Behind the camera: © Bettmann/CORBIS
Where: New York City
Photo Summary: Bankrupt investor Walter Thornton tries to sell his luxury roadster for $100 cash on the streets of New York City following the 1929 stock market crash
Picture Taken: October 30, 1929

The Wall Street Crash of 1929 was the biggest market crash in American history. Billions of dollars were lost in a day that would become known as Black Tuesday. The crash lead to almost two decades of worldwide depressed economic activity, known today as the Great Depression. America and the world wouldn’t emerge from the effects of the crash until World War II.

One of the most famous photos of this day is of investor Walter Thornton trying to sell his Chrysler Imperial “75” Roadster for $100. According to the postcard shown on this page, a 1928 Chrysler Imperial “75” Roadster could be purchased for $1555 ($21,400 in 2014). The Thornton picture shows the desperation of men who had lost everything on the stock market. Walter Thornton was so desperate for cash that he had no problem selling his year old car for $100 (US$ 1,400 in 2014) even though he was taking a huge loss.

The real despair felt around this time led to a number of myths surrounding Black Tuesday like the myth of finical investors jumping from the windows like lemmings upon learning that they were worthless but as Cecil Adams from the Straight Dope points out:

economist John Kenneth Galbraith … in his book The Great Crash, 1929, first published in 1955. Studying U.S. death statistics, Galbraith found that while the U.S. suicide rate increased steadily between 1925 and 1932, during October and November of 1929 [The time frame of the crash] the number of suicides was disappointingly low.

Actual Color Photograph of Chrysler 75 Roadster

Actual Color Photograph of Chrysler 75 Roadster

Copy Right Info

This image is handled by CorbisImages.com, the photo website for the Corbis Images network. This image, Man Selling Roadster After Stock Market Crash, can be purchased from their website at corbisimages.com

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  1. Anthony says:

    I believe this photo to have been a publicity stunt. Why ask for only $100 when he probably could’ve easily gotten $500? I’ve seen very high resolution versions of this photo (same angle but with and without a crowd) which suggests that a photographer with a large format camera was employed, definitely not what news photogs used back then. Once again, why? And who paid for it? My research shows that Walter Thornton owned a modeling agency of the same name and was the self proclaimed inventor of the WWII pin-up girl posters. In other words a promoter of high magnitude.

  2. Anthony says:

    I humbly refute the make and model of the car. That “postcard” is wrong and appears to actually be from “House Beautiful” magazine

    The 1928/29 Chrysler (or Imperial) have an entirely different shape radiator and hood louvers than the car being offerred for sale. I’m convinced that this is actually a 1928/29 Plymouth which was the least expensive of the Chrysler brands. From top to bottom they were:
    Chrysler Imperial, DeSoto, Dodge and finally Plymouth.

    Somewhat interestingly, Plymouth was an offshoot of the Maxwell car…yes, the same brand which that penny pinching, perpetually 39 year old Jack Benny drove!

    Although I’m a self admitted drooling car nut and a bit of an historian I don’t claim to be an expert and gladly welcome any input/corrections.

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