Skip to main content

It's the 141st Anniversary Of Black Friday

Friday, September 24, 1869 was a big day for the U.S. economy.

Actually, it was a very, very bad day.

Today is the 141st anniversary of Black Friday, they day when the U.S. securities market went into a panic over manipulation of, and a resulting plunge in, gold prices. It was dubbed "Black Friday." Steely Dan may or may not have written a song about it.

Behind it all were two men named Jay Gould and James Fisk, who wanted to corner the market on gold, drive up the price and make truckloads of money. But there was a problem: The government sold gold. Fortunately for them, they were very well connected, and even convinced a relative of President Ulysses S. Grant to get in on the scheme. But President Grant got wind of it and ordered the government to sell off $4 million in gold, leading to a big drop in gold prices. Investors panicked and started selling all their other stocks, too:

On Friday, September 24, 1869, the price of gold reached between $160 and $162, and Fisk, still buying, boasted that he would push it to $200. After a brief discussion with the president, [U.S. treasury Secretary George]Boutwell sent a telegram to [the assistant treasurer in New York Daniel]Butterfield directing him to sell $4,000,000 in gold and buy the same amount in bonds. When the news reached the Gold Room, the price of the precious metal fell to $133 within a few minutes. The economic fallout caused stock prices to fall 20%, export agricultural products (mainly grain crops) to plummet over 50%, several brokerages to go bankrupt, and severe disruption in the national economy for months. A combination of expert legal counsel, led by David Dudley Field, and Tammany Hall judges allowed Gould and Fisk to escape legal punishment.

Congress never really investigated the scandal, either. Boy, it sounds all too familiar, doesn't it?


Popular posts from this blog

Seven tips for dealing with a jealous coworker

Look at you, doing so well at work! We're so happy for you. Well, most of us are happy for you and refuse to spend the entire work day talking behind your back. Let's talk about how to handle our jealous co-workers!Like every other professional, you've no doubt experienced your share of failures and successes. Lately, however, things seem to be going your way at work. And how! Perhaps you've managed to ace an important project this quarter, been instrumental in landing a huge client, earned some well-deserved rewards for this and that, or -- egads! -- been given a slight promotion or additional work responsibilities (e.g., the work responsibilities you actually want).You're quietly chuffed, but somehow your co-workers seem none too pleased with this rapid turn of events. Oh no, what should you do now?It's a workplace tale older than the disjointed last season of Mad Men. The playing field in the department was even, cozy and overall very friendly -- until so-an…

Employees Blame Technology For Slowing Them Down At Work

Do you feel like you're always working, but never getting very much done? If so, you're not alone. Too much technology, and too much red tape, keep slowing us down at work. But technology, and more of it, is supposed to make our lives easier! Too much technology, however, does not compute for employees. A new SAP/Knowledge@Wharton survey of almost 700 corporate employees finds a full 60% of respondents blame technology "for inhibiting their ability to meet strategic goals." Gee, anyone who has ever used the self-checkout line at the grocery store can tell you that. However, 40% surveyed said that looking for ways to simplify the technology has been "a low priority" for their company. Too much paperwork is an on-going problem for the workplace, too. A new ServiceNow survey of nearly 1,000 managers finds that 90% are doing too much administrative work, no matter the size of the company. This paperwork includes filling out forms, writing status updates, …

Is Your Co-worker Always Late For Work?

You've started the workday, but where is your co-worker? Oh, she's running late again, just like yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. Let's get an early start on solving her tardiness problem, shall we? Working with someone who is consistently late is one of the most annoying aspects of office life, and also one of the most common, unfortunately. It's a universal theme of the workplace that everyone will get to work on time (give or take a few minutes...) except for the employee who is egregiously late nearly every day. And the excuses can get pretty amazing. Employees became more punctual as the Great Recession lingered, at least according to surveys. Everyone, that is, except for your able-bodied but habitually-tardy co-worker. It's bad enough dealing with tardiness when you're a manager, but it can be even more frustrating when you're a rank-and-file peer without any magical "shape up or ship out" managerial powers. So you…