The tendrils of Wall Street stretch deeply into Columbia—even back to the horrendous Black Tuesday and the Great Depression. Nikki Shaner-Bradford recalls the days of yore, when Columbia students still obsessed with the finance world—even without having LinkedIn to show off.
In an article published in the Columbia Spectator on November 20th, 1929, entitled “Stock Market Reflections,” a student remarked that the “with the stock market presumably returning to normalcy (you never can tell), it’s time to take stock of the situation, and try to derive some lasting lessons from the great catastrophe of the past few weeks.” While this student deserves props for his clever pun, he somewhat understated the longevity of the crash.
The stock market crash of 1929 is widely considered an impetus of the greatest recession in American history: The Great Depression. Rather than “returning to normalcy,” as believed by Columbia students (and many others, as the stock numbers gradually increased after the initial crash) the country would remain in a horrendous recession for the next ten years. Millions of Americans became newly unemployed, faced extreme financial loss or bankruptcy, and experienced a new sense of general fear and hopelessness.
Written just 22 days after Black Tuesday, the article goes on to discuss the negative effects the stock market crash had on a variety of Columbia students. Many students found themselves suddenly unable to pay tuition, now without both money and education. He writes of the (typical Columbia) obsession with stocks: “Each was following his own pet stock, whether he owned it or not, to see how it went” newly crushed by the market collapse. Students traded stock tips amongst each other, thinking their second semester economics course qualification enough to become a top broker. The author admonishes these students for their intent focus on money and Wall Street, aspirations that quickly disintegrated with the recession.
There’s nothing like an old Spec article to remind us that some things never change, especially when it comes to Columbia students and their unusually finance-driven hobbies.
Homeless via Lewis W. Hine / Public Domain