Wall Street: A History

Wall Street: A History

Wall Street: A History

Wall Street: A History

Synopsis

How did a small, concentrated pocket of lower Manhattan come to have such enormous influence in national and world affairs? In this wide-ranging volume, economic historian Charles Geisst answers this question as he provides the first history of Wall Street, ranging from the loose association of traders meeting on New York sidewalks and coffee houses in the late 18th century, to the modern billion-dollar computer-driven colossus of today. Geisst's narrative traces several themes--the move of industry and business westward in the early 19th century, the rise of the great Robber Barons, the influence of the securities market on incredible growth of industry, and the gradual increase in government involvement in Wall Street--and also features a look at the some of Wall Street's most colorful and ruthless wheeler dealers. Wall Street is at once a chronicle of the street itself, from the days when the wall was merely a defensive barricade built by Peter Stuyvesant, and in a broader sense it is an engaging economic history of the United States, a tale of profits and losses, endlessly enterprising spirits, and the role Wall Street played in helping America become the most powerful economy in the world.

Excerpt

This is the first history of Wall Street. From the Street's earliest beginnings, it has never had its own complete history chronicling the major events in finance and government that changed the way securities were created and traded. Despite its tradition of self-reliance, it has not developed without outside influence. Over the years, government has had a great deal to do with Wall Street's development, more than financiers would like to admit.

Like the society it reflects, Wall Street has grown extraordinarily complicated over the last two centuries. New markets have sprung up, functions have been divided, and the sheer size of trading volume has expanded dramatically. But the core of the Street's business would still be recognized by a nineteenth-century trader. Daniel Drew and Jacob Little would still recognize many trading techniques and basic financial instruments. Fortunately, their philosophies for taking advantage of others have been replaced with investor protections and a bevy of securities laws designed to keep the poachers out of the henhouse, where they had comfortably resided for almost 150 years.

Bull markets and bear markets are the stuff that Wall Street is made of. The boom and bust cycle began early, when the Street was just an outdoor market in lower Manhattan. The first major trauma that shook the market was a bubble brought on by rampant land speculation that shook the very heart of New York's infant financial community. In the intervening two hundred years, much has changed, but the Street still has not shaken off . . .

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