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The Crash of ’87, From the Wall Street Players Who Lived It

Black Monday fire drills, steaks from Delmonico’s, cash in the rafters—and a mystery explained.
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Oct. 19, 1987 remains the biggest one-day stock market drop in history.

Oct. 19, 1987 remains the biggest one-day stock market drop in history.

Photographer: Maria Bastone/AFP/Getty Images

On Wall Street, when things decline, you tend to remember. When things decline a lot, you remember the date. Oct. 19, 1987, is one such example. The biggest single-day stock market collapse in history—a 23 percent drop—rendered once-trusted ideas useless and redefined the financial landscape for market professionals.

One of them was a rising Salomon Brothers bond salesman named Michael Lewis, who had yet to pen Liar’s Poker. “The markets in a panic are like a country during a coup, and seen in retrospect that is how they were that day,” he would later write of the chaos he witnessed. “One small group of people with its old, established way of looking at the world is hustled from its seat of power.”