The Black Friday Stock Market Crash
Black Friday was a stock market catastrophe that took place on Sept. 24, 1869. On that day, after a period of rampant speculation, the price of gold plummeted, and the markets crashed. It can also refer to a shopping holiday in the U.S. following Thanksgiving.
It was sparked by a ring of speculators, led by Jay Gould and James Fisk, who attempted to corner the gold market. In early September, they bought as much bullion as they could get their hands on, causing the price of gold to skyrocket. They also enlisted the help of Abel Corbin, the brother-in-law of President Ulysses S. Grant. They wanted him to persuade the president to limit the metal's availability, which would drive its price even higher.
But their attempt to use the White House to manipulate the supply failed. When Grant learned what was happening, he ordered the U.S. Treasury to sell gold instead. The government unloaded $4 million worth, and on Friday, Sept. 24, 1869, the price of gold fell from $160 to $130 per ounce. The gold market collapsed, causing the stock market to plummet more than 20% in the next week, ruining many investors. The day became known in financial history as Black Friday.
This stock market crash was the origin of referring to stock market crashes as "black" days. Other examples include Black Tuesday, Oct. 29, 1929, when the market fell precipitously, signaling the start of the Great Depression, and Black Monday, Oct. 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) plummeted more than 22%, the largest one-day drop in stock market history.