As a child, I never had the urge to run
Well yes – if you believe Winston Churchill. He claimed he saw it with his own eyes while other eyewitnesses saw traders screaming and fighting on the trading floor as crowds ran amok in the streets. At the same time, businessmen on a transatlantic liner who had left Europe millionaires arrived in New York without a nickel to their name. Here are some stories from Black Tuesday 1929.
1. The stock market was in a free-for-all panic. Traders screamed and clawed at one another like crazy men. Orders to ‘buy’ were in black and ‘sell’ were red and traders ran screaming across the floor with bundles of red paper. Every once in a while when stocks fell again, one collapsed to the floor in despair.
2. William Durant was nicknamed “King of the Bulls” – he traded phenomenal amounts of money on his fearsome reputation. He became convinced that he could stop the panic. He poured and lost millions of own money into buying stock to try and save the market, but at closing time it was all over.
3. Winston Churchill was staying with Percy Rockefeller near to the Savoy-Plaza and saw: “a gentleman cast himself down fifteen stories and was dashed to pieces, causing a wild commotion and the arrival of the fire brigade”. It was later reported on the news that the president of the Earl Radio Corporation had jumped to his death from the window of a Manhattan hotel.
4. Meanwhile out at sea, the broking house of Meekers had a trading office on the luxury liner Berengaria. When news of the crash hit many businessmen tried frantically to sell their stocks but by the time they reached New York their fortunes were lost forever. This film footage shows the mad scenes:
7. Ironically, the song ‘Happy Days Are Here Again’ got its first performance on the night of the crash. The orchestra played in the Hotel Pennsylvania to a crowd of very depressed bankers. It was reported that the diners: “joined in sardonically, hysterically, like doomed prisoners on their way to the firing squad.”
8. But not everyone lost out – some even made money! Jesse Livermore was called “the most fabulous living US stock trader” by Time magazine. On Black Tuesday hearing the news of the crash his wife moved their belongings into a small cottage as she was convinced they were broke. When he got home he set her straight, from some clever short selling he had emerged $100 million richer! Yet even he later fell victim to the markets, lost his fortune and committed suicide.