Mention one new detail that you learned from the documentary segment that none of your classmates have commented on previously.
I am an Associate Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College, CUNY.
November 7, 2015
November 1, 2017 at 11:57 pm
In the beginning of the documentary the name Bernard Baruch instantly grasped my attention. The main reason is that the school I go to is named after him, but also because I always had this curiosity to know more about him beyond the name and the statue on the first floor. In the film, they mentioned how Baruch had his shoes shined by the same guy every morning. One day, however, the shoe shiner gave Baruch a stock tip. After that, he went to his office called his broker and told him to “Sell me out”. Baruch saw this as an instance to quickly escape a potential dangerous situation: before an economic collapse. During 1928, Wall Street was “overly optimistic” and in a way separated themselves from the actual economy. They formed their own bubble, believing it would never explode. However, there were others, besides Bernard Baruch, who foreshadowed the chain of events that led up to the Stock Market crash. One economist, Roger Babson, warned investors that a crash is coming and “it may be terrific”. Even though the investors felt uneasy hearing this information, others were quick to brush away that fear. Soon most of what the people heard were positive things about stock prices. The reinforcement of no upcoming crash led people to become even more optimistic. It is interesting to see how some people ignored the caution, while others, like Bernard Baruch were smart enough to understand the upcoming future. In a way, both Babson and Baruch were psychics, knowing the information beforehand, letting people know, but then seeing the great stock market crash happen anyway, mostly because of mistrust.
November 2, 2017 at 9:30 pm
On Wednesday October 23rd, 1929, the American Stock Market experienced its first major crash in history. The first waves of panic began to drive down some of the big name blue chip stocks, such as General Electric. Stock prices plummeted sickeningly across the board, and brokers sold off marginal stocks at rapid pace in a desperate attempt to save whatever they had left. In a mere 2 hours, 10 billion dollars invested in stock was simply wiped out. Pandemonium flooded the streets of the financial district as investors struggled to cope with the extermination of their investments and the massive destruction of the economy that was to come. Some reporters used words like horror, grief, and disbelief to describe people’s reactions to the event.
Just as all hope was lost, JP Morgan, famous American financier and banker who dominated the corporate finance industry, announced that he would inject massive sums of his own money to save the market collapsing. The day had been saved by the house of Morgan, and New York could sleep soundly knowing that there would be a future for their economy. However, just as things seemed bright, a new disaster came soon enough. On Friday, with the banks seemingly stabilized, the banks withdrew their funds. And on that following Tuesday, October 29th, the day that would infamously be known as Black Tuesday, another tidal wave of selling hit the exchange. With nobody left to come to the rescue, and every investor pulling out of the market, the exchange officially collapsed.
A torrent of massive selling left brawls of thousands of brokers on the streets, fighting in pandemonium over the news that the market had officially been demolished. 16 million shares traded in 1 day, which for the time was a massive amount, leaving the exchange reaped of all of its value. By the end of the day, the market had lost 30 Billion Dollars, 10 times more than the entire annual budget of the federal government, and more than the nation had spent throughout the entirety of WWI. This infamous crash caused people the loss of their life savings, their houses, and even their dreams.
November 3, 2017 at 10:15 pm
I never knew that the Empire State Building was created around the time when the Stock Market crashed. John Jacob Raskob wanted to build the tallest building to get tenants to rent it. When it was completed 13 months later, many were astounded by it. This was surprising to me because it usually takes a long period of time to construct a building to make sure it has a safe structure. It was also extremely tall which must have been a hardship but regardless, the task was completed in a speedy matter. However, the building did not achieve its goal of attracting tenants to rent the building. The Empire State Building was not located near any train stations or the financial district. As a result, many people did not have a reason to live there. There were 56 empty floors and only 36% of the building was occupied. It wasn’t until 20 years after its opening when the building started to flourish with citizens. The Empire State Building also has a lot of emotions and symbolism associated with. For example, since the building was the tallest and had a bright top, it represented the hope that New York City had. When looking from the top of the building, one could see the city and how it has developed to become industrious. Many felt that it showed how there are limitless opportunities that New York City can tackle and that it will continue to flourish.
November 4, 2017 at 12:26 am
Something new that I learned from watching this documentary was the social condition of the country prior to the crash. Approaching the crash in my eyes, I never once thought about how the society of the nation was. I thought that everybody had such high hopes for the market and stock success and then out of nowhere, magically, the market crashed. What I learned from the documentary is that the society in economic terms prior to the crash was in ruins. All throughout the summer of 1929 unemployment has risen to new levels, automobile sales plummeted to the ground, stores revenue decreased, and across the Southern and Western frontier farms failed and reached record lows. Even though the society was at an economic downfall, stock market investors were optimistic and believed that the failure of the stock market was impossible. I am just in shock that even though the society’s economic conditions were at their worst, people were ignorant and unable to open their eyes in order to help prevent the crash or at least prevent their own individual damage from the market crash.
November 4, 2017 at 7:15 pm
Before watching this documentary on the Stock Crash of 1929 and the Empire State Building, I was unaware of the effort that was exerted to complete the massive skyscraper and its original purpose. The Empire State Building was the largest NYC project of the time, compared to a military architectural act of genius. The building was created decades after New York City had been established as a vertical city of skyscrapers. For the time, this building was constructed at the maximum height a building could hold without falling- 85 stories high. Over 3000 men were employed to help build the massive skyscraper in 1930; the structure included 50,000 beams and columns that had to be arranged together like a jigsaw puzzle, each weighing over a ton. This effort took place not merely in Manhattan, but all over the East Coast. Manufacturing took place for the steel structure in Pittsburg and transportation took place with trains, ships, and trucks to get the materials to their destination on 34th and 5th. This was the first instance of an assembly line used to manufacture a skyscraper. The building was built so rapidly due to the persistence and devotion of workers who were doing everything that it took to maintain their jobs during the financial crisis.
The intended purpose of the top of the Empire State Building was shown in its original diagram planning, as an observation platform of the entire city. As well, the function would serve as a way for Europeans to dock up in the sky after a ride on a blimp or other airships. In essence, the top of the building was proposed as a way to enter the city- symbolically and literally. Even though this plan did not ultimately pan out, the Empire State Building still served as a motif for the expansion and hope of New York City.
November 5, 2017 at 3:51 pm
The Great Depression was one of New York City’s most severe economic downfalls in history. Ironically, this period of time also marked the first construction of one of the world’s tallest infrastructures. It was the gleaming hope and success of the city, despite the economic hardships faced by New Yorkers at the time. Upon returning to New York City, F Scott Fitzgerald, now known as one of the greatest American writers of the Lost Generation, describes his perspective on the city. In his short essay, My Lost City, he labels this time period as the Dark Autumn of 1931. It was his first return to NYC in three years and he realized that the Empire State Building, the symbol of the city, represented the Pandora’s box. Inside the box, there are full of surprises, including the Great Depression and the construction of the Empire State building. The Great Depression was the city’s great failure while the Empire State building was the city’s greatest success. The city in which he remembered as the world’s most rapidly growing city was now a “lost city”. He concludes this experience knowing that the city has its limits and that the Empire State Building expressed both the success and failure of New York City.
November 5, 2017 at 8:46 pm
What I found so interesting in this segment of the documentary is the sheer gravity of the events of Black Tuesday and how the Stock Market crash impacted the Americans of the twentieth century. On Tuesday, October 29th, 1929 the prices of most stocks plummeted. Because most investors bought their stocks on margin—sometimes at up to 90% of the stock’s value—they were immediately in debt to their stockbrokers. The panic was caused by the rapid selling of the stocks, leading to the drop in these stocks’ prices. As the prices dropped, more investors wanted to save what they had and sold their stocks, thus making the prices to drop continuously. This snowball effect left Americans in panic. The results were horrific: mass unemployment swept the nation, whether it was farmers or bankers. Not only that, but the failure also made the value of the dollar to nose dive. The Federal Reserve had no choice but to increase interest rates, which did not help the economy to recover. With the Stock Market crash, thousands of banks failed and because there was no Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), people lost their savings. It was because of this Stock Market crash, among other things, that the Great Depression began.
November 5, 2017 at 10:29 pm
The Empire State Building is a glorious expression and ironic symbol of New York City. This building was created by John Jakob Raskob, who envisioned a skyscraper above all other buildings in the city. Raskob wanted to build the tallest tower in the world. The Empire State Building is located in Midtown, Manhattan by 34th Street and 5th Ave. It is constructed by the Starrett Brothers and Eken corporation. Raskob was very passionate about the ideal structure of the building. He asked William F. Lamb, one of the main architecture, “build, how high can you make it so that it doesn’t fall?” This questioned the limit of technological engineering of art architectures. At that time, the ideal building can have 65 stories, while the maximum limit was 85 stories. This building was the center of a metropolis and a magnificent gesture of the aesthetic beauty of New York City. During the period of growth and development, the structure was deemed to be known around the world as over 80 stories high. The building is 1,250 feet stories high, but then Raskob agreed to add another 200 feet on top of the tower, surpassing its rival of the Chrysler Building. Al Smith explained that the tower will serve as the transit landmark for planes to arrive from Europe. The building served as the port of call for airships around the world. It fired the public’s imagination and glorified the wonders of the city.
On January 22, 1930, the architectures and Raskob began to create the foundation of the tower. This was an ironic moment after the Great Stock Market Crash. The workman had to construct the building rapidly because of the need to have tenants there. During the period of construction, the economy disintegrated and the Great Depression began to settle in. As a result, the Empire State Building was the symbol hope in the darkest time of the economy and was highly defined as a decorate of the city. Nonetheless, the building sparked such great positivity, however, credits are given to the heroic feat of engineering and labor. Starrett Brothers stated that building this structure was a military genius and experts worked diligently as if they were all at war. About 340 men were employed to construct the building. The massive steel was similar to 3D jigsaw puzzles that the workers pieced together. The steels are first shaped in a factory in Pennsylvania, next boarded on trains and then shipped across the Hudson River to reach its destination. The infrastructure was constructed at its ultimate peak of productivity and efficiency, as fast as one floor was completed in a day. It was recorded that 22 floors were built in 22 days. Many skeptics emphasis that individual production expanded tremendously because of the fear of unemployment and replacement. At the end, the Empire State Building was opened to the public on May 1, 1931, and proves as a supreme power for New York City to shape its own destiny.
November 6, 2017 at 12:59 am
One interesting detail that fascinated me from this documentary was how the Empire State building was a disappointment to John J. Raskob, the builder of the building. At its opening day, the brokers had only managed to sell about 30% of the office apartments in the building while 56 floors lay completely empty and represented huge losses. Critics who had originally been skeptical of the buildings success because of its risky location were proved right and the public took to the name ”The Empty State Building”. One of the reasons that the Empire State Building failed in creating a large appeal was because it was a lone stander. It wasn’t located near the financial district, or efficient means of transport; it was opened during a time when there was a lot of office space already available in the market. Furthermore, the Empire State Building quickly became a symbol for the excessiveness of the 1920’s as everything was available in abundance during this time and thus, at lower value. Whereas it was meant to be a symbol of the strong financial capital of New York, it only started making a profit 20 years after its initial completion.
November 6, 2017 at 3:47 am
For me, the most memorable moment of this segment of the documentary was the very poetic, emotionally charged, and pride-filled description of the Empire State Building by Carol Willis. Granted, the Empire State Building has always had emotional significance to me, as it was the centre of one of my family’s most treasured “rituals” in our first years living in lower manhattan; every night, my father and I would bet on the colour of the lighting on the Empire State, and if I guessed it correctly, I would be allowed to stay up for an additional hour. (Clearly to a seven year old this was a reward of utmost significance.) However, after living in New York City for many years, and seeing the rise of many new skyscrapers, for instance One World Trade Center, it is often easy to see the Empire State as “just another New York City tower. ” A very impressive, majestic one, of course, but admittedly not always worthy of a second glance.
The description of the tower in the documentary, however, made me look to the Empire State with rediscovered admiration. For instance, although many new, very tall buildings have been constructed, the Empire State building remains mostly unsurrounded by anything comparable in height, allowing it to stand in “splendid isolation,” and continue to stand out. The tower is also symmetrical on all elevations, and presents the same iconic image from every side, something many more modern towers do not do. The Empire State is visible from the airport when entering the city, and is noticeable from New Jersey, making it almost like a midtown lady liberty of sorts, to those crossing the city’s borders. Lastly, the most striking image presented by the narrator was that the peak of the building is a great lantern. He compares this to the great lighthouses of Greece and Egypt, naming the Empire State Building to be a great lighthouse of commerce in midtown Manhattan. Granted, the Empire State Building is no longer the tallest in the world, a record it held for forty years, but it continues to be impressive, majestic, and symbolic. It rose as the country trod through the worst depression in its history, and came to be a beautiful symbol of belief in commerce, capitalism, and better times to come.
November 6, 2017 at 5:06 pm
One thing that I really took from this segment of the documentary was just how significant the Empire State Building is. I always subconsciously held the Empire State Building in my mind as a symbol of New York but I really never questioned why this was. As outlined in the video, the reason this building is still such an important landmark in the city today is because of its location and design. Being located on 34th Street in Manhattan, the Empire State building marks the middle of Manhattan and draws the eye toward it. The fact that it isn’t really surrounded by any buildings of comparable size also adds to its perceived size. The building’s location also is significant because tourists can see it as they fly in and out of the city. The Empire State Building’s design also contributes to its significance because it displays its profile from all angles which makes the building easily recognizable. Also, since the building was designed with a public observation deck, it add an element of interaction between it and the civilians of the city. In its first year open, the Empire State Building observation deck made about one million dollars, the same amount as the money made from rented space below.
November 6, 2017 at 6:25 pm
One of the things I learned from the documentary was that it only took a little over a year to build the Empire State Building and that it began around the time when the stock market crashed in October 1929. Four to five stories were added a week due to the willingness of young men to work because of the depression. This increased productivity thus shortening the amount of time it would take to build the Empire State Building which subsequently shortened the amount of time that these men were employed. Its original purpose was to be a dock mid-air for those flying from Europe which I found interesting and a little weird. I also didn’t know how much of a “failure” it was at the time that it was built. The area where it was built was not particularly the best to attract people to rent out spaces and so Jacob Raskob was not content with his building as a result. Raskob also wanted the building to be the tallest it could be without falling down which only gave the building more unoccupied floors during the immediate time after its completion. Instead of the ideal 65 floors that it could’ve been, it was said that 85 was the maximum floors that a building count sustain at the time and so Raskob designed the building to be that tall.
I also didn’t know that when F. Scott Fitzgerald returned to New York City he wrote an essay called ‘The Lost City” about New York City after the beginnings of the Great Depression or that he wrote about the Empire State Building being the Pandora’s Box of New York City.
November 7, 2017 at 1:28 am
A notion I found fascinating in the documentary segment was that F. Scott Fitzgerald managed to capture his inexplicable feelings in words that convey the disappointment of realizing that he had romanticized the nature of New York City. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s career when he arrived back in the city paralleled the state of the economy after the Stock Market crash in that they both took a nosedive. Contrary to his first time in New York City, the circumstances during which he returned to the area were dismal, prompting the penning of his essay, “My Lost City.” In it, he expresses the epiphany he had reached regarding the nature of New York’s seemingly limitless successes. As he gazed upon the Empire State Building rising from the ruins of the city like a sphinx, Fitzgerald likens the structure to Pandora’s Box. When he had first come to the city, he viewed it with the expectation of endless discoveries and prosperity, but seeing its present state had eliminated his rose-tinted view. He acknowledges that the city does end, and its boundaries lay at the water, which was the only body to actually be infinite in the sense he initially attributed to New York. With his recognition of the reality of the city’s limitations, the magic he had once seen in the streets of the city vanished until it was merely a location rather than a source of inspiration.
November 7, 2017 at 2:50 am
When learning about the workers that built the Empire State Building, I was mostly surprised by the highly unsafe conditions. These workers oftentimes worked in groups of four and worked 8 hours a day, receiving $1.92 an hour with half an hour off for lunch. If one of the workers in the group were absent, none of them would do their job, and this is primarily because there was a certain level of trust needed. These workers toiled at high speed with clockwork precision. Jobs included tossing, catching, and heating. When viewing images of workers in the documentary, the one in particular that caught my eye was the man hanging from a wire high up on the Empire State Building. It came as a surprise to me that with the dangerous pictures shown of these workers, only six people died during the construction of this building. The building was completed within 13 months, which proves how rapidly these men worked. I would not have anticipated for such a massive building to be developed in such limited time. In the end, 57,000 ton of structural steel, almost three times the Chrysler Building, was hoisted into place. The building was much higher than the Chrysler Building as well as built much quicker.
November 7, 2017 at 4:12 am
One thing I took away from the documentary was how fear had driven a the deep economic collapse of black Tuesday. The documentary mentioned that the destabilization of major banks had lead to a massive amount of selling on the stock market. It is understandable that for those who had brushed off previous warnings the crash was something unexpected, and its unpredictability demanded swift action in response. Yet it is this rush to sell that inundated the market and ultimately catalyzed the fall into a depression. As I was viewing this segment I was wondering had people not been so quick to sell, would perhaps the effects of the depression not been so widespread. Perhaps there would have been less breadlines and people would not have lost all their savings. While black Tuesday was a very stressful event, surely a large part of the fuel of the panic was the people themselves acting out of fear without taking time to make rational judgement.
November 7, 2017 at 10:37 am
One new detail that I learned about from the documentary was the photography of Lewis Hine. Hine photographed many of the ironworkers high up in the sky as they built the Empire State Building. His photographs are considered to be some of the greatest images ever taken in New York City, and they documented the rapid progress of the Empire State Building as it was constructed. These images romanticized the ironworkers and the building itself as they conquered nature and gravity hundreds of feet above the city. They showed many of the ironworkers as they sat or moved along beams that towered over the city below. The images helped to capture the spirit and resilience of the city in the face of adversity. Hine helped to present the grandeur and greatness of the Empire State building as it was quickly constructed to become the largest building in the world at the time of its completion.
November 7, 2017 at 11:05 am
One of the most surprising things about the crash was the reaction of the renowned economists of the time. The 20’s was such an economically successful decade that even very serious economists were saying that the country had reached a plateau of prosperity that it would never come back from. And then came the crash. On August 17th, 1929, the Dow Jones average reached its all-time low. There were very few economists who had actually predicted the crash, which is incredibly shocking considering the warning signs were all around them, what with the failing farms, the rising unemployment rate, and automobile sales falling off sharply indicating a dip in economic success. In September, just a month before the crash, one economist, Roger Babson, warned that coon or later a crash was coming and it may be horrific. However, experts brushed his qualms away. “Stock prices,” one man declared, “have reached a permanently high plateau.” He was dead wrong. Roger Babson’s prediction came to fruition and the economy came to sudden, unpredictable, and yet inevitable crash.
November 7, 2017 at 8:32 pm
One new detail I learned from the documentary that has not been mentioned yet is the fact that it took 40 years until the stock market would reach the amount of shares made on the day of the crash. This seemingly minuscule number in today’s standards was a monumental, unwarranted number at that time. Over 16,000,000 shares were exchanged that day. The tickers did not stop clicking until the day closed at 8PM. This just goes to show how much fear, paranoia, and mob mentality can dictate the course of society in such drastic and scary ways. Once one person pulled out their stocks, some more people followed, then even more, and before you know it, the snowball effect had begun. If not for this irrational, fearful state of mind clouding the sheep-like instincts of the naive stock brokers, perhaps the crash could’ve been better dealt with, if not avoided. In today’s stock market, it’s safe to say that we’ve come quite a long way in the sophistication and knowledge of the market, but history has proven to repeat itself. It just takes one nervous move of a couple of people to create a mountain of effect that can rock the entire country.
November 12, 2017 at 10:45 pm
Something that I took away from the documentary that hasn’t been mentioned yet was how speculation played a part in causing the crash in the stock market in 1929. The economy in Wall Street actually disconnected from the “real” economy and became a so-called speculative “bubble.” This bubble kept expanding until it finally popped, which symbolized the crash. In September 1929, the economist, Roger Babson, actually warned of the eventual plummet in the stock market. However, supposed experts said that the stock prices will remain high. Then, in October, the bottom dropped and panic rose everywhere. Brokers started to unload margin accounts at a furious pace and stock prices continued to fall rapidly. In one morning, almost 10 billion dollars was wiped out. Small investors believed they could get rich if they bought stocks on margin, which was actually very risky. When everyone started doing it, it just blew up the bubble that held Wall Street together. It would take more than a decade for America to recover from this significant crash. In that same month, construction of the Empire State Building began and it symbolized hope in these dark economic times.
November 13, 2017 at 11:05 pm
Something new that I learned from watching the documentary was actually the top bit of the Empire State Building, known as a Mooring Mast. I think it was amazing how people would devote so much towards the conception of the future. They thought that air travel would be the future of transportation (they were correct, however not with blimps). I did some further research and found that there was a lot of controversy because someone had created an image of an actual airship “docking” by the mooring mast of the Empire State Building. Of course the photo was debunked as a work of photoshop, but the ambitions of New York City citizens are admirable.
December 11, 2017 at 9:27 am
The stock market crash of 1929 led to the great depression. It was one of the worst instances of a market crash in the world. Despite this crash and the fact that it left the economy weak, the Empire State building continued to be constructed. The great depression was caused by over speculation in the market and no one paid attention to the bubble that was approaching. Many people saw the stock market as a way to get rich quick. And as a result, the market collapsed when prices were overinflated leading to the great depression and a run to the banks.
December 21, 2017 at 3:19 pm
The 20’s had been a very prosperous time for America. There was a lot of cultural and monetary enrichment. This however started to change in the late 20’s. Farms began to fail and retail sales declined but there was still speculation that the market would continue to rise. The document noted that the namesake of our school Bernard Baruch knew to sell his shares when his shoe shiner began to give him stock tips. The market had crashed as everyone wanted to get out and 16 million shares were traded one day- a record that had not been reached until 1969. Lots of small investors lost a lot as they bought on margin. Despite al the troubles, it amazed me how the Empire State building went on to be completed in only 13 months during the great depression.
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