists trying to disrupt the British occupation of the city during the American Revolution, destroys hundreds of structures in the vicinity of Wall Street.
In his landmark Report on the Public Credit, the young nation’s first treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, proposes a method for the U.S. to handle federal and state debt by issuing government bonds, and establishes the principle of free trade for securities in the marketplace.
Brokers meet in Philadelphia, where they buy and sell the first major issues of publicly-traded securities: $80 million in bonds issued by the federal government to pay off debt from the Revolutionary War.
At the Merchants’ Coffee House at the corner of Wall and Water Streets, two dozen New York City stockbrokers and merchants sign the “Buttonwood Agreement,” named after a buttonwood tree under which business has been transacted in the past. The agreement lists rules for securities transactions.
The locus for securities transactions in New York moves to the Tontine Coffee House, across the street from the Merchants’ Coffee House. Business is also transacted on the street.
A group of New York brokers formally establish the New York Stock and Exchange Board, an organization that later will be renamed the New York Stock Exchange (N.Y.S.E.).
The stock market reaches a trading volume of 5,000 shares a day.
On a bitterly cold night, a fire starts in lower Manhattan. Raging for two days, it will destroy 700 buildings, including the Merchants’ Exchange.
The N.Y.S.E. bars its members from conducting business in the streets.
The N.Y.S.E. starts paying its president a salary. The first paid president, David Clarkson, earns $2000 a year ($31,960 in 2003 dollars).
Samuel F. B. Morse transmits the first viable telegraph message. Securities brokers quickly adopt the technology to send market quotations. The telegraph helps expand the stock market by making trades accessible to brokers and investors outside of New York.
In response to the outbreak of the Civil War, trading of Confederate securities is banned.
Cyrus Field completes a transatlantic cable, connecting telegraph operators across the Atlantic Ocean. For the first time, London and New York markets can communicate instantaneously.
Edward Callahan invents the stock ticker, a device that shows current market prices and represents each company on the stock market with symbols based on Morse code.
Black Friday. A group of speculators led by Jay Gould and Jim Fiske try to corner the gold market, setting off a U.S. financial panic.
The N.Y.S.E. installs the first telephones on its trading floor.
Charles Dow and Edward Jones form Dow Jones & Company and design the first index to measure the activity of the N.Y.S.E.
The Wall Street brokerage firm of Grand and Ward fails, leading to a panic and the failure of 15 other stock exchange firms. Grant and Ward is co-owned by Buck Grant, the son of former Union general and president Ulysses S. Grant, and the failure plunges the ex-president into bankruptcy. Desperate for money, he will begin writing his wartime memoirs soon afterward.
The N.Y.S.E.'s trading volume reaches one million shares a day for the first time.
Junius S. Morgan, the head of the Morgan banking family, dies. His son, John Pierpont Morgan, will turn the family financial empire into one of the most powerful banking houses in the world.
Charles Dow reveals his industrial stock average in the first publication of his daily paper — the Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones creates four averages to measure market performance, including the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes the day at over 100 for the first time.
Rumors of financial problems at a leading New York bank trigger investors to run on banks throughout the city, beginning the Panic of 1907. J. P. Morgan devises a plan to return cash to banks, saving the country from its most severe financial crisis to date.
The Pujo Committee, appointed by Congress to investigate practices of the banking and securities industry, issues a report which leads Congress to create the Federal Reserve System. The Fed is designed to stabilize the nation’s banking structure.
World War I begins in Europe, leading to sharp declines in world stock prices. The N.Y.S.E. and exchanges throughout the world temporarily suspend trading in order to stop prices from dropping further.
A liberty loan rally is held on the trading floor of the N.Y.S.E., where former president William H. Taft encourages Americans to purchase war bonds.
The United States emerges from World War I as a creditor nation and a rising global force.
A bull market begins. It will continue growing for nearly six years.
The N.Y.S.E. introduces new and improved high-speed tickers. The devices can print 500 characters per minute, almost twice as fast as the earlier models.
Newspapers quote Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon saying there are bargains to be found in the bond market. Wall Street is in the midst of a buying frenzy. As the market rises, some begin to fear it will soon collapse. The Federal Reserve Board meets, but does not make any public statements.
President Herbert Hoover is inaugurated. Nicknamed “The Great Engineer,” the former geologist and mining engineer takes office amid booming prosperity. During the campaign, he has promised: “We shall soon, with the help of God, be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this nation.”
Michael J. Meehan begins one of the most successful brokerage pools in Wall Street history. Over the next ten days, he drives the value of R.C.A. stock up almost 50%. In today’s money, his pool will make the colluding investors $100 million.
A mini-crash begins as investors start to sell, revealing the market’s shaky foundations. For the many people playing the market with borrowed money, the day is a disaster, as margin calls wipe out their holdings. While the investors seek to borrow more money, interest rates soar to 20 percent. The New York Daily News calls it a “selling avalanche.”
Banker Charles Mitchell announces that the national city bank will provide $25 million in credit to stop the market’s slide. His move stops the panic, and call money declines from 20 to eight percent. Senator and former Treasury Secretary Carter Glass calls for Mitchell to resign from his post on the Federal Reserve Board because of his intervention in the market.
The American economy shows ominous signs of trouble. Steel production is declining, construction is sluggish, car sales are down, and consumers are building up high debts because of easy credit. Yet the stock market continues its upward momentum, heedless of real economic indicators.
The N.Y.S.E. opens a new bond room, adding 6,000 feet to the trading floor.
The market continues to rebound, and stocks hit record levels month after month.
Michael Meehan’s brokerage firm launches a new service: an office aboard ocean liners, including the Berengaria. This convenience allows transatlantic passengers to buy or sell shares during the weeklong passage between the U.S. and Europe.
After a surge of optimism, the bull market reaches its peak — the Dow Jones Industrial Average closes at 381.17. A newspaper headline trumpets, “Public Demand for Stock Appears Insatiable.”
Bearish economist Roger Babson gives a speech, saying, “Sooner or later, a crash is coming, and it may be terrific.” He has been delivering this message for two years, but for the first time, investors listen. The market takes a severe dip, which will be called the “Babson Break.” The next day, prices will stabilize, but the collapse has begun.
The market fluctuates wildly up and down.
“Black Thursday.” The economic bubble finally bursts. Stock prices fall sharply on a day of heavy liquidation. Ticker tape runs four hours later than normal at a volume of 12.9 million shares. Headlines will report the market’s paper loss at $5 billion. A pool of bankers acts to stem the drop by putting more money into the market, and President Hoover reassures Americans that U.S. business is sound. Within a few days, a headline will read, “Brokers Believe Worst is Over and Recommend Buying of Real Bargains.”
“Black Monday.” The stock market falls 22.6%, the highest one-day decline in U.S. history. The crash triggers similar declines in markets around the world.
“Black Tuesday.” Panic sets in as investors all try to sell their stocks at once. Over 16 million shares of stock are sold, setting a record — and the market records over $14 billion in paper losses. Stock tickers cannot keep up with the heavy trading volume. At the end of the day, the market is down 33 points, more than 12.8%. Some of the nation’s financial elite, including General Motors’ William C. Durant and the Rockefeller family, show confidence by buying stocks, but their efforts fail to stem the tide.
After weeks in freefall, the market hits its bottom and stabilizes. The New York Times reports, “Regular Schedule to be Resumed, but Trading Will Be Suspended Last Half of Week; Business Nearly Normal.” The market’s daily volume is at 3 million shares with “orderly although irregular” prices.
A report released by the Committee for Unemployment Relief states that over four million Americans are unemployed.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average reaches its lowest point of the Great Depression, closing at 41.22, down 89 percent from its peak in 1929.
The Securities and Exchange Commission is created to regulate stocks, bonds and other commissions. Kennedy patriarch and former Wall Street speculator Joseph P. Kennedy is appointed as its chairman.
The day after a Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the U.S. enters World War II.
Women are allowed to enter the N.Y.S.E. trading floor for the first time.
Japan formally surrenders to the U.S., ending World War II. The U.S. enters a new era of prosperity, with New York City becoming a global financial and cultural capital.
The Standard & Poor 500 Index is introduced. Computer technology allows the S & P 500 to calculate and report market levels at one-minute intervals throughout the day.
The N.Y.S.E.'s census of shareholders reports that 17 million Americans own stock, a 10 million increase since 1952.
In anticipation of panic selling, Wall Street closes shortly after President John F. Kennedy is assassinated.
Joseph L. Searles III becomes the first African American to be accepted as a member of the N.Y.S.E.
The National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotation (N.A.S.D.A.Q.) opens its first day of trading, becoming the world’s first electronic stock market.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes the day over 1000 points for the first time.
The stock market crashes and the Dow Jones Industrial Average drops 508 points or 22.61 percent, its largest one-day percentage drop in history to date.
The first Internet stock trade is completed by K. Aufhauser & Company, Inc., launching a new era of online stock trading.
The stock market closes with the Dow Jones Industrial Average at 5,023.55, topping 5,000 for the first time.
Real-time stock tickers are used on cable television channels CNBC and CNN-FN. Market data, which had previously been delayed 20 minutes, is now reported in real time.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average tops 10,000 points for the first time.
On the first day of trading after the September 11th terrorist attacks, the Dow Jones Industrial Average drops 684.81 points.
Irresponsible credit lending practices and rising numbers of mortgage defaults burst the housing bubble and shake the confidence of U.S. lenders and borrowers alike.
Banking giant Bear Stearns is bought out for a mere $2 a share. Just one year earlier, Bear Stearns stock sold for $170 a share. This bargain basement buyout triggers a series of crises with several other American financial institutions.
The Bush Administration’s proposed $700 billion bailout for American banks is thrown out by the House of Representatives. Consequently, the Dow Jones Industrial Average takes a near-778-point hit. The 7% drop is the largest in history, with an equivalent loss of over $1 trillion.
In October the House will reverse it’s decision in favor of the bailout, but investor confidence has already been shaken and the market does not rally back.
Newsweek magazine declares on its cover that the recession is over. However Presidents Obama warns that the U.S. recession has not ended, with prices continuing to drop and unemployment still high. The economy may be stabilizing in some areas of the U.S. but it has yet to be in the clear.
A daunting story of shipwreck, starvation, mutiny and cannibalism amongst a group left abandoned in the high Arctic.
John Scopes' free speech trial pitted science against religion after the teacher presented Charles Darwin's theory of evolution in a Tennessee school.
The story of Chicago's dramatic transformation from a swampy frontier town to a massive metropolis in the nineteenth century.
In 1978 over 900 people led by Rev. Jim Jones died in the largest mass murder-suicide in history, at Jonestown, Guyana.
The story of the polio crusade pays tribute to a time when Americans banded together to conquer a terrible disease.
The internationally famous carnival of delights in New York was the birthplace of the hot dog and the roller coaster.
Their intense faith and strict adherence to 300-year-old traditions have by turn captivated and repelled, awed and irritated, inspired and confused America.
Legendary bank robber John Dillinger garnered the admiration of many struggling Americans, but FBI took him down with a message: crime doesn't pay.