Momentous or Merely Memorable
80 Years Ago
What Goes Down...?
The 1920s investment boom goes bust when a record number of shares are traded on Wall Street in October 1929—16.4 million on the 29th alone—evaporating $30 billion from the stock market's value. As overleveraged investors crash, consumer spending declines and a tariff reduces foreign markets for U.S. goods. Unemployment rises and the country sinks into the Great Depression. By 1933, some 9,000 banks fail, taking uninsured depositors with them. Today the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, begun in 1933, insures deposits up to $250,000.
90 Years Ago
Black and Blue
Rumors of a fix fly when the favored Chicago White Sox lose the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds, three games to five. An investigation in 1920 charges that members of the "Black Sox," as the Chicago team is known—for the color of its unwashed laundry or its players' souls—conspired with gamblers to throw games for cash. Pitcher Eddie Cicotte admits to taking $10,000 and tossing balls "a baby could have hit," but later recants and, with the seven other players tried, is acquitted. But all eight are banned from baseball for life.
120 Years Ago
The Moulin Rouge dance hall opens its doors in Paris on October 6, 1889, under the red windmill that gives it its name. It quickly attracts "smart people...penniless noblemen and wealthy villains," a reviewer notes, for a close-up view of the new and uninhibitedly decadent dance the cancan. One star kicker is La Goulue, whom a 27-year-old Toulouse-Lautrec depicts on the 1891 poster that makes his name as an avant-garde artist.
140 Years Ago
Civil But Disobedient
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is born in Porbandar, India, October 2, 1869. Educated in Britain in the law, he is dedicated to nonviolent protest of oppression of Indians, first in South Africa and then in India, where he leads the nationalist movement to end British dominion. He earns worldwide respect and the honorific ‘mahatma’ (great-souled). Gandhi is assassinated in 1948.
220 Years Ago
New York statesman John Jay, a former president of the Continental Congress, is sworn in as the first chief justice of the United States, October 19, 1789. Jay and the Supreme Court's five other justices must "ride circuit"—travel to the lower district courts around the country—to hear cases. Their 1793 decision in Chisholm v. Georgia affirming federal judiciary authority over the states proves so unpopular, Congress enacts the 11th Amendment to overrule it.