September 24, 1869. On this day, the United States gold market declined precipitously following a price manipulation by James Fisk and Jay Gould. During the Civil War a few years before, American money was backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, but not by a commodity like gold or silver. Following the War, the federal government began buying back this currency with gold and then using the currency to redeem government bonds; this stabilized the currency, but caused the price of gold to drop to its lowest level in years. Fisk and Gould took advantage of this and began buying gold, which cause the price to increase. In the process, they attempted to convince U.S. President Ulysses Grant to limit the amount of gold released, which drove the price still higher. This conspiracy came to a head on Black Friday when Treasury Secretary George Boutwell realized what was happening and released a large amount of government-owned gold. This caused the price to crash.
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