The Start Of The Great Depression...
New York Times (25th October, 1929)
The most disastrous decline in the biggest and broadest stock
market of history rocked the financial district yesterday. In
the very midst of the collapse five of the country's most influential
bankers hurried to the office of J. P. Morgan & Co., and
after a brief conference gave out word that they believe the
foundations of the market to be sound, that the market smash
has been caused by technical rather than fundamental considerations,
and that many sound stocks are selling too low.
Suddenly the market turned about on buying orders thrown into
the pivotal issues, and before the final quotations were tapped
out, four hours and eight minutes after the 3 o'clock bell,
most stocks had regained a measurable part of their losses.
The break was one of the widest in the market's history, although
the losses at the close were not particularly large, many having
been recouped by the afternoon rally.
It carried down with it speculators, big and little, in every
part of the country, wiping out thousands of accounts. It is
probable that if the stockholders of the country's foremost
corporations had not been calmed by the attitude of leading
bankers and the subsequent rally, the business of the country
would have been seriously affected. Doubtless business will
feel the effects of the drastic stock shake-out, and this is
expected to hit the luxuries most severely.
The total losses cannot be accurately calculated, because of
the large number of markets and the thousands of securities
not listed on any exchange. However, they were staggering, running
into billions of dollars.
Rumors, most of them wild and false, spread throughout the Wall
Street district and thence throughout the country. One of the
reports was that eleven speculators had committed suicide.
New York Times (30th October, 1929)
Stock prices virtually collapsed yesterday, swept downward with
gigantic losses in the most disastrous trading day in the stock
market's history. Billions of dollars in open market values
were wiped out as prices crumbled under the pressure of liquidation
of securities which had to be sold at any price.
There was an impressive rally just at the close, which brought
many leading stocks back from 4 to 14 points from their lowest
points of the day.
Efforts to estimate yesterday's market losses in dollars are
futile because of the vast number of securities quoted over
the counter and on out-of-town exchanges on which no calculations
Groups of men, with here and there a woman, stood about inverted
glass bowls all over the city yesterday watching spools of ticker
tape unwind and as the tenuous paper with its cryptic numerals
grew longer at their feet their fortunes shrunk. Others sat
stolidly on tilted chairs in the customers' rooms of brokerage
houses and watched a motion picture of waning wealth as the
day's quotations moved silently across a screen.
It was among such groups as these, feeling the pulse of a feverish
financial world whose heart is the Stock Exchange, that drama
and perhaps tragedy were to be found. The crowds about the ticker
tape, like friends around the bedside of a stricken friend,
reflected in their faces the story the tape was telling. There
were no smiles. There were no tears either. Just the cameraderie
of fellow-sufferers. Everybody wanted to tell his neighbor how
much he had lost. Nobody wanted to listen. It was too repetitious
New York Times (5th June, 1932)
Darwin's theory that man can adapt himself to almost any new
environment is being illustrated, in this day of economic change,
by thousands of New Yorkers who have discovered new ways to
live and new ways to earn a living since their formerly placid
lives were thrown into chaos by unemployment or kindred exigencies.
Occupations and duties which once were scorned have suddenly
attained unprecedented popularity
Two years ago citizens shied at jury duty. John Doe and Richard
Roe summoned to serve on a jury, thought of all sorts of excuses.
They called upon their ward leaders and their lawyers for aid
in getting exemption, and when their efforts were rewarded they
sighed with relief But now things are different.
The Hall of Jurors in the Criminal Courts Building is jammed
and packed on court days. Absences of talesmen are infrequent.
Why? Jurors get $4 for every day they serve.
Once the average New Yorker got his shine in an established
bootblack parlor paying 10 cents, with a nickel tip. But now,
in the Times Square and Grand Central zones, the sidewalks are
lined with neophyte "shine boys," drawn from almost
all walks of life.
According to the Police Department, there are approximately
7,000 of these "shine boys" making a living on New
York streets at present.
To the streets, too, has turned an army of new salesmen, peddling
everything from large rubber balls to cheap neckties. Within
the past two years the number of these hawkers has doubled.