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What Was the Crash of 1929?

The Crash of 1929 was a devastating stock market collapse that signaled the onset of the Great Depression. It began in late October and saw billions of dollars vanish, shaking the foundations of the global economy. This financial catastrophe had far-reaching impacts, reshaping the economic landscape. How did it alter the course of history? Join us as we explore its lasting effects.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The Crash of 1929 is often thought of as heralding the Great Depression in the United States. Though historians debate this point, the sudden, swift and significant downturn of the stock market took the fortunes of many and left many in huge debt because they had borrowed to obtain stock. Some people are under the mistaken impression that the Crash of 1929 refers to a single day, but in fact, several days and their aftermath encompass the Crash.

The 1920s had been a time of growing prosperity, and interest in the stock market, prospecting and investing grew because so many owed their prosperity to investments that paid off big. Not only the wealthy, but also many people of average income saw the stock market as a way to get rich quick, so investment of all or most of people's funds was extremely high. Then came Black Tuesday on 24 October 1929, considered the first day of the Crash of 1929.

The stock market is closely tied to the health of the economy.
The stock market is closely tied to the health of the economy.

On Black Tuesday, stock prices plummeted, which created considerable panic among investors. Some chose to wait it out, while others quickly sold. This combination of investors staying put, and others selling quickly, or even buying stocks sold at lower prices, meant the remaining week was filled with considerable instability in the stock market. By the next week, panic was extreme, resulting in the morbidly named Black Monday on 28 October 1929, where people sold as much as they could, creating lower and lower valued stock.

The stock market crash of 1929 is usually linked to the ensuing poverty and hardship of the Depression Era.
The stock market crash of 1929 is usually linked to the ensuing poverty and hardship of the Depression Era.

By the next day, with people still anxiously selling what they could get rid of, many were “ruined” financially. Those who kept their stock ended up with stock that might take a lifetime to recover in price, and sometimes never did when companies issuing such stock went out of business. Since many businesses had considerable holdings in the stock market, businesses and individuals were both affected.

Through most of November, prices continued to decline, and if people hadn’t panicked by the end of October, they were certainly well on their way to financial ruin by mid-November. By then it was too late for most. By the end of Black Monday, the stock market has lost approximately $14 billion US Dollars (USD) of its value. Total loss in the first week of the Crash of 1929 was roughly $30 billion USD.

Did the Crash of 1929 result in the Great Depression? You may never get a single answer from historians or economists. Many believe that the considerable economic boom of the 1920s led to an inevitable “bust,” and that this was merely part of a standard economic cycle.

It is true that the Crash of 1929 caused many people to lose their savings and their homes due to the inability to meet loans. Moreover, businesses folded at a rapid rate, affecting even non-investors who were suddenly faced with high unemployment rates. It certainly can’t be viewed as the single reason for the Depression, though it was definitely, no matter how interpreted, a major contributing factor to the very rough economic times that followed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What triggered the Stock Market Crash of 1929?

The Stock Market Crash of 1929, also known as Black Tuesday, was triggered by a combination of speculative investing, over-leveraged positions, and a lack of regulatory oversight. Investors had been engaging in risky practices such as buying on margin, where they paid only a fraction of a stock's value and borrowed the rest. When stock prices began to fall, panic selling ensued, leading to a market collapse. According to the Federal Reserve History, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 25% in just four days, signaling the start of the Great Depression.

How did the Crash of 1929 affect the global economy?

The Crash of 1929 had profound effects on the global economy. It led to the Great Depression, which saw widespread unemployment, deflation, and economic hardship worldwide. International trade plummeted by as much as 50%, according to the Economic History Association, as countries raised tariffs in a failed attempt to protect their economies. This protectionism only served to exacerbate the global economic downturn, leading to a decade of financial struggle.

What were the major economic indicators that signaled the impending Crash of 1929?

Before the Crash of 1929, several economic indicators could have signaled the impending crisis. These included a booming stock market that had become disconnected from the real economy, high levels of debt among consumers and businesses, and a vast disparity in income distribution. Additionally, there was a rapid expansion of bank loans that fueled stock market speculation, as noted by the Federal Reserve History. These factors created an unstable financial environment ripe for a crash.

How long did it take for the stock market to recover after the Crash of 1929?

It took the stock market nearly 25 years to fully recover from the Crash of 1929. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which peaked at 381.17 on September 3, 1929, did not regain that level until November 23, 1954. This long road to recovery was due to the depth of the Great Depression and the slow process of economic reform and stabilization that followed, including the implementation of New Deal policies and changes in financial regulation.

What reforms were put in place to prevent another crash like that of 1929?

In response to the Crash of 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression, several key reforms were implemented to prevent a similar disaster. The most significant of these was the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which separated commercial and investment banking to reduce the risk of speculation with depositors' funds. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was also established in 1934 to regulate the stock market and protect investors. These reforms, along with others, helped to restore confidence in the financial system and prevent future crashes of such magnitude.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent UnitedStatesNow contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent UnitedStatesNow contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...

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    • The stock market is closely tied to the health of the economy.
      By: Scanrail
      The stock market is closely tied to the health of the economy.
    • The stock market crash of 1929 is usually linked to the ensuing poverty and hardship of the Depression Era.
      By: kuco
      The stock market crash of 1929 is usually linked to the ensuing poverty and hardship of the Depression Era.