In September, nineteen twenty-nine, stock prices stopped rising.
During the next month and a half, stock prices fell, but only slowly. Then suddenly, at the end of October, the market crashed. Prices dropped wildly. Leading stocks fell five, ten, twenty dollars in a single day. Everyone tried to sell their stocks. But no one was buying. Fear washed across the stock market. People were losing money even faster than they had made it.
The stock market collapsed on Thursday, October twenty-fourth, nineteen twenty-nine. People remember the day as "Black Thursday," the day the dreams ended.
The day began with a wave of selling. People from across the country sent messages to their stock traders in New York. All the messages said the same thing: Sell! Sell the stocks at any price possible! But no one was buying. And so down the prices came.
The value of stock for the Montgomery Ward store dropped from eighty-three dollars to fifty in a single day. The RCA radio corporation fell from sixty-eight dollars to forty-four -- down twenty-four dollars in just a few hours. Down the stocks fell, lower and lower.
Several of the country's leading bankers met to discuss ways to stop the disaster. They agreed to buy stocks in large amounts to stop the wave of selling. The bankers moved quickly. And for two days, prices held steady.
But then, like snow falling down the side of a mountain, the stocks dropped again. Prices went to amazingly low levels. One business newspaper said simply: "The present week has witnessed the greatest stock market disaster of all time."
The stock market crash ruined thousands of Americans. In a few short weeks, traders lost thirty billion dollars, an amount almost as great as all the money the United States had spent in World War One.
Some businessmen could not accept what had happened. They jumped from the tops of buildings and killed themselves. In fact, one popular joke of the time said that hotel owners had to ask people if they wanted rooms for sleeping or jumping.
But the stock market crash was nothing to laugh about. It destroyed much of the money that Americans had saved.