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Wall Street Crash of 1929

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Brytani Shea
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« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2009, 07:20:51 am »

The myth of post-crash pavement suicides



Jan 10, 2009 04:30 AM
Brett Popplewell Staff Reporter

There's a lineup of pinstriped bankers at the windows of offices on Wall Street. They're waiting their turn to escape their losses, leave the godforsaken index behind, and leap to their deaths.

It's Thursday, Oct. 24, 1929: a black day in economic history. The New York Times reports that 11 speculators have taken their lives amid the onset of a market meltdown. But wait. Of those 11 suicides, none actually involved a plunge onto Wall Street. And yet, bankers dropping from bank towers has become the stuff of legend, mimicked this week by Adolf Merckle formerly one of the richest men in Germany who leapt in front of a train after losing his fortune.

This just two weeks after another high-profile suicide that of Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, who slit his wrists in his New York office after losing $1.4 billion (U.S.) in Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

In October, the World Health Organization warned that the global economic crisis was likely to cause an increase in suicides and mental illness as people struggle to cope with losing their houses, their livelihoods or, in the case of de la Villehuchet and Merckle, their fortunes.

But where does this concern about suicide come from?

The U.S. rate did increase during the Great Depression, but the number of suicides during October and November 1929 was actually lower than that for the preceding summer, when the Dow Industrial Average peaked. In his 1955 book, The Great Crash, economist John Kenneth Galbraith credited the lore of the pavement-suicide banker to the penny press in London, which had reported that pedestrians in New York had to pick their way among the bodies of fallen financiers during the crash.

"The weight of the evidence suggests the newspapers and the public merely seized on such suicides as occurred to show that people were reacting appropriately to their misfortune," Galbraith summarized.

That most of those who committed suicide after Black Thursday did so in less dramatic fashion is a fact lost in the mythology. Domestic gassings, hangings and shootings were the methods of choice.

That said, two distraught bankers who did leap onto Wall Street have helped perpetuate the fable.

As have reports from the likes of Winston Churchill, present in Manhattan during the crash, who wrote in the Daily Telegraph that he was awoken one night after a man in his hotel had jumped 15 storeys. In 1987, when the market last experienced a major crash, notable suicides were again reported. Like that of Arthur Kane, a civil servant, who shot two Merrill Lynch executives (one of them fatally) and then took his own life after losing millions in the stock market.


A wave of suicides in South Korea in 1997 and October 2008 were also blamed on the grim economy.

It's in disregard of these facts, and perhaps an indication of society's relishing of the myth, that some people, including commentators on the Star's own website, have been calling for today's bankers on Bay and Wall Streets to follow the lead of those who leapt before.

So as a former billionaire is put to rest, we're left asking: What is it about financial calamity that spawns the suicidal urge?

Often we don't know what other factors might have been at play. Perhaps Galbraith said it best:

"Like alcoholics and gamblers, broken speculators are supposed to have a propensity for self-destruction. Suicides that in other times would have evoked the question, `Why do you suppose he did it?' now had the motive assigned automatically: `The poor fellow was caught in the crash.'"

http://www.thestar.com/News/article/568446
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Brytani Shea
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« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2009, 07:23:49 am »

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Brytani Shea
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« Reply #17 on: January 10, 2009, 07:24:50 am »

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« Reply #18 on: January 10, 2009, 07:25:26 am »

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« Reply #19 on: January 10, 2009, 07:26:08 am »

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Brytani Shea
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« Reply #20 on: January 10, 2009, 07:27:20 am »



Selling out

If the late 1920s was the age of the stockbroker, the early 1930s was a time for apple-sellers - traditionally, a job resorted to by those down on their luck.

The link between the crash and the Depression is not clear-cut; the economic cycle was arguably moving to recession with or without a crash. But 1929 eliminated the optimism of the 1920s.
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Brytani Shea
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« Reply #21 on: January 10, 2009, 07:29:22 am »



Hoover damned

Herbert Hoover had the ill-luck to succeed President Coolidge in March 1929, just as things were turning sour.

A Republican like his predecessor, Mr Hoover maintained the laisser-faire philosophy, even once the need for action had become obvious. As a result, his party was excluded from the White House for 20 years after his departure in 1932.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/04/business_1929_wall_street_crash/html/9.stm
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« Reply #22 on: January 10, 2009, 07:36:22 am »

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« Reply #23 on: January 10, 2009, 07:42:45 am »

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« Reply #24 on: January 10, 2009, 07:43:45 am »

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« Reply #25 on: January 10, 2009, 07:44:32 am »

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« Reply #26 on: January 10, 2009, 07:45:08 am »

« Last Edit: January 10, 2009, 07:48:49 am by Brytani Shea » Report Spam   Logged
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