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Jesse Lauriston Livermore (July 26 1877November 28 1940), also known as the Boy Plunger, was an early 20th century stock trader. He was famed for making and losing several multi-million dollar fortunes and short selling during the stock market crashes in 1907 and 1929.


Born in Acton, Massachusettsmarker, Jesse Livermore started his trading career at the age of fifteen. He ran away from home with his mother's blessing to escape a life of farming his father wished him to have. He then began his career by posting stock quotes at the Paine Webber brokerage in Bostonmarker.

Marriages and Family

First wife, Netit (Nettie) Jordan. Second wife, Dorthea (Dorothy) Wendt. Two sons, Jesse Jr. and Paul. Third wife Harriett Metz Noble.Jesse Jr. married Toni Lanier(Camille Bernice Froomess) in 1937, divorced shortly there after. Went onto marry Evelyn Bletzer Sullivan. One son, Jesse III was born in 1939. Divorced Evelyn. Married third wife, Patricia. Jesse Jr. committed suicide with natural gas Feb. 20, 1976. His only son, Jesse III married Marsha Hawkins in 1964. Had two children David 1969 and Tracey 1973. Jesse III divorced Marsha. Married his second wife Karen, divorced. Third wife Carol. Jesse III committed suicide by natural gas on Feb. 26, 2006. Jesse III son, David is currently married with 3 daughters and one son. Jesse III's daughter is also currently married with one daughter. All three Jesse's have taken their lives.

While working, he would write down certain hunches he had about future market prices, which he would check for accuracy later. A friend convinced him to put his first actual money on the market by making a bet at a bucket shop, a type of gambling establishment that took bets on stock prices but did not actually buy or sell the stock.

By the age of fifteen, he had earned profits of over $1000 (which equates to about $20,000 today). In the next several years, he continued betting at the bucket shops. He was eventually banned from most bucket shops for winning too much money from them. He then moved to New York Citymarker and devoted his energies towards trading in legitimate markets. This change would lead him to devise a new set of rules to trade the market.

During his lifetime, Livermore gained and lost several multi-million dollar fortunes. Most notably, he was worth $3 million and $100 million after the 1907 and 1929 market crashes, respectively. He subsequently lost both fortunes. Apart from his success as a securities speculator, Livermore left traders a working philosophy for trading securities that emphasizes increasing the size of one's position as it goes in the right direction and cutting losses quickly.

Livermore sometimes did not follow his own rules strictly. He claimed that his lack of adherence to his own rules was the main reason for his losses after making his 1907 and 1929 fortunes.

The popular book Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, by Edwin Lefevre, reflects many of those lessons. Livermore himself wrote a less widely read book, "How to trade in stocks; the Livermore formula for combining time element and price". It was published in 1940, the same year he committed suicide. It was later revealed by Livermore that he had actually penned the book Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, and that LeFevre had acted as the editor and coach. There is some speculation that this partnership between the two men was not their first collaboration. Since LeFevre was a writer and journalist, it is thought that he was one of the friendly newspapermen that Livermore employed for both information and planted articles.

Wall Street success

Livermore first became famous after the Panic of 1907, when he sold the market short as it crashed. He noticed conditions where a lack of capital existed to buy stock. Accordingly, he predicted that there would be a sharp drop in prices when many speculators were simultaneously forced to sell by margin calls and a lack of credit. With the lack of capital, there would be no buyers in sight to absorb the sold stock, further driving down prices. After the crash and its aftermath, he was worth $3 million.

He proceeded to lose 90% of that 1907 fortune on a blown cotton trade. He violated many of his key rules; he listened to another person's advice (he preferred working alone) and added to a losing position. He continued losing money in the flat markets from 1908-1912. He was $1 million in debt and declared bankruptcy. He proceeded to regain his fortune and repay his creditors during the World War I bull market and resulting downtrend.

He owned a series of mansions around the world, each fully staffed with servants, a fleet of limousines, and a steel-hulled yacht for trips to Europe. He married Dorothy, a beautiful Ziegfeld Follies showgirl when he was about 40 years old.

Livermore continued to make money in the bull markets of the 1920s. In 1929, he noticed market conditions similar to that of the 1907 market. He began shorting various stocks and adding to his positions and they kept declining in price. When just about everyone in the markets lost money in the Wall Street crash of 1929, Livermore was worth $100 million after his short-selling profits.

Favorite book

One of Livermore's favorite books was Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, by Charles Mackay, first published in 1841. This was also a favorite book of Bernard Baruch, a stock trader and close friend of Livermore who also was one of the few people that did well in the crash of 1929.

Jesse cited a lot of jokes, including an old story about "selling down to the sleeping point" from the book Speculation as a Fine Art by Dickson G. Watts.

After the Crash of '29

Dorothy finally filed for divorce and took up temporary residence in Reno, Nevadamarker, with her new lover, (and later 2nd husband) Walter Longcope. On September 16 1932, Dorothy divorced Livermore on grounds of desertion. They had been married since December 2 1918 - 14 years. Dorothy retained custody of their boys.

On March 28 1933, Livermore married 38 year old Harriet Metz Noble in Geneva, Illinois; there was no honeymoon. It was Harriet's fifth marriage, and all four of her previous husbands had committed suicide..

Through unknown mechanisms, he yet again lost much of his trading capital, accumulated through 1929. Thus, on March 7 1934, the bankrupt Livermore was automatically suspended as a member of the Chicago Board of Trademarker. It was never disclosed to anyone what happened to the great fortune he had made in the crash of 1929, but he had lost it all.

His book

In late 1939, Livermore's son, Jesse Jr., suggested to his father that he write a book about his experiences and techniques in trading in the stock and commodity markets. This brought a flash of life back into Livermore, and the book was completed and published by Duell, Sloan and Pearce in March 1940. It was titled How To Trade In Stocks. The book did not sell well, World War II was underway, and the general interest in the stock market was low. His methods were still new and controversial at the time, and they received mixed reviews from stock market gurus of the period.


On November 28, 1940, Livermore shot and killed himself in the cloakroom of the Sherry Netherland Hotel in Manhattan. The police revealed that there was a suicide note of eight small handwritten pages in Livermore's personal notebook. It was reported in the November 30 issue of the New York Tribune. The press wanted to know what it said, and the police tersely responded: “There was a leather-bound memo book found in Mr. Livermore's pocket. It was addressed to his wife.” A police spokesman read from the notebook: “My dear Nina: Can’t help it. Things have been bad with me. I am tired of fighting. Can’t carry on any longer. This is the only way out. I am unworthy of your love. I am a failure. I am truly sorry, but this is the only way out for me. Love Laurie”.

Although untouchable trusts and cash assets at his death totalled over $5 million, Livermore had failed to regain his trading confidence before his death. A lifelong history of clinical depression had become the dominant factor in his final years.

See also


  1. Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar


  • 1923 - Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edwin Lefèvre (best-selling biography of Livermore) multiple reissues since, last in January 17, 2006, by Roger Lowenstein (Foreword) (ISBN 0471770884 ISBN 978-0471770886) - PDF
  • 1985 - Jesse Livermore - Speculator King by Paul Sarnoff (ISBN 0-934380-10-4)
  • 2001 - Jesse Livermore: The World's Greatest Stock Trader by Richard Smitten (ISBN 0-471-02326-4)
  • 2001 - How To Trade In Stocks by Jesse Livermore (ISBN 0-934380-75-9) (Originally published 1940) - PDF
  • 2003 - Speculation as a Fine Art by Dickson G. Watts (ISBN 0-87034-056-5) - PDF
  • 2004 - Trade Like Jesse Livermore by Richard Smitten (ISBN 0-471-65585-6) - PDF
  • 2004 - Lessons from the Greatest Stock Traders of All Time, by John Boik
  • 2006 - How Legendary Traders Made Millions, by John Boik
  • 2007 - The Secret of Livermore:Analyzing the Market Key System., by Andras Nagy (ISBN 978-0975309377)
  • 2009 -

External links

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