The actual name of the street, where more financial transactions transpire than any other single location on earth, comes from a protective wall built by the Dutch in the 17th century. The official street named Wall Street is the financial hub of the United States, as well as the world.
However, the namesake wall itself, was built nearly two centuries before the United States of America earned its independence. To protect themselves from pirates, Native American Indian tribes, and of course the Red Coats, the Dutch erected a 12-foot high wall as a northern border on their New Amsterdam settlement. No Wall Street yet, just a really tall wall.
Tear Down the Wall?
There are various accounts relating to Dutch history and twists in the Dutch language to explain how the actual name become Wall Street. During the late 17th century, the road became one of the busiest trading areas in the city, since it ran between the East River and the Hudson River. Even after the British government took over New Amsterdam and tore the wall down in 1699, the name remained Wall Street.
Unsavory Early History
In 1711, the first official trading took place on Wall Street, but it wasn’t the kind of trading that happens today. On December 13, 1711, the New York City Common Council turned Wall Street into the first official spot for the sale and renting of slaves.
An old wooden structure at the corner of Wall Street and Pearl Street housed transactions that filled the city’s financial coffers for the next 52 years. A rather unsavory start to trading on Wall Street, but it was the first transactions conducted on the legendary street.
Under the Buttonwood Tree
Over the last half of the 18th century, the area around Wall Street became a magnet for people trying to prognosticate the financial future of the New World. At the foot of the street was a huge buttonwood tree. Under this tree, traders and speculators would congregate to discuss business ideas and trade early forms of securities.
The biggest advantage would turn out to be what fueled the idea of today’s Wall Street. The traders thrived off being altogether in one location. It wasn’t quite what we now know as being in ‘the pit’, but it was the crude beginnings of what is now commonly known as the biggest financial frenzy in the world. There wasn’t the sounding of the bell under the buttonwood tree, but it was the first stages of actual securities transactions on Wall Street.
The First Official New York Stock Exchange
Wall Street was such a noteworthy place as a new nation began its journey, it was chosen as the spot for the first presidential inauguration on April 30, 1787. Five short years later, the traders aspired to formalize their business dealings and signed the Buttonwood Agreement, which was a prelude to the New York Stock Exchange.
The agreement provided structure to the transactions and included the first idea of a standard commission on exchanges. Since those who were part of the agreement received a lower rate, the idea of the first Wall Street insider was born. On May 17, 1792, the origin of the world’s most important financial center was born.
The Bull is Born
Bullish is trademark terminology used by Wall Street types. It has denoted market trends, types of brokers and the methods of famous financial giants who have used Wall Street to amass fortunes. The most common use of the word represents a trend towards optimism in the market.
A bull market is a situation over history that has represented the accumulation of wealth by those astute enough to take the bull by the horns. Visitors can witness how much of an association Wall Street has had with the ferocious beast when they see a 7,100 pound, 11 feet long sculpture of a raging bull guarding the gates of finance.
Wall Street exploded as a result of the industrial age at the end of the 19th century and continued to thrive into the early 1900s. Then, on October 29, 1929, one of the most economically devastating events in the history of the world took place.
Black Tuesday on Wall Street caused the US and the rest of the industrial world to spiral into the Great Depression of the 1930s. Traders climbed to windows high above the legendary street and threw themselves out of windows and off ledges in a state of panicked depression. It is a point in world history that will live in infamy.
Wall Street established itself as the financial hub of a new nation, then built upon the foundation of the most economically successful country in the world to become the center of financial commerce. With multiple exchanges conducting worldwide business on a daily basis, it remains the central playing field for global financial transactions. Wall Street is the stock exchange; it is finance.