This crossing was home to the first pirate of Wall St–one William Kidd. Captain Kidd made for an unlikely pirate. Born the son of a Scottish minister, he became a prosperous merchant and sea captain, married one of the wealthiest widows in New York, and became an elder of Trinity Church.
And this was Kidd’s home—a stately white house overlooking Pearl Street, just steps up from the Water Gate that once stood at the intersection of Wall and Pearl. The year is 1690. Notice the boats beached along Pearl St—back then, the water came right up to its edge, but now Pearl Street sits several streets from the shore.
Kidd literally had a license to steal. Back then, most nations licensed pirates to raid enemy shipping – they called them privateers. When England and France went to war in 1688, the Governor of New York asked his good friend, “the trusty and well beloved Captain Kidd” to attack French ships.
Kidd mounted an expedition, financed by many of the greatest lords of England, and perhaps the King himself. But out on the high seas, Kidd began to break the rules by capturing ships not covered under his license, certain that his prominent backers would protect him. Not so – he was declared a pirate, pursued and caught by the navy, and finally tried and hanged for piracy in London.
But pirates continued to thrive in New York: “It is certain that these villains” wrote an East India Company official, “frequently say that they carry their unjust gains to New York, where they are permitted egress and regress without control, spending such coin there in the usual lavish manner of such persons!”
The pirates boosted the sagging local economy. New York merchants such as Steven De Lancey – of Delancey Street – financed ships that sailed halfway around the world to sell provisions and arms to New York pirates operating out of St. Mary’s Island, Madagascar. And shares in these voyages – some promising a twenty-fold return on investment – were openly traded in taverns along Wall Street, one of which (the Tontine Coffee House) became the home of the New York Stock Exchange.
Experience these and other stories in our Wall Street tour. We offer a unique NY tour experience, told with audio narration, hundreds of pictures, video clips, gps-enabled map, trivia quizzes, local recommendations, and much more. Walk New York with Racontrs in your hand and take a walk through history.