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Wall Street


Wall Street is the financial district of New York City,[2] named after and centered on the eight-block-long, 0.7 miles (1.1 km) long street running from Broadway to South Street on the East River in Lower Manhattan. Over time, the term has become a metonym for the financial markets of the United States as a whole, the American financial sector (even if financial firms are not physically located there), or signifying New York-based financial interests.[3]Wall Street is the home of the New York Stock Exchange, the world's largest stock exchange by market capitalization of its listed companies.[4] Several other major exchanges have or had headquarters in the Wall Street area, including NASDAQ, the New York Mercantile Exchange, the New York Board of Trade, and the former American Stock Exchange. Anchored by Wall Street, New York City is one of the world's principal financial centers

There are varying accounts about how the Dutch-named "de Waal Straat"[13] got its name. A generally accepted version is that the name of the street was derived from an earthen wall on the northern boundary of the New Amsterdam settlement, perhaps to protect against English colonial encroachment or incursions by native Americans. A conflicting explanation is that Wall Street was named after Walloons—possibly a Dutch abbreviation for Walloon being Waal.[14] Among the first settlers that embarked on the ship "Nieu Nederlandt" in 1624 were 30 Walloon families. In the 1640s, basic picket and plank fences denoted plots and residences in the colony.[15] Later, on behalf of the Dutch West India Company, Peter Stuyvesant, using both African slaves[16] and white colonists, collaborated with the city government in the construction of a more substantial fortification, a strengthened 12-foot (4 m) wall.[17] In 1685, surveyors laid out Wall Street along the lines of the original stockade.[17] The wall started at Pearl Street, which was the shoreline at that time, crossing the Indian path Broadway and ending at the other shoreline (today's Trinity Place), where it took a turn south and ran along the shore until it ended at the old fort. In these early days, local merchants and traders would gather at disparate spots to buy and sell shares and bonds, and over time divided themselves into two classes—auctioneers and dealers.[18] Wall Street was also the marketplace where owners could hire out their slaves by the day or week.[19] The rampart was removed in 1699.[14]

On December 13, 1711, the New York City Common Council made Wall Street the city's first official slave market for the sale and rental of enslaved Africans and Indians.[20]In the late 18th century, there was a buttonwood tree at the foot of Wall Street under which traders and speculators would gather to trade securities.[21] The benefit was being in proximity to each other.[21] In 1792, traders formalized their association with the Buttonwood Agreement which was the origin of the New York Stock Exchange.[22] The idea of the agreement was to make the market more "structured" and "without the manipulative auctions", with a commission structure.[18] Persons signing the agreement agreed to charge each other a standard commission rate; persons not signing could still participate but would be charged a higher commission for dealing.[18]In 1789, Wall Street was the scene of the United States' first presidential inauguration when George Washington took the oath of office on the balcony of Federal Hall on April 30, 1789. This was also the location of the passing of the Bill Of Rights. In the cemetery of Trinity Church, Alexander Hamilton, who was the first Treasury secretary and "architect of the early United States financial system," is buried.[23]

19th century

In the first few decades, both residences and businesses occupied the area, but increasingly business predominated. "There are old stories of people's houses being surrounded by the clamor of business and trade and the owners complaining that they can't get anything done," according to a historian named Burrows.[24] The opening of the Erie Canal in the early 19th century meant a huge boom in business for New York City, since it was the only major eastern seaport which had direct access by inland waterways to ports on the Great Lakes. Wall Street became the "money capital of America".[21]Historian Charles R. Geisst suggested that there has constantly been a "tug-of-war" between business interests on Wall Street and authorities in Washington, D.C..[18] Generally during the 19th century Wall Street developed its own "unique personality and institutions" with little outside interference.[18]

In the 1840s and 1850s, most residents moved north to midtown because of the increased business use at the lower tip of the island.[24] The Civil War had the effect of causing the northern economy to boom, bringing greater prosperity to cities like New York which "came into its own as the nation's banking center" connecting "Old World capital and New World ambition", according to one account.[23] J. P. Morgan created giant trusts; John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil moved to New York.[23] Between 1860 and 1920, the economy changed from "agricultural to industrial to financial" and New York maintained its leadership position despite these changes, according to historian Thomas Kessner.[23] New York was second only to London as the world's financial capital.[23]

In 1884, Charles H. Dow began tracking stocks, initially beginning with 11 stocks, mostly railroads, and looked at average prices for these eleven.[25] When the average "peaks and troughs" went up consistently, he deemed it a bull market condition; if averages dropped, it was a bear market. He added up prices, and divided by the number of stocks to get his Dow Jones average. Dow's numbers were a "convenient benchmark" for analyzing the market and became an accepted way to look at the entire stock market. In 1889, the original stock report, Customers' Afternoon Letter, became The Wall Street Journal. Named in reference to the actual street, it became an influential international daily business newspaper published in New York City.[26] After October 7, 1896, it began publishing Dow's expanded list of stocks.[25] A century later, there were 30 stocks in the average.

20th century

Historian John Brooks in his book Once in Golconda considered the start of the 20th century period to have been Wall Street's heyday.[23] The address of 23 Wall Street where the headquarters of J. P. Morgan & Company, known as The Corner, was "the precise center, geographical as well as metaphorical, of financial America and even of the financial world."[23]
Wall Street has had changing relationships with government authorities. In 1913, for example, when authorities proposed a $4 tax on stock transfers, stock clerks protested.[27] At other times, city and state officials have taken steps through tax incentives to encourage financial firms to continue to do business in the city.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the corporate culture of New York was a primary center for the construction of skyscrapers, and was rivaled only by Chicago on the American continent. There were also residential sections, such as the Bowling Green section between Broadway and the Hudson river, and between Vesey Street and the Battery. The Bowling Green area was described as "Wall Street's back yard" with poor people, high infant mortality rates, and the "worst housing conditions in the city."[28] As a result of the construction, looking at New York City from the east, one can see two distinct clumps of tall buildings—the financial district on the left, and the taller midtown district on the right. The geology of Manhattan is well-suited for tall buildings, with a solid mass of bedrock underneath Manhattan providing a firm foundation for tall buildings. Skyscrapers are expensive to build, but when there is a "short supply of land" in a "desirable location", then building upwards makes sound financial sense.[29] A post office was built at 60 Wall Street in 1905.[30] During the World War I years, occasionally there were fund-raising efforts for projects such as the National Guard.[31]
On September 16, 1920, close to the corner of Wall and Broad Street, the busiest corner of the financial district and across the offices of the Morgan Bank, a powerful bomb exploded. It killed 38 and seriously injured 143 people.[32] The perpetrators were never identified or apprehended. The explosion did, however, help fuel the Red Scare that was underway at the time. A report from The New York Times:
The tomb-like silence that settles over Wall Street and lower Broadway with the coming of night and the suspension of business was entirely changed last night as hundreds of men worked under the glare of searchlights to repair the damage to skyscrapers that were lighted up from top to bottom. ... The Assay Office, nearest the point of explosion, naturally suffered the most. The front was pierced in fifty places where the cast iron slugs, which were of the material used for window weights, were thrown against it. Each slug penetrated the stone an inch or two and chipped off pieces ranging from three inches to a foot in diameter. The ornamental iron grill work protecting each window was broken or shattered. ... the Assay Office was a wreck. ... It was as though some gigantic force had overturned the building and then placed it upright again, leaving the framework uninjured but scrambling everything inside. -- 1920[33]
The area was subjected to numerous threats; one bomb threat in 1921 led to detectives sealing off the area to "prevent a repetition of the Wall Street bomb explosion."[34]
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