[A] crash is coming, and it may be terrific. .... The vicious circle will get in full swing and the result will be a serious business depression. There may be a stampede for selling which will exceed anything that the Stock Exchange has ever witnessed. Wise are those investors who now get out of debt.
But they were not. The statements above were made by investor Roger Babson at a speech at the Annual Business Conference in Massachusetts on 5th September, 1929.
Mr. Babson's prediction was not a sudden one. In fact, he had been making the same prediction for the previous two years, although he, in September of 1929, felt the crash was much closer.
News of his speech reached Wall Street by mid-afternoon, causing the market to retreat about 3%. The sudden decline was named the "Babson Break."
The reaction from business insiders was immediate. Rather than respond by saying, "Thanks for the warning - we'll proceed cautiously," Wall Street vilified him. The Chicago Tribune published numerous rebuffs from a host of economists and Wall Street leaders. Even Mr. Babson's patriotism was taken into question for making so rash a projection. Noted economist Professor Irving Fisher stated emphatically, "There may be a recession in stock prices, but not anything in the nature of a crash." He and many others repeatedly soothed investors, advising them that a resumption in the boom was imminent. Financier Bernard Baruch famously cabled Winston Churchill, "Financial storm definitely passed." Even President Herbert Hoover assured Americans that the market was sound.