Ever wonder where Wall Street came from and how it developed? It all started in the early 1600s, when the Dutch had a colony called New Amsterdam on what is now Manhattan. Even then, it was a region devoted to commercial enterprises, with a lot of trading going on.

When the Dutch began to fear trouble from the English colonies to the north, they built a wall to protect themselves. An attack did indeed come, but unfortunately for the Dutch, it was by sea. New Amsterdam soon became New York, and in New York City you'll now find Wall Street where the wall used to stand.

New York's commercial spirit flourished, as did the city itself. Philadelphia was also thriving, and that's where America's first stock market was established, in 1790. The New York Stock Exchange came soon after. The NYSE traces its origins to a regular gathering of some traders under a buttonwood tree in 1792. It was formally organized in 1817.

Today, the term "Wall Street" often refers to the financial establishment. Much of America's (and even the world's) financial institutions are based in New York on and around Wall Street, but you'll find many that are located elsewhere.

You'll gain more insights into the history of the American stock market in Peter Lynch's and John Rothchild's book Learn to Earn. The NYSE's website also has an interesting area detailing its history. For even more information, check out this list of good financial history books, from Morningstar.

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