Timeline of U.S. Stock Market Crashes (2024)

When a stock market crashes, it represents the culmination of a complex array of events that drive unexpected results. Markets can often absorb unexpected events, but if the level of uncertainty implied by these economic events spurs many investors to act out of fear, a market crash is far more likely to happen.

These types of financial crises have made for painfully memorable moments throughout history. In the United States, stock market crashes were documented as early as the 18th century and since then certain financial downturns have had a place in U.S. history.

Some of the most significant stock market crashes in U.S. history include the crash in 1929 that preceded the Great Depression, the crash in 1987, known as Black Monday, the dotcom bubble crash in 2001, the 2008 crash related to the Financial Crisis, and the 2020 crash following the outbreak of COVID.

Key Takeaways

  • Stock market crashes often have a major economic impact and marketplaces take time to return to their pre-crash levels.
  • The Dutch Tulip Bulb Market Bubble, also known as Tulipmania took place in 1637.
  • The Financial Crisis of 1791 to 1792 was the first U.S. stock market crash preceded by the Crisis of 1772, which occurred in the 13 colonies.
  • Oct. 19, 1987, also known as Black Monday, marked the largest one-day stock market decline in history.
  • The 2020 Coronavirus Stock Market Crash lasted several months.

What Is a Stock Market Crash?

The term "stock market crash" refers to a sudden and substantial drop in stock prices. Stock market crashes are often the result of several economic factors, including speculation, panic selling, or economic bubbles. They may occur amid the fallout of an economic crisis or major catastrophic event.

There is no official threshold for what qualifies as a stock market crash. But a common standard is the rapid double-digit percentage decline over a period of several days in a stock index, such as the orDow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA).

There are measures in place to help prevent a stock market crash, such as trading curbs or circuit breakers that can halt any trading activity for a specific period following a sudden decline in stock prices.

Early U.S. Stock Market Crashes

The first U.S. stock market crash took place in March of 1792. Before the Financial Crisis of 1791 to 1792, the Bank of the United States over-expanded its credit creation, which led to a speculative rise in the securities market.

Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton cajoled many banks into granting discounts to those in need of credit in multiple cities, in addition to utilizing numerous policies and other measures to stabilize U.S. markets.

The first crash only lasted about one month. However, it was followed by a series of panics that occurred throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, as detailed in the table below.

U.S. Stock Market Crashes Through the Years
Panic of 1819A collapse in cotton prices, credit contraction, and over-speculation in land, commodities, and stocks.America's first great economic depression came to an end in 1821.
Panic of 1837A real estate bubble and erratic American banking policy.Andrew Jackson refused to extend the Second Bank of the United States' charter, enabling state banks to recklessly issue banknotes. This led to a major six-year economic depression.
Panic of 1857The failure of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company.New York bankers put restrictions on transactions that resulted in panic selling. Bank closures and depression followed—the latter of which lasted three years.
Panic of 1884The failure of a small number of financial firms in New York City, primarily the Metropolitan National Bank.The institution's closure raised public concerns about the banks in its network. But the crisis was largely contained to New York and swiftly ended.
Panic of 1893A run on gold in the U.S. Treasury and slowed economic activity.Unemployment jumped, asset prices plummeted, and panic selling ensued, which caused one of the most severe depressions in U.S. history.
Panic of 1896A continuation of the Panic of 1893.There was a brief pause after the last panic before the U.S. economy fell into another recession in late 1895. It wouldn't fully recover until mid-1897.
Panic of 1901The result of a struggle between Jacob Schiff, J.P. Morgan, James J. Hill, and E. H. Harriman over the Northern Pacific Railway.Short sellers were caught up in a frenzy as the price of Northern Pacific skyrocketed, causing stocks and bonds to drop dramatically. The panic ended with a truce among the financial titans.
Panic of 1907A failed attempt by F. Augustus Heinze and Charles W. Morse to corner the stock of United Copper.The first financial crisis of the 20th century. It spurred the monetary reform movement that led to the establishment of the Federal Reserve System. Several banks associated with the two men succumbed to runs by depositors. This led to runs on numerous trust companies, which resulted in a severe reduction in market liquidity. If not for the intervention of J.P. Morgan, the New York Stock Exchange might have closed.

Black Friday occurred on Sept. 24, 1869, and saw the collapse of the gold market after two speculators, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, concocted a scheme to drive up the price of gold. The duo also recruited Abel Rathbone Corbin to convince President Ulysses S. Grant to further limit the metal's availability to ensure their plan was successful.

President Grant ordered the sale of $4 million in government gold in response. Although Gould and Fisk succeeded in driving up the price of gold, panic ensued and the price of gold plummeted once the government bullion hit the market. Investors desperately tried to sell their holdings. Many investors were left without any money to pay back their debts in the aftermath, as they took out loans to finance their purchases.

Dutch Tulip Bulb Market Bubble, also known as Tulipmania, is the earliest known major market crash—even though it wasn't associated with the trading of stock shares. During the mid-1630s, tulips became widely popular as a status symbol in Holland and, as a result, speculation caused the value of tulip bulbs to increase. The demand for tulips became so large that speculators began to trade in what were essentially tulip futures. In February 1637, the tulip bubble burst as the market fell apart.

Contemporary U.S. Stock Market Crashes

Timeline of U.S. Stock Market Crashes (1)

Wall Street Crash of 1929

Prior to the Wall Street crash of 1929, share prices jumped. The DJIA increased as much as six times in August 1921 to 381 in September 1929. At the end of the market day on Oct. 24, 1929, known as Black Thursday, the market was at 299.5, a 21% decline.

A selling panic began and on Oct. 28, the Dow declined approximately 13%. On Black Tuesday, the market dropped again by nearly 12%. The crash lasted until 1932, resulting in the Great Depression, a time in which stocks lost nearly 90% of their value. The Dow didn't fully recover until November 1954.

Two factors are commonly cited as the primary triggers of the crash including an attempt by governors of many Federal Reserve Banks and a majority of the Federal Reserve Board to combat market speculation and a major expansion of investment trusts, public utility holding companies, and the amount of margin buying.

Recession of 1937 to 1938

The Recession of 1937 to 1938 hit in the midst of the recovery from the Great Depression. The primary causes are believed to be Federal Reserve and Treasury Department policies that caused a contraction in the money supply in addition to other contractionary fiscal policies. As a result, real gross domestic product (GDP) fell 10%, while unemployment hit 20%, having already declined considerably after 1933.

In the year leading up to the recession, Fed policymakers doubled reserve requirement ratios to reduce excess bank reserves. Meanwhile, in late June 1936, the Treasury began to sterilize gold inflows by keeping them out of the monetary base, which halted their effect on monetary expansion. Once the Fed and the Treasury reversed their policies and the Roosevelt administration began pursuing expansionary fiscal policies, the recession ended.

Kennedy Slide of 1962

The Kennedy slide of 1962 was a flash crash, during which the DJIA fell 5.7%, its second-largest point decline ever at that time. This crash occurred following a run-up in the market that had lured many investors into a false sense of security, with stocks rising 27% in 1961.

When the break happened, fear quickly spread. Households significantly reduced their purchases of stocks, leading to 8% of stockbrokers bailing the market throughout 1962.

Black Monday

Black Monday followed the first financial crisis of the modern global era, taking place on Oct. 19, 1987. The DJIA lost over $500 billion after dropping 22.6%, the largest one-day stock market decline in history.

Preceding the event, the federal government disclosed a larger-than-expected trade deficit and the dollar fell in value, undermining investor confidence, and leading to volatility in the markets. Before the U.S. crash, markets in and around Asia plunged followed by New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Mexico.

Increased activity from international investors in U.S. markets was among the causes of Black Monday. Regulators introduced reforms to address the structural flaws that allowed Black Monday to occur such as stocks, options, and futures markets using different timelines for the clearing and trade settlement. Trade-clearing protocols were overhauled to instill uniformity in all prominent market products. The first circuit breakers were also put in place for temporary halt trading in instances of exceptionally large price declines.

Friday the 13th

The Friday the 13th mini-crash occurred on Oct. 13, 1989. That Friday, a stock market crash resulted in a 6.91% drop in the Dow. Prior to this, a leveraged buyout (LBO) deal for UAL, United Airlines' parent company, fell through. As the crash transpired mere minutes after this announcement, it was quickly identified as the cause of the crash.

However, this idea is considered unlikely, given that UAL only accounted for a fraction of 1% of the stock market's total value. One theory is that the deal's failure was seen as a watershed moment, foreshadowing the failure of other pending buyouts.

Since no concrete arguments have been offered explaining why this was a watershed event, it's possible this was simply an attempt to make sense of the chaos in the financial markets. When the market reopened on Monday, investors largely shrugged off the prior week's plunge and had one of the heaviest trading days on record. This event was considered a mini-crash since the percentage loss was relatively small, particularly in comparison to the other crashes listed here.

1990s Recession

The early 1990s recession began in July 1990 and ended in March 1991. Comparatively short-lived and relatively mild, it contributed to George H.W. Bush's re-election defeat in 1992. Following another recession just three years prior, the collapse of the savings-and-loan industry in the mid-1980s, and the U.S. Federal Reserve's interest rate increase in the late 1980s, this recession was sparked by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in the summer of 1990.

Dotcom Bubble

The dotcom bubble formed as a result of a surge of investments in the Internet and technology stocks. The start-up hype that drove prices peaked in March 2000. By December 2000, the Nasdaq 100 index lost more than half of its peak value. The index wouldn't notch a new high until 2017.

Massive amounts of venture capital were dumped into tech and Internet startups, while investors purchased shares in these companies hoping for success. The crash wiped out $5 trillion U.S. in technology-firm market value between March and October 2002.

One year and three months

The total length of time that the bear market of 2007 to 2009 lasted. The S&P 500 lost 51.9% of its value. While this event can't be considered a true stock market crash, it's still worth noting based on the steep losses.

2008 Recession Timeline

On Sept. 29, 2008, the stock market fell 777.68 points in intraday trading. It was at the time the biggest point drop in history. The immediate cause of the market crash was Congress' initial refusal to pass the bank bailout bill that would stabilize the American financial system after a series of historic shocks.

The bill finally passed on Oct. 3, 2008.

The shocks to the system up to that point had included:

  • July 11, 2008: Subprime mortgage lender IndyMac collapses, signaling the start of a wave of mortgage defaults by homebuyers.
  • Sept. 7, 2008: The government seizes control of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which guaranteed millions of bad loans.
  • Sept. 15, 2008: Lehman Brothers goes bankrupt under the weight of $613 billion in debt, much of it due to investments in subprime mortgages.
  • Sept. 16, 2008: The government bails out insurance company AIG by buying 80% of it. It does not bail out Lehman Brothers.

On March 5, 2009, the Dow Jones closed at 6,926, a drop of more than 50% from its pre-recession high.

2010 Flash Crash

On May 6, 2010, the S&P 500, the Nasdaq 100, and the Russell 2000 collapsed and rebounded within a 36-minute timespan. Approximately $1 trillion in market capitalization was wiped out on the DJIA, though it recovered most of its decline by the end of the trading day.

In a joint study released by the CFTC and SEC in September 2010, they concluded that the flash crash was the result of a convergence of several factors, primarily a large volume of trading, illegal manipulative trading of many E-minis, and electronic liquidity providers pulling back on quotes once stocks began to plummet.

August 2011

On Aug. 8, 2011, the U.S. and global stock markets fell as a weakening U.S. economy and a widening debt crisis in Europe dampened investor confidence. Before this event, the U.S. received a credit downgrade from Standard & Poor's (S&P) for the first time in history amid an earlier debt ceiling impasse. Although the political gridlock was ultimately resolved, S&P saw the agreement as falling short of what was needed to repair the nation's finances.

2015 to 2016 Stock Market Selloff

The 2015 to 2016 stock market selloff was a series of global sell-offs that took place over a one-year time frame beginning in June 2015. In the U.S., the DJIA fell 530.94, or approximately 3.1%, on Aug. 21, 2015.

The market volatility initially began in China as investors were sold shares globally amid a slew of tumultuous economic circ*mstances, including the end of quantitative easing in the U.S., a fall in petroleum prices, the Greek debt default, and the Brexit vote.

2020 Coronavirus Crash

The 2020 coronavirus stock market crash is the most recent U.S. crash, which occurred due to panic selling following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 16, the drop in stock prices was so sudden and dramatic that a Level 1 market-wide circuit breaker was issued at 9:30 a.m. From Feb. 12 to March 23, the DJIA lost 37% of its value and NYSE trading was suspended several times.

The stock market rebounded and on Aug. 18, the S&P 500 was hitting record highs. On Nov. 24, 2020, the DJIA crossed 30,000 for the first time in history.

Notable Downturns

Below is a list of other notable crashes that affected the U.S. but are considered global events:

  • Crisis of 1772: From 1770 to 1772, colonial planters were forced to borrow cheap capital en masse from British creditors. The resulting credit boom turned into a credit crisis when planters couldn't repay their debt, causing numerous bankruptcies in London.
  • Panic of 1796 to 1797: This crisis began after a U.S. land speculation bubble burst in 1796. On Feb. 27, 1797, the Bank of England suspended specie payments as part of the Bank Restriction Act of 1797. The Panic of 1796 to 1797 led to the collapse of multiple prominent merchant firms in several major American cities as well as the imprisonment of many American debtors.
  • Panic of 1873: Following a stock market crash in Europe, investors sold their investments in American railroads. When the U.S. bank Jay Cooke & Company went bankrupt, a bank run commenced. At least 100 banks collapsed and the NYSE was forced to suspend trading for the first time on Sept. 20, 1873.
  • Economic Effects of the Sept. 11 Attacks: The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, occurred as the world economy was already experiencing its first synchronized global recession in a quarter-century. Stock market values in the U.K., Germany, France, Canada, and Japan generally move in tandem with those in the U.S. and they fell hard in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
  • Stock Market Downturn of 2002: Beginning in March of 2002, a downturn in stock prices was observed across the U.S., Canada, Asia, and Europe. After recovering from the economic impact of the Sept. 11 attacks, indices started steadily sliding downward, leading to dramatic declines in July and September, with the latter month experiencing values below those reached in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
  • 2018 Cryptocurrency Crash: During the 2018 cryptocurrency crash, also known as the Bitcoin Crash or the Great Crypto Crash, most cryptocurrencies were sold and lost significant value, with Bitcoin dropping by 15%. The value of Bitcoin ultimately fell by approximately 65% from January 2018 to February 2018 and would not fully recover from this event until 2020.

What Was the Biggest Stock Market Crash of All Time?

During Black Monday, on Oct. 19, 1987, the DJIA fell by 22.6% in a single trading session. This marks the largest one-day stock market decline in history.

Where Should You Invest Your Money to Prepare for a Crash?

There are several steps you can take to minimize the impact of a stock market crash on your portfolio. One of the most important is to ensure you've diversified your portfolio across multiple sectors, such as stocks, bonds, cash, and real estate.

Are Stock Market Crashes More Common During Certain Times of the Year?

The October effect refers to a perceived market anomaly that stocks tend to decline in October, based on the fact that crashes, such as the Wall Street crash of 1929 and Black Monday occurred during this month. In fact, over the last 20 years, October has been one of the best months for stock growth. September has experienced more historically downward markets.

The Bottom Line

As a result of market cycles, stock market crashes and downtrends are an inherent risk of investing. Market downtrends don't always result in a crash and although 2020's crash won't be the last one the U.S. will experience, it's not clear how long it will be before we see the next one. Additionally, the most recent stock market crash makes for an excellent case study as to how quick, smart federal intervention can mitigate the effects of a crash.

Timeline of U.S. Stock Market Crashes (2024)


How many times has the US stock market crashed? ›

Some of the most significant stock market crashes in U.S. history include the crash in 1929 that preceded the Great Depression, the crash in 1987, known as Black Monday, the dotcom bubble crash in 2001, the 2008 crash related to the Financial Crisis, and the 2020 crash following the outbreak of COVID.

When did the US stock market crash start and end? ›

The epic boom ended in a cataclysmic bust. On Black Monday, October 28, 1929, the Dow declined nearly 13 percent. On the following day, Black Tuesday, the market dropped nearly 12 percent. By mid-November, the Dow had lost almost half of its value.

What was the biggest reason the stock market crashed in the US? ›

Among the more prominent causes were the period of rampant speculation (those who had bought stocks on margin not only lost the value of their investment, they also owed money to the entities that had granted the loans for the stock purchases), tightening of credit by the Federal Reserve (in August 1929 the discount ...

What were three major reasons that led to the stock market crash? ›

In addition to the Federal Reserve's questionable policies and misguided banking practices, three primary reasons for the collapse of the stock market were international economic woes, poor income distribution, and the psychology of public confidence.

What was the biggest market crash in history? ›

Marking the beginning of the Great Depression, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 is perhaps the most infamous stock market crash in history. After a decade of economic prosperity and speculative investment in the stock market, the bubble burst in October 1929, wiping out billions of dollars in wealth.

What year was the worst for the stock market? ›

From their peaks in October 2007 until their closing lows in early March 2009, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Nasdaq Composite and S&P 500 all suffered declines of over 50%, marking the worst stock market crash since the Great Depression era.

Will the US stock market crash in 2024? ›

Stocks are up 8.8% in 2024 through May 7, as measured by the S&P 500, but markets have cooled and the large-cap index is down 1.3% in the second quarter. Some investors are inching toward the sidelines amid worrisome economic news: slowing economic growth, a softening labor market and rising core inflation.

How long did it take America to recover from the stock market crash? ›

Historical stock charts seem to show that it took more than 25 years for the market to recover from the 1929 crash--a dismal statistic that has been brought to investors' attention many times in the current downturn.

How much money was lost on Black Tuesday? ›

On October 29, 1929, "Black Tuesday" hit Wall Street as investors traded some 16 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange in a single day. Around $14 billion of stock value was lost, wiping out thousands of investors.

Do you lose all your money if the stock market crashes? ›

Again, you technically don't lose any money in the stock market unless you sell your investments. If you simply hold your stocks until the market rebounds, your stocks should regain their value. The key is to ensure you're investing in strong stocks that have the ability to weather market turbulence.

Who got rich during the Great Depression? ›

Howard Hughes grew up rich and got even richer during the Great Depression. In fact, the seeds of his eventual billion-dollar aerospace and defense empire were sown during this time.

What is the largest decline in US stock market history? ›

Largest daily percentage losses
17 more rows

What happens to the economy if the stock market crashes? ›

Usually, when the stock market crashes, this can halt economic growth throughout the region. This means that the government may choose to reduce spending, companies may not have access to funding for expansion or operations, and investors may run into many losses on their open positions.

What ended the Great Depression? ›

Despite all the President's efforts and the courage of the American people, the Depression hung on until 1941, when America's involvement in the Second World War resulted in the drafting of young men into military service, and the creation of millions of jobs in defense and war industries.

Why did many banks fail after the stock market crashed? ›

Many smaller banks, such as this one in Haverhill, Iowa, lacked sufficient reserves to stay in business and became no more than convenient billboards. Many of the small banks had lent large portions of their assets for stock market speculation and were virtually put out of business overnight when the market crashed.

How often do we have a stock market crash? ›

On average, the market declined 10% or more every 1.2 years since 1980, so you could even say corrections are common.

Which US stocks have fallen the most? ›

US stocks that lost the most in price
SymbolChange %Price
CGTX D−13.73%2.20 USD
MINM D−13.29%3.72 USD
JAGX D−12.96%4.03 USD
CELH D−12.85%82.92 USD
32 more rows

How long did it take the stock market to recover after the 2008 crash? ›

The bounce-back from the 2008 crash took five and a half years, but an additional half year to regain your purchasing power.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Wyatt Volkman LLD

Last Updated:

Views: 6317

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (66 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Wyatt Volkman LLD

Birthday: 1992-02-16

Address: Suite 851 78549 Lubowitz Well, Wardside, TX 98080-8615

Phone: +67618977178100

Job: Manufacturing Director

Hobby: Running, Mountaineering, Inline skating, Writing, Baton twirling, Computer programming, Stone skipping

Introduction: My name is Wyatt Volkman LLD, I am a handsome, rich, comfortable, lively, zealous, graceful, gifted person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.