Pearl Duncan: Wall Street, Fierce Colonial Conflicts, Louder Than Movie's

[Pearl Duncan covered Newport-Bermuda Yacht Races, Miami-Montego Bay Yacht Races, Caribbean Ocean Racing Circuit (CORC) Races and others, for Sailing, Sail, and Yacht Racing/Cruising Magazines. Now she writes about historic New York and New Yorkers.]

On this the week trailing the weekend of the movie, Wall Street: “II” Money Never Sleeps, it would be absolutely delicious to revisit the conflicts of Olde Wall Street. Wall Street’s amoral characters then were wilder than any we see today, because they ended their disputes in duels. When I researched and found the name of the World Trade Center ship, I found lots more about the disputes of the early Wall Street residents. Two well-known villains in colonial clothing were business rivals on Wall Street.

Before there was a stock exchange or boardrooms on Wall Street, there were coffee-houses; they were the pits where traders met and traded. What these guys traded then was not much different from that they trade today, except for a few long-gone commodities like indigo, livestock and humans. Weights and measurements were different: they talked about “the burthen of a ship,” the burden, that is, the tons of cargo. They argued about their profits from shares of “hogsheads” of sugar, bags of coffee, bales of cotton, barrels of rum and whiskey, and tons of human cargo.

This week, one line stand outs in the movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and in the story of Wall Street’s origins. The line, “It’s not about the money, it’s the game.” The game in colonial times and now was seeing whose money and business deals left the biggest mark on history -- that’s power. Invariably, the money and business dealers converted their power to politics, as they do today.

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