As with many of the famous streets and roads in the world, Wall Street's origins have historical significance. Its name is a direct reference to a wall that was erected by Dutch settlers on the southern tip of Manhattan Island in the 17th century. During this time, a war between the English and Dutch threatened to spill over onto the island's American colonies. So the Dutch, located at the southernmost part of the island, decided to erect a defensive wall. Although this wall was never used for its intended purpose, years after its removal it left a legacy behind in the name Wall Street.

This area didn't become famous for being America's financial center until the end of the 18th century, when 24 of the United States' first and most prominent brokers signed an agreement that outlined the common commission-based form of trading securities. Occurring under a "Buttonwood" tree, this marked the beginnings of the investment community of Wall Street and the creation of the New York Stock Exchange. Since then, "Wall Street" has come to denote much more than a street: it now represents the stock market and all its associated financial institutions.

To read more about the beginnings of Wall Street, see The Stock Market: A Look Back.

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