Great Stock Market Crashes of the 20th Century

Great Stock Market Crashes of the 20th Century
Nancy Reagan: Economics, Discovery and Daily Life

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: 3-4 class periods


On October 19, 1987, in the last year of the Reagan Presidency, the United States suffered a major stock market crash, known as Black Monday.  Although the market suffered the biggest single one-day loss of value, this crash did not even make the top ten crashes in the 20th century. Nevertheless, it had consequences.


Students who participate in this activity will learn something about the American stock markets, and explore the reasons for and extent of the "top ten" market crashes in our history.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet.  Access to print materials about the American stock market. 


1.  Ask students whether they know was a stock market crash is.  Ask if they've ever heard of the crash of the " bubble."  Give students some background about the stock market and stock market crashes, or assign them to research these topics for themselves on the web sites listed below and in print materials, as available.

2.  When students understand what both the stock market and a stock market crash are, divide the class into six groups, and, using the websites listed below, assign each group two market crashes to investigate:

Group 1

Panic of 1901

Panic of 1907

Group 2

Stock Market Crash of 1916

Stock Market Crash of 1919

Group 3

Stock Market Crash of 1929

Stock Market Crash of 1930

Group 4

Stock Market Crash of 1937

Stock Market Crash of 1939-42

Group 5

Stock Market Crash of 1973-74

Stock Market Crash of 1987-2000

Group 6

Stock Market Crash of 2002

Stock Market Crash of 2007-09

Students should study the reasons for the crash, the scope of the crash (how much of the value of stocks was lost), the length of the crash, and what factors served to bring the country back to economic "health."  (Note: some resources may differ on the severity of the market loss; have students try to resolve the discrepancies).

3.  When the research is completed, have students describe their findings in a suitable way: graphs, posters, PowerPoints, overheads, etc.

4.  Conclude the lesson with a discussion of common characteristics of stock market crashes, and possible solutions to the problem of a volatile market.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson may be extended by asking an economics teacher to talk with the students about the market, market crashes, and general market psychology, or by asking the students, after they come up with common characteristics of crashes, to speculate whether or not conditions are "ripe" for another crash in the near future.

Sources & Resources:


Houpt, Evan; Border, John. Stock Market for Beginners Book: Stock Market Basics Explained. Create Space Independent Publishing, 2014.



The Stock Market.

The New York Stock Exchange.

The American Stock Exchange 


Stock Market Crashes 

Ten Biggest Crashes in the 20th Century

The Stock Market Crash of 1987 

The Great Recession of 2007-2009 



This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.