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New York Stock Exchange

New York Stock Exchange (16)

Right now, you are in the financial heart of the city. As well as in the financial heart of the world, because the biggest stock exchange that exists today; the New York Stock Exchange.

To get to know its history, we have to go back to 1790, when the "curbstone brokers", or street brokers, traded on a daily basis and gave emerging businesses a chance, while investing in small companies and also allowing the large ones to grow even more. And they did all this outdoors, no matter whether it rained, snowed or the sun was shining relentlessly. Thus, in 1792, a small group of just 24 traders decided to solve the problems of a chaotic market and signed the famous "Buttonwood Agreement," or Banana Agreement, referring to the tree under which they sealed the deal that would lay the groundwork for the stock trade. Next door, at number 8 Broad Street, you can see a plaque referring to this mythical tree that disappeared in 1865 because of a terrible storm.

The first Stock Exchange headquarters was established in 1817 in a rented room at number 40 Wall Street. Since then, the New York Stock Exchange has had several headquarters before settling down in the one we know today at 8 Broad Street.

The building you see in front of you was built in 1903 in neoclassical style. Its façade, designed by John Quincy Adams Ward, consists of 6 Corinthian columns with beautiful capitals supporting a pediment decorated with a sculpture entitled "Integrity protecting the works of man." It contains a series of sculpted figures. In the centre, we can see the winged figure of Integrity over Science, Industry and Invention. To the right, you will see Agriculture and, to the left, Mining.

On the third floor, there is a really interesting interactive visitor centre, but what we actually suggest is the glass walkway located above the immense trading room. From here, you can watch the crazy movement, stress and frenzy that you may have seen in many films and, as you will notice, does quite ring true. We also recommend that you attend the traditional and solemn "bell ringing," with which the day's session begins at 9.30 a.m. and which is often carried out by some business tycoon, politician or celebrity like Nelson Mandela, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Anna Kournikova. However, since the fateful September 11 access for tourists has been extensively limited; thus, you will only be able to have a go if you requested an appointment well in advance. Find out.

Let us now review the turbulent past of the New York Stock Exchange. The first crash in history happened in 1869 owing to excessive gold prices. The First World War meant its longest historical standstill; 4 months and 2 weeks. But, undoubtedly the best known event of all is the 1929 Great Depression. 

At that time, great fortunes were raked in in a short time through shares, and the market reached record highs. In early 1929, the economy stagnated, and some people already foretold disaster. That fear caused the disproportionate sale of millions of shares on 24 October, thus lowering their value and causing heavy losses. It was the so-called Black Thursday, which led to other fatal days. Thus, on 28 and 29 October were Black Monday and Tuesday, where the country's economy collapsed completely. Millions of people ruined, thousands of closed companies and even several shareholders who committed suicide were caused by the crash that led to the Great Depression.

Already in the late nineties, the stock exchange experienced another controversial episode. It is the time portrayed by the movie, Wall Street, during which hostile takeovers flourished, which speculated with absorbing and dissolving companies and raking in colossal fortunes. This led in 1987 to the greatest historical slump registered so far: the Dow Jones index had fallen 22.6% in just one day. Following this last crash, a series of rules governing the closure of the stock market in crisis situations were created with standstill of an hour, two hours or the rest of the day, depending on the slump. This allows to calm down investors and give them time to assess their movements.

More recently, a crisis started in 2008, which then spread to all over the world. It was on 15 September when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt and Merrill Lynch was acquired by Bank of America and, eventually, saved by the Federal Reserve System the next day. A crisis caused by the deterioration of the financial market that has affected everyone. On 29 September, the Dow Jones fell 777 points, the biggest drop in its history, which helped the United States to vote for a change and choose Obama as president shortly after that.

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