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Author Topic: Wall Street suicides during the stock market crash of 1929?
Askia K. Hale
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Basically, I've seen fictional accounts of suicides and a few cartoons on this theme, but was suicide (usually by jumping out the windows, or gunshot to the head) really all that typical a reaction to the stock market plummet when some financeers realized they'd been wiped out? Or is this just a UL?


Also, I heard there was at least one wealthy industrialist (Getty, perhaps -- possibly a Rockefeller) who fired people at the height of the Great Depression, only to hire them back at half-wages.


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NPR Jock
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Mass suicide? Not exactly...but there were some suicides which, presumably, can be attributed to despair caused by major financial loss.

According to Jay Maeder of the New York Daily News of April 18 of this year...

quote:
AT HIGH NOON on Thursday the 24th, there were 10,000 frantic people crashing the police lines at Wall St. and Broad, drawn by wildfire rumors that the stock exchange was shutting down and the nation's leading bankers were leaping from window ledges. Neither report was accurate.

The bankers, in fact, were at this very moment huddled in the J.P. Morgan & Co. offices, confecting a statement calculated to reassure the public that all was well, which, any other evidences to the contrary, was all the public wanted to hear...

...On Nov. 6 - again, entirely inexplicably - the street crashed once more.

Two days later, the president of the County Trust Co. shot himself. A few days after that, a small butter-and-egg wholesaler went out the seventh-floor window of his lawyer's Beaver St. office. Similar suicide reports began coming in from across the land.


According to Neil Behrmann of the Singapore Business Times of October 25, 1999...

quote:
There were many suicides in families, once wealthy, but now in poverty.

Herb Fredman offers these statistics in The San Diego Union-Tribune of October 21, 1987...

quote:
There were many suicides. Back in 1925, with general prosperity, the rate was about 12 in 100,000 people. The suicide rate didn't peak until 1932, at 17.4 per 100,000 population, and in 1934 it was still about 15.

You can interpret these statistics as you please...Bennett Lowenthal of the The Washington Post of October 25, 1987 says the reports of thousands of suicides and "Broadway clogged with bodies" are fantasies...and offers these statistics...

quote:
The suicide rate which, surprisingly, had been rising steadily through the prosperous '20s, actually peaked in 1932 when 17.4 of every 100,000 Americans took their own lives -- an all-time high. (The national figure for 1985 was only 12.0. New Yorkers especially seem to have become more resilient. Their suicide rate, 4 points higher than the national figure in 1932, was 4 points lower in 1985.)

Such statistics tell quite a different story from the "suicide wave" portrayed in contemporary newspaper headlines. The suicide rate in New York City for the first several weeks after the Crash was in fact lower than it had been during the summer of 1929 when the bull market was still raging, and likewise lower than for the same period the year before. When New York City's chief medical examiner produced these mortality statistics, they flew in the face of conventional wisdom -- a New York Times headline from Nov. 14 read: "City's Suicides Fewer/Figure Refute Tales of Increase Owing to Stock Losses."


So...just a little perspective. Did the suicides occur? It looks like it...but not in the gruesome numbers that some seem to recall.

NPR "Black Friday...if you please" Jock


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sam
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Jock thanks for the stats. This makes more sense than ledges with "take a number" machines.
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Askia K. Hale
The Red and the Green Stamps


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NPR Jock: I swear, this is exactly why I love ooming to this website and especially these messageboards. Ask a question, get a documented answer. Thanks Jock!

Anybody debunk or substantiate the "fired during the Depression, hired back later at half-salary" rumor?


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Cold DecEmbra Brings The Sleet
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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A friend who works in the City (ie in London) told me over the weekend that all the windows in his building above the 2nd or 3rd floor were locked shut, in order to discourage suicides. I would guess this is as much a rumour spread by disgruntled city workers on hot summer days in the absence of air-conditioning as anything else...

Embra "gruntled"


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spooky_rk
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by Embra:
A friend who works in the City (ie in London) told me over the weekend that all the windows in his building above the 2nd or 3rd floor were locked shut, in order to discourage suicides. I would guess this is as much a rumour spread by disgruntled city workers on hot summer days in the absence of air-conditioning as anything else...

Embra "gruntled"


Totally OT, but I was under the impression that London didn't get real summers ...

Spooky "and then they tell us that the '40°C and you get sent home from school' thig is an UL" RK


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Kate
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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quote:
Originally posted by spooky_rk:
I was under the impression that London didn't get real summers ...

I thought so too, but I'm just back from a visit to the UK and it was 82 degrees (28 in real money) - which, given the lack of aircon, actually felt even hotter and stickier than Hong Kong does.

Kate "home sweaty home" S.


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Cold DecEmbra Brings The Sleet
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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oh REAL summers...

Nah, not this year, guv..Blimey, who did your last summer for you? Bit of a rush job...

Spooky's right in the sense that this year there doesn't appear to have been anything you could call a whole season's worth of summery weather. I think we've had about 3 "nice days", in the June-August period.

But I'm constantly reminded by my mother that Britain doesn't have a climate, we have WEATHER, and lots of it.

Embra "bring me sunshine....pleeeeease!"


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ROBERT.BAK
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quote:
Originally posted by Embra:
[...]But I'm constantly reminded by my mother that Britain doesn't have a climate, we have WEATHER, and lots of it.

Embra "bring me sunshine....pleeeeease!"


In Britain we can always tell when it's summer -- the rain is warm...

ROBERT "they say the old ones are the best" BAK


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Xia
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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quote:
Originally posted by Embra:
A friend who works in the City (ie in London) told me over the weekend that all the windows in his building above the 2nd or 3rd floor were locked shut, in order to discourage suicides. I would guess this is as much a rumour spread by disgruntled city workers on hot summer days in the absence of air-conditioning as anything else...

Embra "gruntled"


That reminds me of something from one of the "Hitchhiker's Guide" books... Can't remember it exactly, think it might've been in 'Mostly Harmless'? (where are my darn books when I need em?!?)

Xia


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Miss Agnes
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by Xia:
That reminds me of something from one of the "Hitchhiker's Guide" books... Can't remember it exactly, think it might've been in 'Mostly Harmless'? (where are my darn books when I need em?!?)

Xia


I think I know the scene you mean but can't remember if it's from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe or Life, the Universe, and Everything -- when Zaphod is taken away to the Frogstar World in the HHTG publishing building to be executed in the Vortex, he has to go out the window rather than the door, and has to break it (with some difficulty) because it's been permanently fastened shut in response to some rash of suicides from some historical stock market crash. . .

Is that right? I can't believe that was still on file in my brain for me to pull up.

Miss "way off topic now, sorry" Agnes


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jareth
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Not quite. Zaphod had to climb out of the window in "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" because that was the entrance to the alternate universe that Zarniwoop was hiding in, and he could escape the Frogstars that way.

The matter of the windows being shut was in "Mostly Harmless" ... it was the offices of the Guide that time also... originally, they were sealed shut because the advanced climate control system was foolproof and couldn't malfunction. Except one day it did, causing a riot. As a result, the windows were openable... which came of use to Ford Prefect when attempting to escape the Vogons that were attacking him.

He made the note that instead of increasing suicides, the ability to stand on the ledge out in the fresh air often gave one a new perspective on life, thus the suicide rate went down after making the windows accessible.

------------------
"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect had intended for us to forego their use."
--Galileo


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