The Great Depression and the real story behind the jumpers of 1929
The early 1930s brought the most trying and difficult times for an average American family, due to the economic downturn of the Great Depression. Families were suddenly burdened with the reality that they no longer had the steady income they once enjoyed. Men lost jobs left and right. People worked behind Wall Street to correct the situations. Finally, the economic crash of 1929 brought a wave of suicides in New York City.
There are many stories and rumors circulating the famous ‘stock market crash of 1929.’ One of these tales is that investors jumped out of windows on Wall Street to end their suffering. But is there any truth to this story?
Darkest time in U.S. history
On October 24, 1929, the United States stock market crashed in an event now known as “Black Thursday.” Then, the economy was most devastated on October 29, in which over the course of one week, the stock market had lost more than $50 million. It shouldn’t be surprising that people began to panic over their financial future. Even the once secure individuals, including investors, worried about their income. What would happen to their money?
It didn’t take long for stories to circulate that people were committing suicide to escape their suffering. At the end of the year (1929), The New York Times reported at least 100 suicides. This includes reports collected from across the country and people living overseas. There were reports of people jumping out of airplanes and off of bridges. It was a horrific time for investors, brokers, and capitalists who invested their entire lives in money. When their money was unexpectedly yanked away from them, they had no idea what to do, or even how to live.
Biggest rumor of it all
One of the biggest rumors about the stock market crash was that hundreds of investors jumped out of windows of their high-rise office buildings on Black Thursday. But it was just that: a rumor. This didn’t happen when the stock market crashed. Instead, everyone was too busy feeling shocked and concerned about the situation.
Shortly after the stock market crashed, investors walked around Wall Street with dazed, shocked expressions on their faces. They had no idea what had occurred, but they especially didn’t know what to do about the situation. How would they recover the lost $50 million? But unlike what tradition has believed, the men weren’t jumping out of windows one after another on that unfortunate day. So, what (or who) started the rumor in the first place?
The victim of “fake news”
The U.S. stock market crash of 1929 was the victim of “fake news” long before the term was popularized. When New York Times columnist Will Rodgers reported multiple suicides on Black Thursday, readers couldn’t help but believe his column.
Rodgers wrote, “When Wall Street took that tail spin, you had to stand in line to get a window to jump out of, and spectators were selling space for bodies in the East River.”
Rodgers’ column reached over 40 million U.S. newspaper readers. It didn’t take long for readers to believe investors committed suicide to escape their suffering. While many unfortunately did end their lives, it didn’t happen on Black Thursday. Like many rumors, this story was invented because of one false report.
Some truth about the Great Depression
While there were rumors circulating the Great Depression, the majority of the stories you have read are accurate depictions of this troubling age of U.S. history. Families had inadequate food, shelter, and medical care. Families lined up at soup kitchens and several lost their homes.
The Great Depression had its effect on American families until as late as 1939. During the dark decade, about 15 million Americans were unemployed and almost half of the U.S. banks had failed. Could you imagine living during the time period?