Wall Street Rag

Replica of Henry Hudson's Half Moon as it approaches Manhattan
Replica of Henry Hudson's Half Moon as it approaches Manhattan

Wall St. In The News

Wall Street is in the news again, though this time the famous NYC avenue is headline material because of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ activities that are taking place in Manhattan and other sites around the nation. Members of the loose-knit movement are adamant about the reform of Wall street and the banking industry, especially since the crash of the banking industry that occurred in 2007 and 2008. In fact, splinter and support groups can be found in various places around the country. There is a even a small group here in Des Moines that has set up an encampment right outside the state capitol building.

Wall Street Skyline from the Staten Island Ferry
Wall Street Skyline from the Staten Island Ferry


Wall Street has a long history as a place of business that dates back to the early 18th century. And before that the Manhattan Island real estate was part of a defensive barrier created by the Dutch to prevent an English takeover of the strategic piece of land. For it was the Dutch, not the English who first explored the rich delta that lay at the mouth of the Manhattes River. Nowadays, the river is called the Hudson, but beginning in 1607 and 1608, Dutch explores such as Adrien Block, Henry Hudson and Henry Christiaensen visited the mouth of the river, while searching for the famed ‘Northwest Passage’.

Fur Traders

Though the Northwest Passage was never found, Block and Christiaensen made repeated trips to rich estuary that includes present-day Staten Island, Manhattan and Brooklyn, along with Nassau. Here, they developed a lively fur trade with the surprisingly friendly Indians and in 1626 New Amsterdam was created as a colony of Holland. However, peace with the Indians did not last long, leading to conflict between the coloninsts and the Native Americans.

The Wall

In 1653 a wooden wall constructed from upright pointed logs was constructed to give the Dutch settlers some defense against English attacks. This long line of defense would become the Wall Street of today. Though it should be noted that in 1664, New Amsterdam was taken over by the British by a surprise attack. In the end New Amsterdam was lost to the English Crown without one shot being fired.

The Slave Auction

In 1711 Wall Street began its entry into the business world, when a busy, slave auction was established at this location. Placement of the commercial exchange has inspired such musical numbers as “Wall Street Rag” by Scott Joplin (1909), a “Wall Street Wail” by Duke Ellington (1930) and W.C. Handy’s “Wall Street Blues” in (1929).

NYC Harbor

Today, the buildings of Wall Street make for a commanding view, especially when viewed from the Staten Island Ferry as it crosses the NYC harbor. In fact the whole bay is part of a beautiful watery world that leaves one wondering what life was like here at the early years of the 17th century, when the early explorers were first encountering the Native Lenapi and Munsee population.

The Movement

The current protest situation only underscores how much life has changed in the last several centuries and how different the challenges are today. For an interesting insight into what is going on with the demands of ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protestors and the activities of the finance industry, check out this interesting post at ‘Litkicks’, called ā€œHonest Capitalismā€.

Henry Hudson Arrives In New York Harbor by Edward Moran (1898)
Henry Hudson Arrives In New York Harbor by Edward Moran (1898)

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