Black Thursday:

 The Beginning of a New Era



















Tom Sickels













History 150

Dr. Doug Anderson

May 4, 2004


     One of the single greatest events, other than a war, to change a nation in the last decade all began from some selfish, greedy, tycoons on Wall Street. The stock market crash of 1929 was important in that it created the Great Depression.

     When looking at the collapse of the stock market one should realize that it was a long process over eight years that set the ground work for the collapse. In the early 1920’s people began investing their money into stocks and these stocks began to give them back more money and as more and more people began investing in the stock market a few people realized that they could take make a ton of money by puffing up some stocks, by making it appear to be worth more than it really was and by giving credit with which to purchase stocks.

     The economy was booming, production was good and this gave people money to spend. However, as the end of the 1920’s came the economy slowed down, but the stock market continued to soar. In March of 1929 there was a mini crash until Charles Mitchell a wealthy bank owner gave 25 million in loans to support the market and keep it a float for a while longer. Things picked up again and it appeared that Charles was a hero. However by late summer the market was on a roller coaster ride, it did not plunge to the bottom it just went up and down fairly evenly from day to day, week to week. This should have been a sign that something was wrong but most people just blew it off and ignored it.

     In early October the market again was up and down yet the consensus was to just keep inflating things and it would blow over. Well it never blow over, it did however blow down the market. By the end of October the 29th to be exact the market toppled. On Thursday the 29th the market experienced the second most trades with more than six million in one day, only beaten by eight million earlier that year.

     The attitude of the country was one in which no one thought that the roaring twenties would be ended by such a disaster. There were a few people who claimed that if something was not done about the inflation then something bad was going to happen. Most people just thought these people were out of their minds; after all it was the time of such financial success.

     When beginning ones search for the events of what happened during those last couple days before the fall of the market, one should understand that the mindset of the people was that if something happened they would through some pretend money at it such as loans to individuals to pay off their loses. But of course with the economy slowing down things were already beginning to get hard for people yet they ignored many signs of what was happening around them. They were too involved in making money and having fun buying property all over the United States.

     The significance of the collapse of the stock market is huge in national terms. I believe it was bound to happen sooner or later and when one looks at all the things that have come out of this disaster it is hard to not be somewhat thankful that it came about when it did. I am referring to the National parks, dams, and other numerous programs and projects created in the aftermath of the crash.

     In the wake of the crash of the stock market the government was forced to get involved with Wall Street and make regulations and enforce them. This was intended to control inflation and to make businesses operate fairly. This meant no more creating a false price and selling the shares to some unsuspecting person. New laws and regulations created a new and better stock market. Which to this day has had its ups and downs but with more guidelines and regulations it has held strong. I do not foresee the current stock market crashing but either did any one in the 1920’s.


     Benton, William. The Great Depression, 1929-1939. The Annals of America. Vol. 15(Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1968).


     The main discussion of the article is the statistics that it tells involving the stock market crash. It tells of the record high number of trades and the over inflation of stocks that were not worth what the value stated was.

     In this article it tells of the panic that was set on by the public on that dreadful day. Thousands packed into the down town area trying to get their stocks sold and their money. One of the things this article gives is an in depth account of the trading for the day. It gives the numbers of the stocks sold and at what times. This is helpful in following along with what happened and at what time it happened.

     I choose this article for the in depth account of the days activities. This paints a clear picture as to how many stocks were sold and just how badly they were inflated. This item can be found in the reference section in the Northwestern library item number is E 173 .A793 Vol. 15.


     Maliais, Mark. The Stock Market. Dictionary of American History. #rd ed. (New York: Charles Scribner‘s Son‘s, 2003). Vol. 7, Pg. 548-550.


     In this short excerpt from the dictionary the stock market crash of 1929 is discussed. It briefly tells the reasons that lead up to the crash and then it goes on to discuss some of the changes that were made after the fall of the market. His short article does a good job of clearly discussing the issues that were involved with the crash, such s the inflation of the stocks and the mindset that nothing could cause the market to fall.

     I choose to include this because it is a general overview of the stock market crash and it does a good job of giving the reader important information, yet it is simple to understand for someone who is just learning about the stock market crash of 1929. This item can be found in the reference section in the Northwestern library item number E 174 .D52 2003, vol. 7.


     Noyes, Alexander. “The Stock Market Panic.” New York Times. December 1929. From Current History. Oct-March 1929-30. Vol. 31.


     This article is taken from the New York Times during the stock market crash and the days just following. In this section of the panic of the people is something that is extremely noticeable and it is pointed out to be a leading contributor to the fall of the market. However it is not the only factor that this article claims to be the problem. Businessmen of the day such as Charles Mitchell, Bill Durant and Jesse Livermore are to blame too. They were not the only ones to blame, but they are the ones most often put in the public eye. Greed, another problem which is often considered as the main cause was the true problem.

     There is a lot of information contained in this article about what truly lead up to the fall of the market. Some of the things mentioned are the economy slowing down, world stock exchanges were low and over inflation are many of the causes that led to widespread panic.

     This book is similar to many of the others in the statistical information that it give but the difference is that it is from the New York Times from the days just after the disaster. Also in the book are a few clippings from the actual newspaper.

     This book can be found in the Northwestern library in the Current History vol. 31 pages 618-623.


      Klein, Maury. Rainbow’s End: The Crash of 1929. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).


      Maury discusses the issues of the stock market crash in a unique way; he describes the problems of the people and the condition of the economy. I think that he is saying that the interest rate and broker loans are things that really got out of control and if the Federal Reserve would have stepped in and done something things may have been different.

      This unique book is a good place to start for someone interested in digging deep into the stock market crash. I suggest reading this book and thinking of the issues that Maury has brought up as key points of his arguments.


Laird, Pamela Walker. Review of Rainbow's End: The Crash of 1929, by Maury Klein. Journal of American History; Sep 2003, Vol. 90 Issue 2, p691, 2p.


     Maury Klein is a professor of history at the University of Rhode Island. He has a lot to tell his readers about the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and its immediate aftermath. Many of the people in the book range from Herbert Hoover and Benjamin Strong to Groucho Marx and an individual victim of Wall Street. Klein tells his readers about the illnesses and disasters that afflict these people, about their feelings and about their financial gains and losses.

     However, if there is a moral to these tales or an insight into the booming 1920's and the Great Crash. After looking diligently, it may be that the clustering of tales in the first half of Rainbow's End is intended to suggest that the euphoria of the 1920's was not merely associated with the economy, new technologies, new products and the stock market. Klein suggests that euphoria was endemic to sports, religious revivalism and every other aspect of culture and society. Several additional themes can be attributed to the second half of the book. First is the familiar tale of a deadlocked Federal Reserve failing to act in any helpful way. A second implicit theme can be deduced from Klein's frequent recitations of the magnitude of outstanding broker loans and the interest rate on overnight call loans.  And along with the increase in the volume of stock market transactions, they also could be indicators of a less widely familiar and accepted argument that the stock market required increasing transactions balances and broker's loans to the detriment of other uses for money and credit.

     This review is great in describing the book and how it appeals to the readers. It gives tons of stats and personal views as well as depicting a country in utter despair. I think this review is accurate in its describing the problems that created the Crash. I choose this review because it is easy to see complexity of how the crash happened.


     Galbraith, John Kenneth. The Great Crash, 1929. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company,1955).


     In this book by John Galbraith, the causes of the crash of 1929 are discussed in which he talks about the importance of the federal reserve and how they did not intervene when the should have and controlled the stock exchange. He discusses the relevance of inflation of the stocks and the businessmen who arranged for it to be done. One of the important aspects of this book is the events that lead up to the crash. Events such as the world economy, a nearly year long roller coaster ride the market had been on and the constant push or bigger and better gains on the market.

     This is a good book about the crash and it has tons of information. It is similar to the other books in that it tells of the men who lead the industry and the events that lead up to the crash. However, I think that Galbraith tries to incorporate more of the Federal Reserve as part of the problem than some other sources.


     Bierman, Harold. The causes of the 1929 Stock Market Crash: Speculative orgy or A New Era? (Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press,1998).

     Bierman argues that the 1920’s view of the markets inability to do anything but go up was fueled by the people’s greed to get rich and have fun. He suggests that the people wanted to make money and they did not worry about the interest and loans that they were taking on as part of the carefree feeling. He also suggests that with the economy slowing down the time was right for change and the change came in the form of the crash.

     I choose this book for two reasons, one Bierman suggests that the economic factors of the slowing economy in America and around the world helped to create an underlying caution which was avoided by many. And two that no one thought that with the feel good times that anything could have happened to them. This feeling allowed many people to over look the inflation and the slow economy.


     Thomas, Gordon, and Max Morgan Witts. The Day The Bubble Burst. (New York: Penguin Books, 1979).


     A discussion of the many events that led up to the stock market crash of 1929. Thomas and Witts tell about the greed of men and what levels they were willing to go to get rich. A few of the important men discussed in the book are Jesse Livermore, John Raskob, Billy Durant, and Charles Mitchell. These men were the big business leaders who all created a way of inflating the market in order to get them rich.

     Thomas and Witts go to great links discussing these men and what they did to puff up the market and all they did to try to stop the crash as well. This boo builds up the story of the fateful day: October 29, 1929, Black Thursday!

     I choose this book to show how the boom was created, manipulated and used to line the pockets of these big shot Wall Street tycoons. These men thought that they controlled everything in the stock market world but sadly were proved wrong. This book is available in the Northwestern library item number HB 3717 1929 .T54 1980.


     Norris, Floyd. Looking Back at the Crash of 1929. <> (1 May 2004).


     This website gives the reader the opportunity to read the front pages of the New York Times during the days of October 28 through November 1. These pages are first had sources which tell the story of what happened and the public’s reaction to everything. The site gives many links in which one can read different reactions of the markets crash.

     These pages contain very good information regarding the stock market crash. At first look the page shows the article called looking back at ‘29, but further investigation shows the actual front pages links to the days of the crash. In this way I think that this site does a nice job of giving a look back in time while showing what happened at the same time.

     Compared to some of my other sources this is an actual first hand source once you click the links to read the papers from the New York Times. This site is important in that it gives the readers more options of what to read and it gives coverage of more than just one day.




     This article is from the New York Times the day after the stock market crashed. It tells of the rise at the close of the exchange on October 29th, but only after 16,410,030 shares collapsed. It goes on to talk about some change being made and that the mob of angry investors would calm down. Most of this article discusses the issue of buying and selling stocks after the collapse.

     This is important in that it shows that the small investors were scared and did not trust those who were in charge of the exchange. This article tells of the large numbers of people who in desperation are trying to salvage their money from the stocks.

     I choose to include this article from the New York Times in that it gives some important insight to the events that followed the crash, especially in the trading of stocks.


     The American Experience: The Crash of 1929. Prod. Ellen Houde and Muffie Meyer. 60., PBS Video. WGBH/Boston, 1990. Videocassette.


     This film describes the attitude of the 1920’s in which the economic boom was heavily influencing investors. Many of them thought that the boom would never end. However on October 29, 1929 the market finally came crashing down. During the previous eight years the market soared out of control. However during the preceding months in 1929 the market came close to falling a few times. Like in March of ‘29 when Charles Mitchell put up25 million in loans to prevent the crash.

     However as the economy slowed down the market continued to soar. Then investors did not pay attention to the economy to guide the market. As the next couple of months went the market went up and down many times and finally in October it came down.

      This film is good in showing the skepticism that the people had that the market would not quit rising. The film build the view that the people had that nothing could happen and of how powerful the investors thought that they were. This is a good film fro learning about the important people of the exchanges industry.

     This film is located in the Learning Resource Center  the item number is VC 436.


     Eagle on the Street. 45 min., Distributed by National AudioVisual Center. Washington D.C., videocassette.


     This film briefly tells about the stock market crash of 1929, mainly what lead up to it and how fast it collapsed. The rapid inflation of the stocks and the panic that set off the collapse of the stock market. This film showed the care free attitude that the people had when it came to the stocks. Some of the things this film shows are the changes that are made after the crash such as the securities exchange act of 1933-34.

     Some of the information in this film helps to create the utter lack of rules and regulations during the trading of the 1920’s. I think that this is important to show and to show some of the changes that it created afterward.

     This item is available in the Learning Resource Center item number VC 54.


                The stock market crash is an event that I have not been a part of and until now, I really did not know much about it. The crisis which began the Depression is an awesome event in that it could have probably been prevented, but greed for money, power, and good times allowed this disaster to take place.

     In the book written by Bierman he suggests that a speculative orgy took place during the 1920’s and I have to agree with him. Many of the sources I read mentioned that roaring twenties were a carefree time with money to spend on absurd things which when one thinks about the 1920’s and compares that with the 1990’s they appear to be similar to each other. I have come to the conclusion that the main difference between the two decades is that in the nineties the Federal Reserve had strict laws and regulations on the securities and exchanges compared to the twenties. Thus the stock market was prepared and guarded against to the best of our abilities.

     In researching this topic I have come across many articles that attribute that stock market crash to good times, over inflation of stocks, and interest rates of loans that skyrocketed to the collapse of Wall Street in the late 1929’s and early 1930’s. Yet in all of my researching I did not come across any materials were the Federal Reserve or any other governing body would take the blame for not enforcing or at least stepping in when things got out of hand in the early part of 1929. This truly amazes me, it appears that no one would step in and does something. There were plenty of people who complained about it, but very few if any that tried to do something about it.

     I have learned that the stock market did not just come crashing down like I was thought, I have learned that there were many factors involved in the stock market crash and the Great Depression. This research has challenged my thinking on this topic and why things happened to create one of the greatest changes in America culture and society. I have learned that not only did the stock market crash make millions of people homeless, poor, and jobless. I have read things before about how bad the Great Depression was, but in doing this research I came across many different sources that showed me a different view of the era that changed a carefree nation into a nation of hard workers.

     Some of the difficulties I had during this research were trying to find information about just the stock market crash and not the Great Depression. In doing this some of the hardest materials to find were primary sources. I found some newspaper articles from the times, but that is all I could find. I realized during this process that researching  a topic is not as easy as I thought it would be. I learned that to fully cover a topic in a worthwhile way one needs to spend long hours digging through all sorts of materials. This is one of the things that I was not able to do, partly do to the last of materials our library offers. The biggest problem I had was that our library does not have things that go back to the early 1900’s. Most of our material go back to the 1950’s and are usually choppy at best.

     However, I did learn that the library staff is very knowledgeable of the sources at their disposal. I spent a few hours with Mrs. Mead trying to find journal articles with little success and I have developed a better appreciation for the library staff.