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Wall Street is a street in Lower Manhattan, New York Citymarker, New Yorkmarker, United Statesmarker. It runs east from Broadwaymarker to South Street on the East Rivermarker, through the historical center of the Financial District. It is the first permanent home of the New York Stock Exchangemarker; over time Wall Street became the name of the surrounding geographic neighborhood. Wall Street is also shorthand (or a metonym) for the "influential financial interests" of the American financial industry, which is centered in the New York City area.

Several major U.S. stock and other exchanges remain headquartered on Wall Street and in the Financial District, including the NYSEmarker, NASDAQ, AMEXmarker, NYMEXmarker, and NYBOT.


The name of the street derives from the fact that during the 17th century, Wall Street formed the northern boundary of the New Amsterdam settlement. In the 1640s basic picket and plank fences denoted plots and residences in the colony. Later, on behalf of the Dutch West India Company, Peter Stuyvesant, in part using African slaves, led the Dutchmarker in the construction of a stronger stockade. A strengthened wall of timber and earth, fortified by palisades, was created by 1653 . The wall was created, and strengthened over time, as a defense against attack from various Native American tribes. In 1685 surveyors laid out Wall Street along the lines of the original stockade. The wall was dismantled by the British colonial government in 1699.In the late 18th century, there was a buttonwood tree at the foot of Wall Street under which trader and speculators would gather to trade informally. In 1792, the traders formalized their association with the Buttonwood Agreement. This was the origin of the New York Stock Exchangemarker.

In 1789, Federal Hallmarker and Wall Street was the scene of the United States' first presidential inauguration. George Washington took the oath of office on the balcony of Federal Hall overlooking Wall Street on April 30, 1789. This was also the location of the passing of the Bill Of Rights.

In 1889, the original stock report, Customers' Afternoon Letter, became the The Wall Street Journal, named in reference to the actual street, it is now an influential international daily business newspaper published in New York Citymarker. For many years, it had the widest circulation of any newspaper in the United Statesmarker, although it is currently second to USA Today. It has been owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. since 2007.

Decline and revitalization

The Manhattanmarker Financial District is one of the largest business districts in the United States, and second in New York City only to Midtown. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the corporate culture of New York was a primary center for the construction of skyscrapers (rivaled only by Chicagomarker). The Financial District, even today, actually makes up a distinct skyline of its own, separate from but not soaring to quite the same heights as its midtown counterpart a few miles to the north.

Built in 1914, 23 Wall Streetmarker was known as the "House of Morgan" and for decades the bank's headquarters was the most important address in American finance. At noon, on September 16, 1920, a bomb exploded in front of the bank, killing 38 and injuring 300. Shortly before the bomb went off a warning note was placed in a mailbox at the corner of Cedar Street and Broadway. While theories abound about who was behind the Wall Street bombing and why they did it, after twenty years investigating the matter, the FBImarker rendered the file inactive in 1940 without ever finding the perpetrators. The explosion did, however, help fuel the Red Scare that was underway at the time.

The stock market crash of 1929 ushered in the Great Depression. During this era, development of the financial district stagnated. Construction of the World Trade Centermarker was one of the few major projects undertaken during the last three quarters of the 20th century and, financially, it was not originally as successful as planned. Some point to the fact that it was actually a government-funded project, constructed by the Port Authority of New Yorkmarker and New Jerseymarker with the intention of spurring economic development downtown. All the tools necessary for international trade were to be housed in the complex. However, at the beginning, much of the space remained vacant.

Nonetheless, some large and powerful firms did purchase space in the World Trade Center. Further, it attracted other powerful businesses to the immediate neighborhood. In some ways, it could be argued that the World Trade Center changed the nexus of the Financial District from Wall Street to the Trade Center complex. When the World Trade Center was destroyed in the September 11, 2001 attacks, it left somewhat of an architectural void as new developments since the 1970s had played off the complex aesthetically. The attacks, however, contributed to the loss of business on Wall Street, due to temporary-to-permanent relocation to New Jersey and further decentralization with establishments transferred to cities like Chicago, Denver, and Boston.

Wall Street itself and the Financial District as a whole are crowded with highrises by any measure. Further, the loss of the World Trade Center has actually spurred development in the Financial District on a scale that hadn't been seen in decades. This is in part due to tax incentives provided by the federal, state and local governments to encourage development. A new World Trade Center complex, centered on Daniel Liebeskind's Memory Foundations plan, is in the early stages of development and one building has already been replaced. The centerpiece to this plan is the tall 1 World Trade Centermarker (formally known as the Freedom Tower). New residential buildings are already sprouting up, and buildings that were previously office space are being converted to residential units, also benefiting from the tax incentives. Better access to the Financial District is planned in the form of a new commuter rail station and a new downtown transportation center centered on Fulton Street.If you look at the building on the left, you will see that it is most likely modeled after the Greek Parthenon.


Federal Hall, Wall Street.
Wall Street's architecture is generally rooted in the Gilded Age, though there are also some art deco influences in the neighborhood. Landmark buildings on Wall Street include Federal Hallmarker, 14 Wall Streetmarker (Bankers Trust Company Buildingmarker), 40 Wall Streetmarker (The Trump Building), and the New York Stock Exchangemarker at the corner of Broad Street.


Over the years, certain elite persons associated with Wall Street have become famous. Although their reputations are usually limited to members of the stock brokerage and banking communities, several have gained national and international fame. Some earned their fame for their investment strategies, financing, reporting, legal or regulatory skills, while others are remembered for their greed. One of the most iconic representations of the market prosperity is the Charging Bullmarker sculpture, by Arturo Di Modica. Representing the bull market economy, the sculpture was originally placed in front of the New York Stock Exchangemarker, and subsequently moved to its current location in Bowling Greenmarker.

Wall Street's culture is often criticized as being rigid. This is a decades-old stereotype stemming from the Wall Street establishment's protection of its interests, and the link to the WASP establishment. More recent criticism has centered on structural problems and lack of a desire to change well-established habits. Wall Street's establishment resists government oversight and regulation. At the same time, New York City has a reputation as a very bureaucratic city, which makes entry into the neighborhood difficult or even impossible for middle class entrepreneurs.

The ethnic background of Wall Streeters remains largely unchanged since the days of the railway barons of the early 1900s, as documented by their portraits in the Wall+Broad chapter of The Corners Project

Cultural influence

Wall Street vs. Main Street

As a figure of speech contrasted to "Main Street," the term "Wall Street" can refer to big business interests against those of small business and the working of middle class. It is sometimes used more specifically to refer to research analysts, shareholders, and financial institutions such as investment banks. Whereas "Main Street" conjures up images of locally owned businesses and banks.While the phrase "Wall Street" is commonly used interchangeably with the phrase "Corporate America," it is also sometimes used in contrast to distinguish between the interests, culture, and lifestyles of investment banks and those of Fortune 500 industrial or service corporations.


The older skyscrapers often were built with elaborate facades; such elaborate aesthetics haven't been common in corporate architecture for decades. The World Trade Centermarker, built in the 1970s, was very plain and utilitarian in comparison (the Twin Towersmarker were often criticized as looking like two big boxes, despite their impressive height).

Wall Street, more than anything, represents financial and economic power. To Americans, Wall Street can sometimes represent elitism and power politics. Wall Street became the symbol of a country and economic system that many Americans see as having developed through trade, capitalism, and innovation. However, due to the financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent federal bailouts, Americans are enraged at Wall Street.

In popular culture

  • Herman Melville's classic short story Bartleby, the Scrivener is subtitled A Story of Wall Street and provides an excellent portrayal of a kind and wealthy lawyer's struggle to reason with that which is unreasonable as he is pushed beyond his comfort zone to "feel" something real for humanity.
  • In William Faulkner's novel The Sound and the Fury, Jason Compson hits on other perceptions of Wall Street: after finding some of his stocks are doing poorly, he blames "the jews."
  • The film Die Hard with a Vengeance involves thieves breaking into the federal reserve and stealing most of its gold bullion by driving dump trucks through a nearby Wall Street subway station.
  • Many events of Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities center on Wall Street and its culture.
  • On January 26, 2000, the band Rage Against The Machine filmed the music video for "Sleep Now in the Fire" on Wall Street, which was directed by Michael Moore. The band at one point stormed the Stock Exchange, causing the doors of the Exchange to be closed early (2:52 P.M.). Trading on the Exchange floor, however, continued uninterrupted.
  • The film Wall Street exemplifies many popular conceptions of Wall Street, being a tale of shady corporate dealings and insider trading.
  • "Wallstreet Kingdom" is a controversial fashion brand promoting capitalism and bonuses on Wall Street.
  • In the film National Treasure a clue to finding the Templar Treasure leads the main characters to Wall Street's Trinity Churchmarker.
  • TNA Wrestler Robert Roode is billed from "Wall Street in Manhattan, New York."
  • Bret Easton Ellis's novel American Psycho follows the day-to-day life of Wall Street broker and sometimes serial killer Patrick Bateman.


Pier 11
Because Wall Street was historically a commuter destination, it has seen much transportation infrastructure developed with it in mind. Today, Pier 11 at the foot of the street is a busy ferry terminal, and the New York City subway has three stations under Wall Street itself:

Films shot in Manhattan

See also



  • Atwood, Albert W. and Erickson, Erling A. "Morgan, John Pierpont, (Apr. 17, 1837 - Mar. 31, 1913)," in Dictionary of American Biography, Volume 7 (1934)
  • Carosso, Vincent P. The Morgans: Private International Bankers, 1854-1913. Harvard U. Press, 1987. 888 pp. ISBN 978-0674587298
  • Carosso, Vincent P. Investment Banking in America: A History Harvard University Press (1970)
  • Chernow, Ron. The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance, (2001) ISBN 0-8021-3829-2
  • Fraser, Steve. Every Man a Speculator: A History of Wall Street in American Life HarperCollins (2005)
  • Geisst; Charles R. Wall Street: A History from Its Beginnings to the Fall of Enron. Oxford University Press. 2004. online edition
  • John Moody; The Masters of Capital: A Chronicle of Wall Street Yale University Press, (1921) online edition
  • Morris, Charles R. The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J. P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy (2005) ISBN 978-0805081343
  • Perkins, Edwin J. Wall Street to Main Street: Charles Merrill and Middle-class Investors (1999)
  • Robert Sobel The Big Board: A History of the New York Stock Market (1962)
  • Robert Sobel The Great Bull Market: Wall Street in the 1920s (1968)
  • Robert Sobel Inside Wall Street: Continuity & Change in the Financial District (1977)
  • Strouse, Jean. Morgan: American Financier. Random House, 1999. 796 pp. ISBN 978-0679462750

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