Two Views of Wall Street – 1880 & 1904 – With A Story From A 19th Century Stockbroker
The changes in Wall Street from 1880 to 1904 are clear by comparing these two photographs taken from Broad Street. The center of each photograph is unchanged with historic Trinity Church at the foot of Wall Street and Broadway.
In the 1880 photo the church clock indicates it is 9:40 in the morning. Wall street looks almost provincial with gas lit lamps and small five story buildings, mainly housing insurance companies, brokers and banks. With the wild stock swings in this tumultuous era, many firms were here today, gone tomorrow.
On the far left side behind the gas lamp you can see the advertisement on the stairs leading to 17 Wall Street for stock brokers Taylor Brothers. Directly adjacent is a three story building with a sign above its entrance for Duff and Tienken, gold brokers. Immediately next to Duff and Tienken at 13 Wall Street is the first building owned by the New York Stock Exchange. Looking closely at the sidewalk in front of most of the buildings, the small circular cylindrical objects are coal chute covers.
Fast forward 24 years later to 1904 and Wall Street is lined with tall buildings. This photo’s vantage point is taken from a bit further back than the 1880 photo. On the right is Federal Hall with its famous statue of George Washington. The street lights have been converted from gas to electric. Virtually every building from the 1880 photo is gone. Many of these buildings from 1904 would soon be gone as well. The skyscrapers built by Bankers Trust, Irving Trust and others would rise in their place.
The name Wall Street is synonymous with money, investing, corruption, crashes, and power. We’ll conclude with some words from a man who was active on Wall Street when our two photographs were taken.
In his entertaining 1908 book, Fifty Years of Wall Street – “Twenty-Eight Years in Wall Street Revised and Enlarged by a Resume of the Past Twenty-Two Years Making A Record of Fifty Years in Wall Street” author and broker Henry Clews tells a story that will sound familiar to investors today. He then gives some timeless advice about making money on Wall Street.
Some men, when they have money, are so fearfully perverse that all attempts to get them to do the right thing only have the opposite effect, and they prefer to follow every wild rumor.
One day, for instance, a man gave me an order to buy a thousand shares of Erie without limit. The order was executed at 94. I had no sooner bought it than the stock went down.
My customer returned in a short time and ordered the stock to be sold. It was then 92.
In half an hour afterwards he returned again and ordered it bought back again, without any limit as before. It was bought back at 95.
After consulting with, other friends for some time he ordered it sold again. The market by that time was 90.
He then came back the fifth, time, and said, “I first saw one man who told me to buy, and then another who told me to sell. I understand one is called a ‘ bull ‘ and the other a ‘bear.’ About these names I don’t know much, but I do know now that I am a jackass.”
This affords a good illustration of the way the average speculator is managed and perplexed in Wall Street. There is a means of avoiding such a peck of trouble, however, if he would only take a little wholesome advice, wait patiently for a proper opportunity, and not rush headlong to purchase on the ” tips ” of the delusive rumor mongers. He would then begin to learn how to make money in Wall Street.