The History of Wall Street

The financial district in New York City is known as Wall Street. For many, the words ‘Wall Street’ rings bells of stock markets, money and images of men in suits and top hats in their minds. Wall Street is situated in Lower Manhattan, running from South Street to Broadway. This famous street hosts companies including the New York Stock Exchange, the New York Mercantile Exchange, the New York Board of Trade and NASDAQ. Like most things in life Wall Street has a fascinating history.

It is said that Wall street was named as such due to the Wall that was built by the Dutch settlers to keep the English and Native Americans from the New Amsterdam settlement that was founded by a man named Wilem Verhulst in 1625.

This Wall was originally made of wood but later was expanded to a 4m thick brick wall in the 1640’s. The wall was built from one shoreline to the other. In this time merchants and traders would meet in different places along the street that lined this wall to sell their shares. In the late 17th century the wall was torn down and the street that had followed it was named Wall Street.

There was a buttonwood tree at the end of Wall Street, where in the late 18th century, traders would gather to trade. The Buttonwood Agreement was signed on May 17th, 1792 by 24 of the leading merchants of the time. This agreement stated that the signers would only trade among themselves, which would eliminate the auctioneers and there would be a commission of 0.25%. This was the beginning of the New York Stock Exchange that would later find its home at 11 Wall Street.

Wall Street played host to the inauguration of the first American president in 1789. George Washington swore the oath of office on April 30, 1789 at Federal Hall.

A journalist named Charles H. Dow who co-founded, Dow Jones & Company, started tracking 11 stocks in 1884 to determine the average prices of these stocks. When averages went up he called it a bull market, but if they dropped he called it a bear market. This was where the Dow Jones Industrial Average came from. In November 1888 his company started giving out the, Customers’ Afternoon Letter, a summary of the day’s financial events. In 1889 this became the famous Wall Street Journal.

16 September 1920 saw the offices of the Morgan Bank suffer at the expense of a bomb explosion. This bomb was drawn by a horse-drawn carriage in front of the J.P. Morgan Bank located on the busiest corner of Wall Street. It killed over 30 people and injured over a hundred.

Then came the infamous stock market crash of 1929 when the stock market fell to destruction. On October 23, 1929 the stock market plummeted with 31 points, followed by another 49 points on the 28th, which resulted in the market crashing on October 29th which gave way to the Great Depression that served America and the rest of the world for quite a few years.

The second of the two biggest crashes to hit Wall Street was in 1987. “Black Monday” refers to the crash of 1987 when the Dow Jones fell with the largest amount in the history of the stock exchange. The 19th of October saw this day when it fell with 508 points.

The World Trade Centre was built in 1966 and the financial hub moved from the street into the twin towers. With the destruction brought by September 11th 2001 the financial network took a huge hit. This made financial firms move from Wall Street to New Jersey, some only temporary and some permanently.

The Wall Street District can be classified into three categories namely the financial district proper, the south of the World Trade Center area and the Seaport district. Among the buildings that landmark this famous street are Federal Hall, the New York Stock Exchange, The Trump Building, the Bankers Trust Company Building and the Deutsche Bank.

Wall Street is an enormous tourist attraction and will for years to come stand tall and be synonymous with the financial power of America.