Animal Farm and the Stock Market

Newspapers and broadcasters often use the terms bulls and bears when they report on the stock market. Bulls are investors who make money when prices of stocks go up, and bears make money when the prices go down. The bulls and bears at the Stock Exchange in New York symbolize the ups and downs. Stock market crashes of the last decade are not the first and will not be the last. Banks already collapsed in medieval times.

The crash in 1873 produced the worst depression in nineteenth century America. The terms bulls and bears were used to visualize and satirize the daily battle between bullish and bearish investors. The American painter William Holbrook Beard (1824-1900) depicted the investors by painting them as bulls and bears in a huge battle against the backdrop of New York’s financial centre, the modern battle of the giants. He painted the picture six years after the crash in 1873. He also painted the fantasy of dancing bears, celebrating a good business day. This romantic, beautiful picture was painted before the bulls and bears in the market, most likely as a result of the crash in 1873.

A bull on the left is chasing a bear up the red pole. In front of the Stock Exchange (the depicted building was later torn down and replaced by the current Stock Exchange on the same spot), a bear is tossed in the air. In the front right, a group of bears examine the hide of a bull they have slaughtered. In the extreme lower right a bear takes a break to study his account book, above him and in the middle ground a bear is using a rope to try and lasso a bull. The painting captures the emotions, energy and passion of the stock exchange that will never change. Satire, caricature and humour are the best weapons to depict society, political, religious and social issues and democracies in Europe and America should always cherish the use and free press in this respect. (Source: New-York Historical Society).