The crisis of 1929, which began with a stock market fall on Wall Street on Thursday, October 24, 1929, had far-reaching and dramatic effects, eventually giving rise to the Great Depression. The United States had an unprecedented economic expansion in the years after World War I. Nobody could have foreseen that one day on Wall Street would lead to one of the worst economic disasters in American history. The global economic collapse began on 1929’s “Black Thursday” and continued until WWII. During a ten-year economic downturn, nations like Germany and the United States saw significant social and political turmoil, including the emergence of a certain dictator, Adolf Hitler.
There was a dramatic increase in joblessness since so many banks and enterprises failed. There were 7 million unemployed in two years in the United States. When the Great Depression was at its worst in 1933 nearly half of the banks had collapsed and unemployment had risen to over 15 million. Under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal economic and social policy, the U.S. economy began to show signs of improvement in 1933 and continued to improve over the next several years. The international economic crisis of 1929 was the worst of its kind in the 20th century. Its devastating effects lasted for a full decade and played a significant role in setting the stage for World War II.
Where did 1929’s economic collapse come from?
The Great Depression of the 1930s was the worst economic downturn the capitalist system had ever seen. It started off in the middle of the optimism caused by the speedy recovery from World War I. In the decade after World War I, both global output and international commerce hit record highs. With the exception of the Soviet Union, every country’s postwar economy was building on the economic liberalism (universal return to the gold standard) that had made Europe prosperous in the 19th century. The magnitude of technological advancement and the fruition of rationalization strategies also had a role in bolstering people’s faith.
After years of economic depression, the United States underwent a period of rapid rebuilding in the 1920s. However, there were several holes in the American system. It was founded not just on industrial overproduction, but also on stock market speculation and easy access to financing. In order to finance their stock market investments, the general public took out excessive loans. This means that when prices dropped, investors acted quickly to liquidate their holdings before they lost too much money.
The United States had robust expansion in the 1920s, resulting in a roughly 50 percent rise in industrial output. Contrarily, speculators who ignored economic realities drove up New York Stock Exchange values by more than 300 percent over the same time period. Not only that, but neither production nor earnings have increased to match the elevated mood.
The ingredients for the impending catastrophe were quickly brought together: investors stop looking to collect dividends on profits, the fruits of real growth, and instead bought securities in large quantities on credit with the sole objective of selling them as quickly as possible for as much profit as possible. The stock market collapse was imminent since the foundations were being trampled.
“Black Thursday,” the panicked selling of approximately 13 million stocks on Wall Street on October 24, 1929, was a catastrophic event. As a result of the stock market crash, the American economy as a whole plummeted at a dizzying velocity. Investors abandoned industries, and consumer spending was continually on the decline.
The value of agricultural commodities also fell, prolonging a crisis that persisted for years. In response to the insolvency of their shareholders, the banks filed for bankruptcy protection one after another. With this, the Great Depression officially began.
Early warnings on the impending crash
Charles Merrill, the founder of the business that would become Merrill Lynch, warned investors in 1928 to stop purchasing stock on credit. In the end, nothing came of this first warning. Unfortunately, the economy started to slow down significantly in early 1929, with the car industry being particularly hard hit. Overall, industrial output dropped by around seven percent in the first three months of the year. Simply said, all the money had been sucked up by stock market speculation, and the “real economy” was no longer receiving any funding as a result.
That stock prices nonetheless increased by more than 100% over the same time was a testament to the unrelenting blindness of financial operators. There were cash flow problems and a lack of readjustment to reality. After being steadily fed for months, the stock market finally declined in September and keep steadily declining since the beginning of October.
Since they weren’t seeing any further growth, the large players were cashing out in more alarming numbers between October 18 and 23. The only catch was that no one was willing to repurchase grossly overvalued stock unless they were certain of a massive profit in the very near future. The worst possible outcome was inevitable.
Black Thursday, the day the market crashed (October 24)
The next day, Thursday, October 24, 1929, was the first day of absolute panic: no one wanted to acquire any more shares, and all the main operators were in a selling position; the whole collapse of the prices, -22% at midday, a tragic record had just been made. The reports of widespread suicides among traders were first refuted. But the news cameras were there. An investor woman jumped off the 40th floor of the Equitable Building. Two men with a joint bank account held hands and jumped out of the 10th-floor window of a hotel. Meanwhile, as the telegraphers tapped the news of the collapse, many people had heart attacks.
Nonetheless, the widespread fear caused banks to repurchase a large number of shares (13 million sales against a usual average of 2.5 million), driving up the price of the stock. Even though the trade volume was over the roof, they were able to keep the loss to less than 2% at the end of the day. Prices didn’t change for the following two days. But this was just a temporary respite; “investors,” or should we say “Russian roulette players,” had used all of their credit to speculate, and now they had to sell to cut their losses before the market plunges any worse in the near future. On Monday, October 28th, prices dropped again, and this time, banks did not act to stabilize the market. The Dow Jones dropped by a record 13% in a single day and another 12% the next day.
“Who else had any money left?”
12,894,650 shares were sold as a result of the falling prices in October 24. The daily average of the previous month was 4 million. Prices fell non-stop on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, newspapers reported that the worst moments of the crash were over and things would improve the following week. However, shares began to fall again on Monday, and it became clear on Tuesday that the worst had not yet happened. On October 29, 1929 (“Black Tuesday”), about 16.5 million shares were sold. There were no shares left to sell, and in a single day, $14 million was gone from earnings on paper.
A young man who used to run an errand here ordered and bought one block of shares for 1 dollar, which was valued at $100,000 six days ago. Despite the dominant despair, those who were reassured were still absent. John D. Rockefeller, an oil multi-millionaire, proudly stated that he and his family bought trustworthy bills. On the other hand, the comedian Eddie Cantor, who had lost everything in the crash, could not stand what Rockefeller told, and said: “Sure, who else had any money left?“
Over the course of the next several weeks, ten times the size of the United States federal budget disappeared into thin air. The US industrial production index dropped to 48.7 in July 1932 from 100 in 1929; the drama of agriculture was spectacularly manifested by the collapse of the price of cotton (1929: 17.65 cents; 1933: 6 cents) and wheat (1920: 98 cents; 1933: 40 cents); the banking crisis peaked at the beginning of 1933, when all banks closed down after a general moratorium was declared.
What repercussions did the Great Depression have on a global scale?
In the 1930s, the Great Depression or Great Recession hit the United States after the stock market crash of 1929. Because other economies were more reliant on American dominance, it eventually extended worldwide. The USSR was the only nation to avoid being swept up in the 1929 crisis because of its uncompromising communist doctrine.
The 1929 crisis quickly spread from the United States to Latin America (1929–1930), Austria (with the collapse of the Credit Anstalt on May 11, 1931), Germany (where American capital had been abruptly repatriated), Great Britain and the Commonwealth, and, finally, more slowly but more permanently, to France (1932).
All throughout the world, unemployment rates reached all-time highs. Because of his promises to restore Germany’s economy, Hitler was able to rise to power. Currency devaluations and a more protectionist policy than ever before were among the other measures used by leaders in an effort to reverse their nations’ downward trends. The Great Depression finally ended after a tumultuous decade when World War II broke out.
The financial crisis turned into economic crisis
Companies who wanted to invest in their own growth but couldn’t because of the economic downturn that followed the financial crisis were affected hard. Personal spending was falling drastically. Banks were cornered into cutting off firms’ access to credit, further weakening the companies and leading to more bankruptcies. It was a never-ending cycle: when people stopped getting their money back, the weakest banks went down, and then tiny savers attempted to protect their money by pulling it out of the remaining institutions. This caused a crisis in the financial industry.
Unemployment skyrocketed as a direct result of the 1929 crisis, which included the combined effects of the financial, economic, and banking sectors collapsing; this was the social crisis, which rounded out the dismal picture. However, these were not the only costs of this organized self-destruction; the crisis of 1929 was also responsible for the unanticipated strengthening of authoritarian regimes and the inward retreat of nations (protectionist policies).
As a result, international commerce plummeted by a shocking 66.7% between 1929 and 1933. Britain’s devaluation of the pound sterling in 1931 set off a domino effect throughout Europe. Joblessness skyrocketed. In order to combat unemployment and foster corporate recovery, President Roosevelt’s administration instituted the New Deal in March of 1933. This enshrined governmental involvement in the United States, which had previously been a bastion of liberalism.
France and Germany’s repercussions after the Great Depression of 1929
France didn’t seem to be affected by the global crisis that began in October 1929 with the collapse of the New York stock market until the autumn of 1931. But when Britain finally gave up on the gold standard in September 1931 and allowed the pound sterling to float on the foreign currency markets, disaster ensued. French exporters were hurt severely by this action, which amounted to re-exporting the crisis to continental Europe, since the British pound lost 30 percent of its value in a matter of weeks. British and American devaluations exacerbated the gap between French and international prices as the government stubbornly refused to discount the franc, despite the advise of experts like Paul Reynaud.
Thus, although other nations were beginning to see signs of recovery by the end of 1933, the French crisis deepened in 1934 and 1935, and the French cabinet’s attempt at deflation ultimately failed. The Popular Front’s election success in May 1936 was meant to symbolize the French people’s unification behind the dirigiste movement that was gaining momentum across the world. Franc devaluation occurred in October 1936, but France did not emerge from its economic crisis until the outbreak of World War II in 1939.
Even worse were the repercussions in Germany, where millions of unemployed and impoverished middle-class people helped propel Hitler to power in January 1933 when the Weimar Republic collapsed. The National Socialist regime quickly alleviated the crisis by instituting a strict dirigiste and autarkic policy, as well as a massive public works (freeway) and armaments program, which drastically reduced unemployment. Fascist Italy also resorted to these tactics.
Confidence had been lost across the free world, economic barriers had been put up amid more mistrust than ever, and in order to forget their sorrow, people had once again turned to the tranquilizers of bellicose nationalism. However, the issue was never completely resolved, and as a result, its effects brought to the Second World War.
For what did the New Deal want to accomplish?
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the man elected president of the United States in 1932, instituted the New Deal. Reorganizing the banking system, abandoning the gold standard, devaluing the dollar, regulating agricultural production, providing social and economic aid, and launching massive projects to combat unemployment were all part of the “new deal” policy that was implemented in response to the economic crisis.
The previously pursued capitalist agenda veered off in a new direction as governmental involvement trumped liberalism. A seemingly robust economic structure, but one with shaky underpinnings, ultimately led to the 1929 crash. The globe was rocked for a decade by one day that revealed the flaws of American liberal capitalism. Nazism was gaining strength as several other countries were seeking to develop at the same time. The world was soon be plunged into World War II.
Investment by borrowing
When Wall Street’s crash of 1929 led to Black Thursday and the Great Depression, it was the worst economic downturn in the history of the industrialized world. The daily routine had begun as usual at this stock exchange building, which was the world’s largest money market on Wall Street in New York. But stockbrokers were frustrated. Over the past few weeks, both prices and the general mood fluctuated between optimism and fear.
Throughout the 1920s, Americans spent recklessly on securities and stocks. Credit was unlimited for a wide range of purchases. The frenzy of playing with stocks was largely supported by the debts given by intermediaries because everyone believed heartily that the constant rise in values would secure their investments.
However, as it was nearing the end of the decade, it became clear that a heavy price would be paid. By mid-October 1929, prices had suddenly dropped, so that thousands of stockholders, whose wealth was only on paper, had to sell all their investments.
The selling craze launched by panicked investors that would go down in history as “Black Thursday” shocked the foundations of the US stock market. On Thursday, October 24, at 11 o’clock, that was, exactly one hour after the opening time, the stock market was alarmed. Investors, who bought shares from various companies that are said to have risen, gave sales orders to their brokers; no matter how much, sometimes even at the expense of nothing…
The New York Times reported excitedly: “Fear struck… People threw their stocks away regardless of what they yielded.” On the morning of the bubble burst, investors who had a fortune on paper were wiped out. Everyone was fighting wildly on the stock market to sell what they owned. The stockbrokers were completely pale from horror. As fear and uncertainty increased, some of them were running around like crazy. Officers closed the visitor hall because of the chaos. This was unusual for the New York Stock Exchange, which usually looks calm.
Rescue operation for the collapsing stock market
At noon, the worst moments of panic seemed to be over, and a rescue operation was about to begin. A community of leading bankers and investors were willing to collect $20–30 million in a pool to purchase stocks and valuable papers. In a statement to the press, they mentioned how “there was some tension in sales,” and so they decided to fix the imbalance to support the market now.
An hour later, the Vice President of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, appeared. By finding his way through the crowd confidently, he reached the center where US steel shares were sold. He ordered 10,000 shares at a price higher than he asked. Then he stopped by 20 different points and bought a large number of shares. In a few minutes, he spent about 20 million dollars of bankers’ money.
But the effect was short-lived. The stock tickers were still unable to reach the speed of trading. Even though the market had recovered somewhat in response to this hard attempt, the bad news continued to come: The stocks were continuing to be sold wildly. Immersed in sales orders and ticker tapes to their knees, stockbrokers were watching hopelessly how much money their customers were losing per minute. The stock market closed at three in the afternoon as usual, but even hours later, the lights were still on in the office windows as the dealers were trying to cope with the transactions. The restaurants around Wall Street remained open all night, and the hotels were full.
The clerk in New York hotels asks the guests: “Do you want a room to sleep or to jump? You had to stand in line to get a window to jump out of.”Will Rogers, American humorist
Why did the New York Stock Exchange crash?
In the months preceding the collapse of Wall Street on Black Thursday, the US had already been in a frenzy of buying stocks. The offices of stock brokerage firms were filled with men and women who thirsted for profit every day all over the country. The system of purchasing shares by depositing an allowance allowed ordinary people to buy shares on credit. The purchaser was investing only a small amount, for example, 10 percent of the original value, and that was the allowance. The rest of the value was borrowed from the broker by holding the stocks as assurance. When the value of the shares rose, the owner sold them, paid the broker his money, and pocketed the profit.
The possibility of making such a quick profit had already mobilized those who were rich, and also those who wanted to take the lion’s share. For the ones who wanted to get the latest financial news, the hotels installed machines in their lobbies that recorded the stock market news; In fact, the French ocean liner Ile de France was on its way to Europe with fully equipped stock tickers from New York and a brokerage firm’s office. But on September 5, an economist named Roger W. Babson warned everyone. “Sooner or later, a crash is coming.“
Starting on this date, the trust started to decrease. As the stock values fell, the buyers who purchased shares by paying allowances saw the money in their hands vaporize but also began to be pressured by brokers who wanted more allowances to protect the money they lent their customers.
The number of bond sellers exceeded the number of buyers by too far, and thousands of people whose money ran out had to sell their investments. On Monday, October 21, a huge wave of sales swept Wall Street which paved the way for the next crash three days later.
The two US presidents, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, played a key role in the economic downturn of 1929 and the Great Depression that lasted until the 1930s. A third president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, brought a new order to America. In March 1929, Coolidge was president for six years. Seven months after he left his post, what brought about the collapse of Wall Street and Black Thursday was his inability to prevent stock market speculation and easy borrowing.
This economic collapse happened during Hoover’s presidency, which promised the American people “One chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” Instead of realizing this promise, the president found himself facing the Great Depression; steel and automobile production had been hit hard, freight costs had declined dangerously, and the construction industry had almost stopped. Hoover’s inability to cope with the great difficulties led Franklin D. Roosevelt to win the 1933 presidential race. Roosevelt introduced the New Deal plan, which implemented an economic policy and a social security program that included industry and agricultural reforms.
The effects of the New York Stock Exchange’s collapse
One of the first countries outside the United States that the Wall Street Exchange crash and the Great Depression shook was the United Kingdom. There was no such economic boom in the United Kingdom as seen in the US in the 1920s, and there was already an unemployment problem going on. However, London was still one of the leading business centers and was the major overseas market for US stocks. By the end of 1929, the “unbalanced” economic situation had also turned into a mess there. In 1931, the number of unemployed reached 2.5 million and was still increasing. In August, growing hopelessness caused a split in the Labour Government. To save the political situation, Prime Minister Ramsay McDonald put together a national coalition government.
Abandoning the “gold standard,” which is the monetary system in which the basic currency unit is equal to a certain amount of gold, the United Kingdom went to the “sterling devaluation” the following month. This resulted in an international echo. The situation shook up the largest gold producer in the world, South Africa, which then had a solid economy.
Australia’s economy was built on overseas borrowing, and as a result of the economic crisis, this borrowing habit suddenly ceased. The economic crisis worsened with the fall of the world’s wool and wheat prices. However, the versatile farming economy stayed solid in New Zealand as usual. On the other hand, the economies of Indonesia and Brazil fell into a very inadequate situation as the tire and coffee markets almost reset.
In Europe, bank failures followed each other after the Great Depression. The crisis started in Austria, where the country’s largest bank, Creditanstalt, reported massive losses in the spring of 1931 and was almost unable to repay its creditors. American and British creditors rushed to the banks to get whatever they could take.
A few weeks later, Germany’s powerful Darmstadter Bank and the National Bank went bankrupt. Germany was among the countries worst affected by the stock market crash. It was time for Germany to pay the large debts borrowed from the US to restructure the country after World War I. Unemployment was growing. Some other banks went bankrupt too, and aircraft maker Willy Messerschmitt was dangerously on the verge of bankruptcy as well.
Large stock exchanges in Belgium and the Netherlands were desperate during the Great Depression. Stocks fell, and the balance of payments was badly affected. Economic insufficiency deeply shook the daily lives of the people in Spain, and laid the groundwork for a bloody civil war that would begin a few years later. In contrast, the economies of Switzerland, France, and Scandinavia were not much affected by Black Thursday compared to other countries.
The biggest fraud at an American bank
One consequence of the Great Depression and Black Thursday was the discovery of the largest bank fraud known in the world to date. For over a year, 15 employees of the Union Industrial Bank in Flint, Michigan, played on the New York Stock Exchange, from vice-presidents to veterans. But the money they used was the bank’s money, not theirs.
By the fall of 1929, Wall Street fraudsters had “borrowed” more than two million dollars from customers’ bank accounts. The tellers were content with pocketing the cash deposited in the bank and buying stock with it. When the bill rose, part of the profit was used to replace the stolen money and the interest, if there was any. Then the rest was invested in Wall Street again. When a customer wanted to withdraw their money, it was paid from someone else’s account. They were mixing the accounts, and playing with the books, and the bank inspectors were deceived.
After the stock market crash of 1929, it turned out that 1.5 million dollars were lost from the bank’s money solely in September. Criminals were caught, accused of fraud, and convicted. They received sentences of a few months to ten years.
TIMELINE OF THE 1929 GREAT DEPRESSION
Thursday, October 24, 1929: Black Thursday on Wall Street
In a breakdown at the New York Stock Exchange, 13 million shares were sold in only a few hours. The price decline prompted many speculators to rush to unload their holdings. There was a 30% discount in prices. On the 29th, a confirmation of the “crash,” was made. What started on “Black Thursday” would become the worst economic disaster in human history. This led to the complete collapse of the United States. And the political and economic consequences felt throughout the globe.
On May 11, 1931, the Creditanstalt filed for bankruptcy
In the wake of the Wall Street collapse, which precipitated a severe economic downturn in the United States, Austria’s biggest bank was forced to file for bankruptcy. The Creditanstalt, which had been operating since 1855, declared bankruptcy, leading to a complete collapse of the Austrian stock market. Germany eventually felt the effects of the global economic downturn and entered a state of catastrophe.
The Danat Bank failed on July 13, 1931
Just like its Austrian counterpart, the Danat Bank or Darmstädter Bank was forced to shut down. The devastating effects of the Wall Street collapse and the ensuing economic crisis were too much for the German bank to bear. Attempts by American banks to extricate themselves from the crisis by reclaiming all of their overseas money ultimately led to the failure of several financial organizations.
In 1931, September 21st, the British pound was devalued
After the stock market collapsed in October 1929, the United Kingdom’s economy was in disarray, and the government was compelled to devalue the pound sterling by over 40%. In addition, it did away with the gold standard, which had been in place since the 19th century and had the monetary unit be equal to a predetermined weight of gold. After that, dozens of other currencies in the system, including the French franc, followed the same road. France had been given a reprieve up to that point, but its refusal to discount the franc had kept the crisis going strong in the country.
In a speech on July 2, 1932, Roosevelt announced the “New Deal”
The term “New Deal” was first used in public by then-New York Governor and future U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This idea, developed from the work of British economist John Keynes, aimed to implement social and economic reforms in response to the Great Depression.
Ottawa, Canada, July 20, 1932: The Opening of the Imperial Economic Conference
In an effort to save its economy, the United Kingdom decided to enter into treaties with several Commonwealth territories. The conference’s stated goal was to institute protectionist measures. More than a month after discussions began, mutually beneficial reciprocal tariffs were established.
The New Deal was officially launched by President Roosevelt on March 4, 1933
The American people chose Franklin Delano Roosevelt as their leader in November of 1932. As soon as he took office in March 1933, he began implementing the New Deal.
On March 5, 1933, Roosevelt ordered the closing of U.S. banks
U.S. banks were closed for four days after the new president issued the order the day after his inauguration. He believed this would calm people down after a string of bankruptcies. As of March 9th, business would resume if debts were settled.
Roosevelt imposed a gold ban on March 6, 1933
In an effort to end the economic downturn that had dogged the nation since 1929, the United States instituted a ban on the export of gold. It was the following month before the gold standard was finally scrapped.
Official beginning of the Civilian Conservation Corps on March 31, 1933
The Civilian Conservation Corps was one of the main government initiatives begun by the United States as part of the New Deal, allowing the government to employ two million unemployment people in a nationwide reforestation program.
Agricultural New Deal Programs, May 12, 1933
Roosevelt’s Agriculture Adjustment Act (AAA) was a cornerstone of his economic revival plan. The stock market fall of 1929 exacerbated the agricultural situation. The Act’s goal was to halt the catastrophic overproduction of agricultural goods by increasing their prices.
Farmers get monetary compensation from the state in return for shrinking their farmland. The AAA was also making efforts to make debt repayment easier. While most Americans were going hungry, surpluses were destroyed along with many crops.
The Tennessee Valley Authority was established on May 18th, 1933
As part of FDR’s New Deal, the government agency known as the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was established. They hoped to accomplish their goal of lowering the unemployment rate by way of intensive labor. At that time, almost 12 million people in the United States were without work.
Thus, the government’s efforts to develop the Tennessee River basin secured economic growth in the area and helped to reduce the region’s historically high unemployment rates. The dams prevented the widespread flooding and provided enough power to supply several million homes.
A National Industrial Recovery Act was approved on June 16, 1933
The NIRA was passed as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal initiative to alleviate the country’s economic crisis. Its goal was to facilitate government engagement in industry competition to enhance competitive behavior.
The goal here was to have everyone on the same page with things like pricing, hours, and salaries. This was why Congress established the National Recovery Administration. Businesses were not required to sign on, but those who did proudly displayed their adherence to NRA standards by using a logo with a blue eagle and the organization’s letters.
As of January 30, 1934, the dollar was devalued
When the Great Depression hit, it caused a 41% devaluation of the dollar.
The Social Security Act was signed into law on August 14, 1935
The New Deal program paved the way for the passage of the Social Security Act, which helped the neediest among people.
France’s franc currency was devalued on October 1, 1936
Shortly after the Popular Front’s electoral victory, France devalued the franc to help the country weather the Great Depression. In response to the economic catastrophe that followed the 1929 stock market collapse, the nation moved much too slowly. It was difficult for the government to keep the Poincaré franc’s value stable when the pound and the dollar were devalued many years ago.
As a result, there was a major disparity between the value of the French currency and that of other countries’ markets. France, which had been immune to the crisis thus far because of its financial independence, was hit hard. In a time when other countries’ economies were starting to stabilize, this delayed response did the country no favors.
The Jarrow March, October 5, 1936
During the Great Depression, citizens of one of the worst-affected communities began a large hunger march. Many individuals looking for work headed south toward London, where a large group of them had already congregated. There had been a number of marches since the crisis of the Great Depression began, but the one in Jarrow will always be the most significant.
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