Page:WALL STREET IN HISTORY.djvu/74

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CHAPTER III

 

1830-1883

 

THE GREAT MONEY CENTER.

 

THE irresistibly fascinating story of the gradual transformation of Wall Street into a power of over-shadowing importance is without a parallel in the literature of fact or fiction. The lines in these pages might easily be multiplied into as many chapters, or volumes even, and ninety-nine one-hundredths of the vast whole yet remain untold. The simple statistics of bold projects and stupendous enterprises that have originated in Wall Street within the last half century would alone constitute a voluminous library. And one of the curiosities of the collection would be the marked individual character of each project and enterprise. When a man steps exactly in the place of the man who has gone before him there is but one set of footprints. Here there is no such monotony. Every man seems to think his own thoughts, and fashion his own career. The extent of Wall Street has never yet found intelligible expression in language or figures. In the olden time it was believed to reach from Trinity Church to the East River. Just when it first overran its local limits the records fail to report with absolute precision. But for full three-score years it has been leaping all manner of natural barriers, while planting towns and cities through the length and breadth of the land; then, as if that were not sufficient evidence of the part it was playing in history, it proceeded to tie them together with a net-work of railroad spanning the continent. The influences of this great money center for good—possibly for evil—are more far-reaching than those of any other locality on the globe; and from no other source has probably ever emanated so much of what the mind cannot measure or the pen portray—human happiness and human misery.

The building of the new Custom House on the site of the old historic City Hall was the great event in Wall Street of the decade between 1830 and 1840. A writer in 1834 says: "The form of the new structure will be