The Wall Street Crash of 1929
Maybe no event in American financial history is better known and more infamous than Black Tuesday, the day the stock market crashed and ushered in a depression that would grip the United States through the first half of the next decade. But what caused such a horrible event and what can be learned from it?
The stock market crash that most people associate with Black Tuesday, was actually a multi-day process. The previous Thursday, the market began its downward slide, with trading setting an all time record with 13 million shares trading hands that day. The Dow had reached an all-time high just a month earlier in September of 1929 with a close of 381.17. A group of bankers met during that Thursday to try to figure out how to stop the slide and they decided to take the same tact that worked to stop the last market panic in 1907. They began to buy massive amounts of blue chip stock to try to reassure investors that the market was holding steady and that they shouldn’t sell everything they had and make matters worse.
The bankers, led by Tom Lamont of Morgan Bank, Chase National Bank’s Albert Wiggin and Charles Mitchell of National City Bank thought that this method had worked, but it only led to a quieter Friday. The downfall would continue early next week.
On Monday, spurred on by negative newspaper accounts of Thursday’s crash, investors sold more and more stock off, sending the Dow into another tailspin. At the end of Monday’s trading, approximately 13 percent of the value of the Dow had been lost. Black Tuesday led to more losses that some believed were spurred on by President Herbert Hoover’s insistence that he would not veto a tariff bill that many on Wall Street thought would hurt the economy.
So, what caused the crash? Most believe an artificial economic bubble is to blame for the crash. The bubble was formed during the 1920’s and the great amount of speculative investing that happened during that time. The downturn in stock prices after the high in September saw a chain of events happen that led to the Great Depression of the 1930’s.
While no one can predict the future, it’s safe to assume that while our current economy is healthy, a possible stock market crash can happen again. But only if we learn from history can we avoid another long-term depression that shakes the American economy down to its very foundation.