Copyright: John Frost Newspapers
The newspaper: The Daily Mail, continental edition
The date: October 25, 1929
The news event: The American stock market collapses.
What you see
This was the most important financial news story of the first half of the twentieth century. In the days before television, and before the widespread use of radio, newspapers like this one would have been snapped up all over the western world. However, the story almost seems swallowed by other more minor stories. This type of layout, in which no single story stands out from the others, was typical of broadsheet newspapers of the time.
Known as the 'roaring 20s,' this was a decade of extreme economic prosperity in much of the Western world. By 1920 the United States had become the world's greatest industrial power, the biggest world trader and the richest banker. New York, where Wall Street is situated, took over from London as the financial capital of the world. Financial investors were hugely confident, many of them speculating recklessly on the Stock Market. Banks were also lending enormous amounts of money. It was a time of great hope, and the dangers of a possible economic crash were far from the minds of most people.
The Wall Street crash occurred on October 25th 1929. As a result of so much Stock Market speculation, the prices of shares had risen extremely high. Frightened investors who had pumped so much of their money into these companies began to sell their shares at any price. 30 million shares were traded in the space of five days - which caused the Stock Market to collapse. Following the Wall Street crash, America went into what became known as the Great Depression. Lack of money led to mass unemployment in America and Europe. History repeated itself on 'Black Monday', 19 October 1987, when the world saw the largest one-day decline in Stock Market history.
The front page
Given the enormity of the event, the newspaper would have made this story it's main splash. The crash affected economies all over the world. It is interesting that the story does not stand out clearly from the rest of the information on the front page. The style is dense and confusing to the eye.
This design is typical of the time. A mass of stories falling down the page from the top. The 'splash' or main headline runs right across the page: GREATEST CRASH IN WALL STREET'S HISTORY. Then on the left a stack of different headlines in different point sizes continue to tell the story until the article takes over:
DELUGE OF PANIC SELLING
19,000,000 SHARES CHANGE
PRICES TUMBLE LIKE AN
WILD SCENES TILL GREAT
FINANCIERS COME TO
Even the article itself is broken up into several sections with a 'breaker' or cross-head (line of type) above each one. The main image of the New York Stock Exchange is very boring but it is difficult to know what else they could have put in its place in the time available. The rest of the big front page is taken up with several news stories:
Great Film Fire at Hollywood; Attempt to kill Prince Humbert; Search for new French Premier; Plane missing in Channel gale and a few advertisements. To modern eyes, this front page is very hard to read and follow.