Dead Cat Bounce

October 2009Mark Twain once said, "October. This is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks in. The others are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August, and February."

Speaking of stocks, October 29, 1929, known as "Black Tuesday," is the day that the stock market crashed, setting off the worst depression in the history of the United States. It was the end of a particularly prosperous decade as real estate values plummeted, and the stock market was a roller coaster, which continued until it finally bottomed out during the great bear market of July 1932. At that time, the Dow reached the lowest level of the entire 20th century, and did not return to pre-1929 levels until the end of 1954.

The Postal Service has designated October as National Stamp Collecting Month. This year, to celebrate the month, the Postal Service is issuing the eleventh stamp pane in an educational series which focuses on the complexity and beauty of American plants and animals. The 2009 "Nature of America: Kelp Forest" features a kelp forest off the coast of California on the front, and the back names 27 creatures which are on the front.

The first week in October is National Newspaper Week in the United States. Designed to remind people of the role that newspapers play in communities throughout the country, this special week is a time to contemplate the First Amendment, which guarantees, among other rights, the right to a free press, upon which a free society is predicated. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower said in his official statement in 1953, "On this occasion I am happy to send warm greetings to the reporters, editors and publishers of our Nation's newspapers. I know--as they must themselves--that they are custodians of a majestic trust, a solemn responsibility: to help arm our people with the knowledge and understanding without which free choice, free government, free men could not be."

October is also the month which Columbus Day is celebrated. In August, 1492, Columbus, along with 90 men, set sail in order to find a faster, easier route to Asia. Spain's Queen Isabella agreed to sponsor the expedition, provided Columbus promised to conquer some land for Spain. His ships, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria landed in the Caribbean on October 12, 1492. The island upon which they found themselves was called Guanahani by the natives, but Columbus claimed it for the Queen and named it San Salvador. When they landed in Cuba, they first thought it was Japan.

He made three more trips to the New World, and although he died a very rich and famous man, the continent he claimed for Spain was named after another explorer, Amerigo Vespucci. The first recorded celebration of his journey was in 1792, in New York City, and was arranged to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the landing. In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared the second Monday in October a federal public holiday in honor of Christopher Columbus and his voyage.

"Red October," or the "Bolshevik Revolution," was the second phase of the Russian Revolution. Beginning as an insurrection on October 25, 1917, the October Revolution managed to overthrow the Russian Provisional Government, handing over power to the Bolshevik-dominated Soviets. After Red October, the Russian Civil War broke out, lasting from 1917 to 1922, and culminated in the creation of the Soviet Union in 1922. Following the revolution, peasants throughout Russia seized private land, redistributed it amongst themselves, prompting the Decree on Land. Other decrees enacted were the nationalization of all Russian banks and confiscation of all private accounts therein, control over all factories, and church property and money was taken by the new government. This was the first Communist government in Russia, which later became the USSR.

The first game of the first World Series was played on October 1, 1903. The series was played by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston, and the "best-of-nine" series was called the "World Championship Series. The Boston team's name is the subject of some controversy, given as the Pilgrims, the Puritans, and the Americans. Whatever their name, they won that first contest 5 games to 3. In any event, despite the interesting articles and stories which abound, their name is no longer a matter of debate: it is the Boston Red Sox.

Among those who celebrate -- or used to celebrate -- their birthdays in the month of October are Johnny Carson, Mahatma Gandhi, Scott Bakula, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charlie Daniels, Gwen Stefani, Oscar Wilde, Matt Damon, Taylor Hicks, and John Cougar Mellencamp.

October was a busy month for mothers of American presidents, as well, as evidenced by the fact that John Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester A. Arthur, Teddy Roosevelt, and Jimmy Carter were all born in that month.

Extra credit reading: