In the mid 1600s simple fences denoted plots and residences in the New Amsterdam settlement in what we now call lower Manhattan Island. This location on the island was critical as it allowed easy access to both the Hudson River and the East River. To protect this settlement, in 1653, the Dutch West India Company led the construction of a strong barrier, a 12 foot high wall of timber, as a defense against attack from Native American tribes.
In 1685 the city planners laid out a street running parallel to this 12 foot high wall and for lack of a better name called it “Wall Street.” Wall Street continued to grow in popularity, and in 1789, the Federal Hall building at the corner of Wall Street was the scene of the United States’ first presidential inauguration of George Washington. This is also the same location where the Bill Of Rights was passed into law.
In the late 18th century, a group of traders and speculators started meeting underneath a large, shady, buttonwood tree on Wall Street to trade investments informally. In 1792, twenty-four of theses most active traders formalized their association with the Buttonwood Agreement.
A Stock ExchangeStock exchanges are simply organizations that allow people the ability to buy and sell stocks. also developed in Philadelphia at about the same time period, and the founding members of the Buttonwood Agreement, fearing the success of the Philadelphia exchange, formally created the New York Stock and Exchange Board on March 8, 1817. Originally, there were five securities traded in New York City with the first listed company on the NYSE being none other than the Bank of New York.
In 1889, the newspaper that was the first to list stocks and their afternoon prices, called the Customers’ Afternoon Letter, changed its name to The Wall Street Journal for obvious reasons.