For as long as there have been stock markets, there have been stock market panics. The Los Angeles Times, built on the motto "True Industrial Freedom," has always taken a keen interest in these plunges, and this week, with the Dow Jones and Nasdaq in alarming slides, we look back at the many shades of advice — often conflicting — the Times' editorial board has offered in financial crises of the past.

If your memory of the Panic of 1893 is a little hazy, it won't be helped by the Times, which let that event pass with one news story reassuring readers that trading would create "a stronger bottom for good stocks." The editorial board got sufficiently exercised three years later, however, to greet the panic of April 1896 with a rousing call to stay calm and blame populists:

THE FINANCIAL SITUATION — DON'T EXAGGERATE

There is a disposition just now to chide the bankers for taking reasonable precautions to protect themselves and their depositors. This is unjust. The interest of the depositing public is the interest of the bankers. With them they stand or fall. This fact was recognized when eastern bankers recently agreed to come to the aid of the government and restore the rapidly-decreasing gold reserve to the $100,000,000 mark. In this action the bankers were not specially moved by patriotic motives — they are probably no more than no less patriotic than any other class of citizens — but they were simply moved by an intelligent self-interest. They clearly recognized the fact that a panic would inure themselves as much as their depositors.[…]

Even granting, for the sake of argument, the improbable eventuality that [William Jennings] Bryan should be elected; even then, the end of the sober world will not have been reached. To subvert the national finances a free-silver Congress much be assured. Then, it will take many years for the mines to produce, or the mints to coin, sufficient silver dollars to entirely disrupt the financial status quo. Meantime, experience and reflection will have had a chance to work.[…]

At this critical juncture in the affairs of the nation, it is especially desirable than men should not lose their heads, or exaggerate the dangerous possibilities that may lurk in the womb of the future. It is not the highest patriotism, nor even the surest self-protection, to hastily rush to your bank, withdraw your gold, and put it into a safe-deposit vault.

This country has withstood graver dangers than the present, and when it was not half as strong. Stand fast? The Republic lives! Long live the Republic!


By May 18, 1901, the Times was on to yet another financial crisis, this one filled with "psychologic" abnormalities:

THE STOCK PANIC.

It is difficult to put one's finger on the precise origin of this unparalleled collapse. That men sold recklessly in an effort to save themselves from the consequences of the rapacious operations in Northern Pacific, in which a corner had developed, says the American Banker, may be the explanation of a reaction which became a bedlam of ruinous liquidation by the same psychologic law which had previously generated the inflation. But the reaction is only temporary. The reasoning which made the rise in the market possible rests on the same foundation of the national business expansion. When the air is clear, it will be seen that there has been no slackening of the industrial machinery, though it should not be supposed that a stock market panic never disturbs trade. Business having remained quiescent, balances of interior banks being left undisturbed, and all the factors of speculative activity will quickly return. Retribution will be stored up for the future.


This November 9, 1907 editorial blames timid investors for the Banker's Panic of that year:

WHERE THE ROOTS OF THE TROUBLE LIE.

Readers of The Times will recall a statement made several times during the last few months that while in the United States the money supply had increased in ten years 20 per cent, the industrial development of the country had increased in five years 40 per cent. Is it not plain that the strain upon our money power must be excessive under such conditions? The money strength of the country, increasing only 2 per cent. a year while the industrial and commercial activity was increasing 8 per cent. a year — this plainly accounts for the difficulty of financing the business of the country.

But these conditions have existed for more than a year, in fact; for several years past. Why do they now culminate? From the secondary cause, but the immediate one, which has brought on all this trouble. The confidence of the general public has been rudely shaken, not reasonably nor necessarily shaken, but shaken to an extent which has made it impossible to meet the ordinary demands for legal tender to liquidate the daily operations of our industries and commerce.[…]

Behold what a shaking of the public confidence has done in this country! It has caused unnecessarily timid an suspicious people (the weaker portion of every community, both mentally and morally,) to rush to the banks, draw out their money, and stick it away where it is lost from active use. It is probably no exaggeration to estimate that these weak and timid people have withdrawn from doing its service in the business world a gross sum not less than $500,000,000. Here is one-fifth of all the money in the country suddenly, foolishly and unnecessarily withheld from rendering its service to the world.


By this point in its life, the paper was also attempting to provide some historical perspective. November 14, 1907:

IN 1893 AND 1907.

In the panic of 1893, the premiums offered for currency drew money rapidly from the hiding places into which it had gone and the trouble proved like a summer cloud. Business was greatly depressed in 1893 and is buoyant at this time. Since the acute stage was reached we have drawn nearly $60,000,000 in gold from London.

Normal business and banking conditions should return to this country in a very short time. Just as soon as the premium now ruling for currency has had its effect money will become plentiful again. National banks are increasing their note issues by liberal amounts, and that will help. Those who hoard money should "get busy" picking up bargains and getting high rates of premium. Their harvest time will be short.