Wall Street is considered by many to be the financial center of the world. It is both an actual center of financial activity and a symbol of that activity. Wall Street has come to stand for America’s economic power and pride and for the capitalist system itself.
Wall Street is the financial area surrounding a road of the same name in lower Manhattan. An actual wall was built in this area by the Dutch to protect against potential British attack during the middle of the seventeenth century, and the name remained after the wall was taken down. The term refers to more than just physical location, however, as a corporation is considered to be a “Wall Street company” based on its involvement in financial services, rather than its actual location on Wall Street.
A view of Wall Street east from Nassau Street around 1911.
The Wall Street area contains some of the oldest skyscrapers in the world, and it is the location of the former World Trade Center that was destroyed on September 11, 2001. It houses a number of important United States stock exchanges, including the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and NASDAQ (National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotients). The place where U.S. monetary policy is executed, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, is also located on Wall Street.
Wall Street is often used to stand for both the financial industry and those who work in that industry. Politicians and other social commentators routinely oppose Wall Street to Main Street to suggest the divergent experiences and interests of working- and middle-class people on one hand and wealthy investors and brokers on the other hand. This divergence has been complicated, however, by a trend during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries toward many middle-class persons investing in the stock market through their retirement plans.
American Stock Exchange
Financial crisis of 2008
New York Stock Exchange
Securities and Exchange Commission
The Wall Street Journal