I am a retired engineer and small business owner who has authored over 70 books on history and various topics.
Most of us are aware that the United States suffered its greatest stock market crash of all time in the late 1920s. Since this took place so long ago, however, it's easy to think of it as a singular occurrence rather than a lived series of events that unfolded over time. In this article, we'll examine the "Great Crash," as it has come to be known, through a timeline of major events and occurrences.
A Timeline of the "Great Crash" of 1929
- 1914 to 1929: The use of electricity in industry rises from 30 to 70 percent. In 1899, only 4 percent of machinery derived its power from electricity; by 1929, the figure was 75 percent.
- January 2, 1920: The Dow Jones Industrial Average closing price is $108.76.
- 1928: The price-to-earnings ratio for 45 industrial stocks rises from about 12 to approximately 14.
- March 3, 1928: RCA stock is priced at $77 per share.
- December 31, 1928: RCA stock is priced at over $400 per share.
- 1929: For the first nine months of 1929, 1,436 firms announce increased dividends, up from 1928 when only 955 companies increased their dividends. One billion dollars worth of investment trusts are sold to investors in the first eight months; this is over double the amount sold for all of 1928.
- March 4, 1929: Herbert Hoover is inaugurated as president of the United States.
- March 18, 1929: Dow Jones Industrial Average starts an eight-day string of declines.
- September 3, 1929: The Dow Jones Industrial Average reaches a historic high of $381.
- October 4, 1929: Philip Snowden, England’s Chancellor of the Exchequer is quoted in The Wall Street Journal stating the U.S. stock market is “a perfect orgy of speculation."
- October 7, 1929: The Financial Times reports that the president of the American Bankers Association gave a talk and expressed concern about the amount of credit for securities. He states that “Bankers are gravely alarmed over the mounting volume of credit being employed in carrying loans, both by brokers and individuals.”
- October 17, 1929: The New York Times reports that the Committee on Public Service Security of Investment Banking Association warns against “speculative and uninformed buying” of shares in utility companies.
- October 23, 1929: On Wednesday, the market drops, and The New York Times headline reads “Price of Stocks Crash in Heavy Liquidation.”
- October 24, 1929: On this day, widely known as "Black Thursday," stocks sell off early in the day under unusually heavy volume but recover most of the lost ground by the end of trading. British economist John Maynard Keynes writes in The New York Evening Post that “The extraordinary speculation of Wall Street in past months had driven up the rate of interest to an unprecedented level.”
- October 25, 1929: The New York Daily Investment News runs the optimistic headline, “12,894,650 Day Smashes Old Peak by 4 Million/ STOCK MARKET CRASH OVER/ Stock Houses Survive Worst Day in History."
- October 27, 1929: On Sunday, The New York Times runs a two-column article called “Bay State Utilities Face Investigation.” The gist of the article is that Massachusetts was planning to be less friendly toward utility companies.
- October 29, 1929: On this day, widely known as "Black Tuesday," the Dow Jones Industrial Average drops nearly 12 percent to close at $230.
- November 21, 1929: President Hoover rallies business leaders to calm the markets and the public.
- November 23, 1929: Hoover requests that governors from all 48 states expand public spending to keep employment high.
- May 1930: President Herbert Hoover says “I am convinced we have now faced the worst.”
- June 17, 1930: President Hoover signs the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act, raising U.S. tariffs to historic levels and instigating an international trade war.
- September 9, 1930: The State Department announces it will limit immigration until unemployment lessens.
- December 11, 1930: Then Bank of the United States, with 60 branches in New York, closes its doors.
- October 7, 1931: President Herbert Hoover proposes a plan for the creation of the National Credit Corporation.
- October 8, 1931: The Federal Reserve Bank of New York raises the rediscount rate from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent. A week later, they raise the rate to 3.5 percent.
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- February 2, 1932: The Reconstruction Finance Corporation is created to lend billions to ailing businesses and banks.
- November 8, 1932: Franklin D. Roosevelt, governor of New York, wins the presidential election, soundly defeating Herbert Hoover.
- 1931–1932: More than 5,000 U.S. banks fail.
- 1932: The Glass-Steagall Act of 1932 becomes law. The act is titled “An Act to Improve the facilities of the Federal Reserve System for the Service of Commerce, Industry, & Agriculture, to Provide Means for Meeting the Needs of Member Banks in Exceptional Circumstances & for Other Purposes.”
- March 1933: The U.S. unemployment rate is 24.9 percent.
- March 15, 1933: The Dow climbs 15 percent to 62, the largest one-day upward move in history.
- 1933: The 1933 Banking Act establishes the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and imposes various banking reforms. The Securities Act of 1933 sets penalties for filing false information about stock offerings.
- 1934: The Securities Act of 1934 forms the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to regulate the stock exchanges.
- November 23, 1954: The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes at $283.74, which is the first closing price above the September 3, 1929, high.
- Bierman, Harold. “The 1929 Stock Market Crash.” EH.Net Encyclopedia, edited by Robert Whaples. Accessed May 27, 2020. https://eh.net/encyclopedia/the-1929-stock-market-crash/
Halton, C. (2020, June 12). "Black Tuesday Definition." Investopedia. Retrieved August 17, 2020, from https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/blacktuesday.asp
Hayes, A. (2020, June 12). "Black Thursday Definition." Investopedia. Retrieved August 17, 2020, from https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/blackthursday.asp
- Klein, Maury. Rainbow’s End: The Crash of 1929. Oxford University Press. 2001.
- Lind, Michael. Land of Promise: An Economic History of the Untied States. Harper. 2013.
- West, Doug. The Great 1929 Stock Market Crash: A Short History. C&D Publications. 2020.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Doug West
Doug West (author) from Missouri on July 05, 2020:
Thanks for the read and take care.
Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on July 04, 2020:
Interesting time line, Doug. It's amazing how much wealth was loss so quickly during that period. Thanks for a great article, and may your day be peaceful.