Wall Street History

The Day They Blew Up Wall Street

Bombing Wall Street.jpgAmid all the chaos today, we’re going to take a break to remember the bombing of Wall Street on September 16th, 1920. Just before noon, a horse-drawn wagon stopped across the street from the headquarters of the J.P. Morgan at 23 Wall Street. The bells from Trinity church rang out. A few moments later, hundreds of pounds of dynamite wrapped with heavy cast-iron slugs cut from window sash exploded. The shrapnel tore through concrete, animals, people and glass.
Thirty-eight people were killed. At least 400 persons were injured. Windows were shattered up to a half-mile away. For the first time ever, trading was halted on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange because of violence.
The perpetrators were never caught.

Big Bang on Wall Street
[New York Press]
A Look at a 1920 Bombing [TheStreet.com]

  • 02 Jun 2008 at 9:57 AM
  • hotties

Who Is The New Adonis Of Wall Street?

Earlier today we mentioned a legal battle between a nineteenth century gossip rag called the Flash and a stock-broker named Myer Levy. It seems that Levy’s good looks, or perhaps his reputation for whoring, led to him being nicknamed “the Adonis of Wall Street.”
That’s definitely a nickname that deserves to be dusted off, as one of our commenters pointed out. So who should be the new Adonis of Wall Street? Earlier votes have already been cast for Jamie Dimon, whose success at running JP Morgan Chase and Greeky good looks have many women on Wall Street rating him as crushtastic.

The Flash Press, Prostitutes and Wall Street

Long before DealBreaker came along to supply your Wall Street gossip news, there was the so-called “flash press,” rag paper weeklies published for a few years in the 1840s specializing in suggestively lascivious subjects, Wall Street sex scandal, fallen women and descriptions of bare-knuckle boxing. The greatest of these, according to the New York Times Book Review, was “The Flash,” which was published by William J. Snelling (who would go on to become the publisher of the Boston Herald) George Wilkes (a nineteenth century socialite) and George Wooldridge (who ran the Elssler Saloon at 300 Broadway).
They got themselves in a bit of hot water, however, when they took on Myer Levy, a prominent Wall Street banker who was sometimes called the “Adonis of Wall Street.” Myer, the Flash claimed, was a “practical amalgamationist” because of his alleged affinity for sex with women of color.
As it turns out, fighting, whoring, Wall Street mischief and scandalizing tabloids are not recent inventions.

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The Wall Street Graveyard

Wall Street Graveyard Bear Stearns.JPGAs regular readers know, we’ve got a thing for Wall Street history. So we’re really glad that the kids over at Portfolio put together a wonderful interactive feature detailing what happened to some of the once powerful and now vanished Wall Street firms.

  • 13 May 2008 at 2:59 PM
  • Big Idea

Bottoms Up?

We’re apparently meant to understand that the worst of the credit crisis is over, or nearly so. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke says the markets are “far from normal” but reassures us that the smart and caring gentlemen at the Federal Reserve stand ready to increase its auctioned funds. Banks have started to lend to each other at more gentlemanly rates, narrowing the spread between inter-bank lending rates and Treasuries. All of the big wigs on Wall Street—the kind who get invited to luncheons with Bernanke—have said that we’re finally, or nearly, out of the dark woods we entered sometime last year.
What certainly seems to be passing is our very brief age of anxiety. Those who have been predicting national disaster are a bit quieter. Even the worst fears of inflation resulting from the extraordinary rate cuts from the Federal Reserve seem to be receding with the expectation that interest rates will soon enough—perhaps by year’s end—begin climbing once again. Oppenheimer’s Meredith Whitney says there are more losses to be booked by brokerages but, by the logic of contrarian investing, the attention her every pronouncement gets is an indicator that there is little investment value left in shorting these institutions. This morning on Squawk Box even Jim Chanos, the notorious short seller, indicated that he might be backing off short positions in the financials.
There’s something unsettling about how orderly this has all been. How have we passed through what many have described as the worst crisis in American finance in recent memory with so little blood spilled on Wall Street? That question may seem crass to investors in Bear Stearns, to the holders of still frozen auction rate securities, to the legions of laid-off investment bankers. But the layoffs from this crisis have not come close to those we saw when the tech bubble popped. The holders of auction rates and even Bear Stearns shares have not experienced the pain of investors in the dot coms. To paraphrase a former Kansas senator, “Where’s the panic?”

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The Dangers of Boredom On Wall Street

Let’s take a step back from the Fed and stock markets for a moment to reflect on some history. Joe Flaherty was a legend in New York journalism. Drink was his muse, words his first love, and telling the truth his only paying talent. Of course he started his career on Wall Street. He began as a “squad boy” on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, where his job was to take recorded sales and send them up a pneumatic tube. It didn’t last long.
Here’s Joe describing his short stint on the floor in the late 1940s:
“Every morning I flew up the subway stairs at the Wall Street stop, sporting my Billy Eckstine-collared shirt and looking like a Dow-Jones Dumbo. Everything went quietly at first—tragically, too quietly. There were a couple of minor skirmishes with summer-working college boys who made remarks about my shirt or one of my ever present pocket books they dared put the knock on Mike Hammer!). The latter worked to my advantage, since one of my critics goaded me into reading James Jones From Here To Eternity, and a new world opened for me. But alas, enough was not going on. Even employing the fantasy of a wing commander sending endless bombers airborne didn’t stem the ennui. So games had to be devised. The favorite was to write a bogus sale on a piece of paper—usually 2,000,000 shares of GM at 60 3/4 –and pass it to the new squad boy to skyrocket up the tube. Nobody ever fell for it till one day I found a true believer who sent GM soaring. I was fired immediately and walked to the subway hugging the building to avoid being flattened by leapers.”

Wall Street & Little Rock, Fifty Years On

WallStreet1956.jpgFifty years ago today, paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division escorted nine black students the the doors of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. As Shelby Steele points out on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal today, the events in Little Rock in 1957 had a dramatic impact on the way the nation thought about segregation, integration and civil rights, in part because of the effect of television. The events were broadcast live across the nation, and watched by something like 100 million viewers.
It was, for instance, the first time that our military leaders had ever looked directly at troops in action over a field commander’s shoulder nearly a thousand miles away. And, for many on Wall Street, it seemed to bring them into direct contact with the realities of segregation for the first time. “People on all sides of the civil rights issues in 1957 were shocked by the sight of white mobs and the Arkansas National Guard, under orders from Governor Orval Faubus, blocking nine black children from entering the city’s Central High School,” Juan Williams writes in Time Magazine.

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Where is Foster Winans?

foster_winans smokes a pipe.jpgThe last time we checked in with Foster Winans he was arguing for repealing the insider trading laws. Winans, you might recall, is the former Wall Street Journal reporter who was charged with insider trading for tipping a stock broker off about items that would run in his “Heard On The Street” column. As we noted in March, Winans broke new ground in insider trading, more or less inventing an entirely new way to trade on insider information.
So what’s Winans doing these days? The latest issue of Fortune tracks down a dozen or so headline-makers from years past. Foster, it turns out, is living back in his hometown of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where he makes a living ghost-writing books.
Foster isn’t shy about his opinions of our insider trading laws. “Maybe it’s time they just made it legal. I’m only half-kidding,” he tells Fortune.
A little over a month ago, Winans actually stopped by DealBreaker to drop us a comment on insider trading. “There is much more to be said but the one aspect that seems to be overlooked about this issue is that there is rarely a situation when someone can know 100% that inside information is going to make them money,” Winans wrote. “One could “know” that a bid is coming for TXU, but there is market risk, industry dynamics, and a host of other variables.” He recommended readers check out the writings of former Libertarian Party presidential nominee Harry Browne.
Others featured in Fortune‘s “Where are they Now” article include the only woman to run a hostile takeover, the woman who lost control of Enron to Jeff Skilling and the guy who ran Drexel Burnham Lambert in the days of Michael Milken.
Where are they now? [Fortune on CNNMoney.com]