1929 saw the Roaring Twenties come to a sudden end with the Wall Street Crash in October. This post will uncover the crash through Wall Street Crash newspaper articles, taking a detailed look at how the event was reported at the time. By looking at newspaper headlines shortly after the crash, we can see it through the eyes of those who were there to witness it, and truly understand the devastating effects it had on America and the rest of the world.

What Was the Wall Street Crash?

The Wall Street Crash of 1929 was the sudden collapse of the stock market in the United States and the greatest economic disaster in modern history. On Tuesday 29th October 1929, known as “Black Tuesday,” the Wall Street Crash signalled the beginning of the Great Depression.

While the stock market was prosperous throughout the 1920s, by 1929 it was facing instability. On Thursday 24th October 1929, known as “Black Thursday,” the collapse of the stock market began due to the drop of stock prices by 11%. By October 25th stocks gained 1%, but then lost 1% on the following day. Stock prices fell again by 13% on “Black Monday” (October 28th) before the stock market plummeted on Black Tuesday after another 12% loss. A record 16 million shares were traded on that day. Shockingly, around $25 billion was lost in the crash, which is $300 billion in today’s money.

The Wall Street Crash completely destroyed the prosperity of the 1920s, a decade filled with hope that the good times would never end. There was a rapid decline in national mentality and hope for the future, and there was a lot of uncertainty in the air. People were unsure about how to progress, and the nature of the government didn’t help. 

The American government implemented a “laissez-faire” approach, meaning it would not get involved in “people’s” affairs, so the public were left to their own devices with little relief. Personal life savings became worthless, and the crash sent shockwaves across the world, especially since a decline in demand for European exports meant industry suffered in Europe too. With unemployment on the rise, America had truly been hit badly by the Wall Street Crash.

Wall Street Crash newspaper headlines reveal the extent of the shock and chaos caused by the collapse of the stock market. The crash was printed as front-page news due to the impact it would have on economics, as well as the living and employment situations of millions of Americans. In 1929, newspapers were the main way ordinary citizens got their news. This was how the public read their fate following the disaster, and the headlines often shocked readers and didn’t mask the severity of the situation.

wall street lays an egg

(Variety headline: “Wall St. Lays An Egg”)

How Did the Wall Street Crash Happen?

Despite the stock market falling abruptly in late October, the crash was caused by a number of factors that arose throughout the decade. So how did the Wall Street Crash happen?

Overconfidence in the booming economy contributed to the Wall Street Crash. Following the bloodbath of World War One, the “Roaring Twenties” was a period of great economic prosperity. Many Americans enjoyed a new, wealthy lifestyle, and were confident that the good times were there to stay. This included spending their wages on new products, leading to a dramatic rise in consumerism. 

Developments in technology sparked the production of new goods, such as automobiles and household appliances, which advertisers portrayed as essential purchases for the middle-class. In turn, this optimism continued to shadow underlying weaknesses in the economic system. 

New consumer goods were simple to acquire through easy credit – another key reason for the crash. Easy credit allowed Americans to pay for products in credit instalments, as well as effortlessly take out loans to fund their purchases. While general debt in America was viewed negatively, easy credit became glamourised as a means of immediately indulging in the growing consumer society. This meant businesses were often not making their full profits instantly. Since many Americans believed the economy would continue to boom, they did not worry about potential issues with future repayment.

The crash was further prompted by the overproduction of goods and the unequal distribution of wealth in American society. The advances in technology and industry had made it easy for businesses to respond to the initial increased demands for products. New production techniques, such as the Assembly Line, meant businesses were able to churn out goods at excessive rates. 

However, after much of the middle-class had bought these items, businesses struggled to sell their products. A large number of Americans were in poverty and could not afford them. There was no overseas market, since the First World War had left the European economy in a state. Therefore, overproduction meant many businesses lost money from making too much and selling too little. 

The growth of the stock market in the 1920s made buying stocks and shares appealing to ordinary Americans. While speculating on the market was risky, many citizens began to speculate as a regular pastime. Confident that share values would continue to rise, hundreds of thousands of Americans invested and ended up borrowing money to buy more. Later on, when values were beginning to decrease, investors panicked and quickly sold their stocks. This caused prices to drop further and initiated a mass panic-selling of stocks that stimulated the crash in October 1929, sending the American economy into a plummeting depression. 

Causes of the Wall Street Crash:

  • Overconfidence 
  • Consumerism 
  • Easy credit 
  • Overproduction
  • Unequal distribution of wealth
  • Stock market speculation

Wall Street Crash Newspaper Headlines

Reading Wall Street Crash newspaper headlines is a fascinating way to understand how reporters at the time reacted to the crash, and how members of the public received the devastating news. We can really interpret the Wall Street Crash through the eyes of those who witnessed it unfold in 1929. To learn even more about the Wall Street Crash and other 1929 events, take a look at a 1929 newspaper for yourself.

While later Wall Street Crash newspaper headlines may have created panic among the public, the New York Daily Investment News published a front-page with a hopeful tone on Friday 25th October 1929. The newspaper printed “Stock Market Crisis Over” as the headline on the day that the stocks gained 1% and made many think stock value would continually rise again. Underneath the headline reads “Stock Houses Survive Worst Day in History,” with the word “survive” also implying that the crisis had been avoided. 

investment news

(New York Daily Investment News headline: “Stock Market Crisis Over”)

The publication also states “Bankers Cheerful After Conference,”showing that even the men dealing with the crisis directly were feeling hopeful at the time. This would have put the public at ease after the initial panic, especially coming from a renowned investment newspaper such as this one. It also shows how quickly the economic disaster came about, since reports went from a more hopeful tone to dramatically shocking within a matter of days.

The article at the bottom of the front page was written by Waldo Young who wrote:

“It is over. We have seen the worst. Heaven forbid that anything worse than yesterday on the Stock Exchange should be possible.” 

This quote is very interesting to read today, especially since we know that the situation got much worse over the following few days after the newspaper’s publication, and America and the rest of the world became faced with the Great Depression. We can see just how quickly the situation changed over those few days in October 1929, and understand the extent of uncertainty facing the public.

wall street crash article

(New York Daily Investment News article: “Panic Levels of Stock Prices Will Stand Long as “Bottoms”)

In particular, some Wall Street Crash newspaper headlines revealed the true nature of the crash to the public. For example, The Denver Post’s headline was “Stock Values Drop Five Billion In Wall Street’s Greatest Crash,” showing how extreme the incident was. Since market speculation was a popular hobby for many, the fact that stock values had dropped “Five Billion” would definitely have shocked readers. The headline points to the devastating effects the crash would have on the world by revealing the severe loss of stock value.

Variety magazine went down a different route to make the public aware of the crash. As an entertainment news publication, Variety printed their Wall Street Crash newspaper in a comically blunt way, claiming “Wall St. Lays An Egg.” Even to this day, the headline is one of the most famous headlines ever to be published in an American newspaper. “Laying an egg” was a slang term meaning “failing badly,” describing the crash in a humorously understated way. While other newspapers created panic by delivering a bombshell headline, Variety kept the more relaxed tone it was known for, even for reporting the greatest economic disaster in the world. This puts an interesting spin on the reporting of the event and makes Variety stand out from the rest. 

How It Was Viewed in the UK Press

While the Wall Street Crash directly affected the United States, it’s interesting to see how the event was reported by the Daily Mirror in Britain. The fact that the Wall Street Crash made headline news in Britain indicates the seriousness of the crash, and implies that the event would have negative consequences abroad.

daily mirror 1

(The Daily Mirror headline, 26th October 1929: “Wall Street Crash May Lower Britain’s Bank Rate”)

On Saturday 26th October 1929, the Daily Mirror published an issue with the headline “Wall Street Crash May Lower Britain’s Bank Rate,” showing that Brits were beginning to realise how the crash could impact them. The report offered an interesting insight giving a British perspective on events. However, the article states:

 “The banks, it is believed, have saved the situation, at least for the time being, although thousands of spectators have been ruined.”

Little did the reporters know how much worse the situation would become over the next few days.   

daily mirror 2

(The Daily Mirror headline, 29th October 1929: “New Wall St. Debacle: Frenzied Stock Exchange Scenes”)

The Daily Mirror published the headline “New Wall St. Debacle: Frenzied Stock Exchange Scenes” on Tuesday 29th October 1929, revealing how the situation has developed. The newspaper explains that spectators lost “Thousand Million Pounds in Day of Wild Selling,” creating much more chaos than the original crash. Here, the Daily Mirror reports the mass selling of stocks due to the realisation that they would become worthless.

daily mirror 3

(The Daily Mirror headline, 1st November 1929: “Wall Street’s Panic Day”)

A few days later, on Friday 1st November 1929, the Daily Mirror produced “Wall Street’s Panic Day” as their headline. Even after the events of October, the crash was still making headline news in Britain. Interestingly, this issue reflects on the worst day of the crash, when spectators and bankers really began to panic about the situation. The caption on the front page reads:

 “the worst crash in the history of Wall Street, when thousands of people were ruined.”

This demonstrates how the disaster impacted a great number of people in the United States, ‘ruining’ their living situation as they knew it.

Newspaper headlines definitely give us a fascinating insight into how the biggest events around the world were revealed to the public, helping us understand how ordinary people became aware of what was happening in the world. Especially when the Wall Street Crash would change the course of history by prompting the Great Depression, newspapers from the time really let us grasp the way events were received by those who lived to experience it. 

At Historic Newspapers, we have limited original newspapers available featuring the Wall Street Crash, including:

  • Daily Mirror, 26th October 1929, page 3
  • Daily Mirror, 29th October 1929, page 3
  • Daily Mirror, 1st November 1929, front page. 

To order any titles, please contact research@historic-newspapers.co.uk