Wall Street is a street in Lower Manhattan, New York City. It runs east from Broadway to South Street on the East River, through the historical center of the Financial District. It is the first permanent home of the New York Stock Exchange; over time Wall Street became the name of the surrounding geographic neighborhood. Wall Street is also shorthand (or a metonym) for the "influential financial interests" of the American financial industry, which is centered in the New York City area.
Several major U.S. stock and other exchanges remain headquartered on Wall Street and in the Financial District, including the NYSE, NASDAQ, AMEX, NYMEX, and NYBOT.
The name of the street derives from the 17th century when Wall Street formed the northern boundary of the New Amsterdam settlement. In the 1640s basic picket and plank fences denoted plots and residences in the colony. Later, on behalf of the Dutch West India Company, Peter Stuyvesant, in part using African slaves, led the Dutch in the construction of a stronger stockade, a strengthened 12-foot (4 m) wall against attack from various Native American tribes. In 1685 surveyors laid out Wall Street along the lines of the original stockade. The wall was dismantled by the British colonial government in 1699. In the late 18th century, there was a buttonwood tree at the foot of Wall Street under which traders and speculators would gather to trade informally. In 1792, the traders formalized their association with the Buttonwood Agreement. This was the origin of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
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As a figure of speech contrasted to "Main Street," the term "Wall Street" can refer to big business interests against those of small business and the working of middle class. It is sometimes used more specifically to refer to research analysts, shareholders, and financial institutions such as investment banks. Whereas "Main Street" conjures up images of locally owned businesses and banks. While the phrase "Wall Street" is commonly used interchangeably with the phrase "Corporate America," it is also sometimes used in contrast to distinguish between the interests, culture, and lifestyles of investment banks and those of Fortune 500 industrial or service corporations.
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