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Throwback Thursday from the Tampa Bay Times: Pandemonium on Wall Street, ca. 1968

There was pandemonium on Wall Street yesterday, as the New York Stock Exchange abruptly stopped trading for several hours, apparently due to technical issues.A different kind of pandemonium occurred on Wall Street in the fall of 1968, also causing a disruption in trading, as the entire financial district became caught up in the "sweater girl" phenomenon.

From Wikipedia: Francine Gottfried (born 1947) was an unknown clerical worker who suddenly became an international celebrity when large groups of men began to mob her on her way to work for two weeks in September 1968. Newspapers dubbed her "Wall Street's Sweater Girl" as her curvaceous figure seemed to be the sole reason that crowds formed spontaneously around her whenever she appeared in the financial district.

Gottfried first started working in the financial district on May 27, 1968. By late August, a small band of girl watchers had noticed her, and that she always followed the same route. They timed her daily arrival and started spreading the word to their colleagues and co-workers. For three weeks, the band of gawkers grew exponentially larger until on September 18 there were 2,000 people waiting for her.

By this point the crowd itself had become the phenomenon drawing the crowd, and the following day, September 19, over 5,000 financial district employees downed tools, left work and poured into the streets at 1:15 pm to watch the 5-foot 3-inch brunette exit the BMT station clad in a tight yellow sweater and miniskirt and walk to her job at the Chemical Bank New York Trust Company's downtown data processing center. Police closed the streets and escorted her through the mob, which damaged three cars as men climbed on their roofs to gain a better view. Stockbrokers and bankers leaned out of windows overlooking Wall Street to watch as trading came to a virtual halt. "Ticker tapes went untended and dignified brokers ran amok," wrote New York magazine. Photographers from all the daily papers and Life, Time, and New York snapped her picture. "A Bust Panics Wall Street As The Tape Reads 43" read a headline in the Daily News.

The following day, Friday, September 20, the corner of Wall and Broad was jammed with 10,000 spectators and press who waited for Gottfried in vain. Her boss had called and asked her to stay home to put a stop to the disturbances. A nice Jewish girl who lived at home with her parents in Williamsburg, she wasn't seeking notoriety and started taking a different route to work. "I think they're all crazy," she was quoted as saying. "What are they doing this for? I'm just an ordinary girl." After that, the Francine mania on Wall Street quickly subsided, and she eventually left her $92.50 a week job as an IBM 1260 keypunch operator to become a go-go dancer.

1. (October 5, 1968) Really Big Things Happening in Wall Street – This is the crowd of 5,000 jamming the Wall Street area today to view the latest entry in the financial district's "sweater girl derby." She's Gery Stotts, 36, of Burbank, Calif., who measures 47-29-38. Unfortunately, her prearranged noontime stroll lasted less than five minutes. As the crowd threatened to overwhelm her, police took her away in a squad car. At extreme left is the New York Stock Exchange. [Times files]

2. (September 20, 1968) SWEATER GIRL WATCHERS IN WALL STREET – Crowd gathers at Wall Street subway station in New York to await the appearance of sweater girl. Francine Gottfried, The 21-year-old Francine, employed in the financial district as an IBM machine operator, measures 43-25-37. [Times files]

3. (April 3, 1969) SHE'S A STANDOUT – Francine Gottfried, whose 43-25-37 figure attracted crowds of Wall Street oglers last year, proved she can still draw crowds as she strolled on Wall Street in New York yesterday. Francine wanted to see if she still had the same attraction. The way traffic stopped it was apparent that she hadn't lost anything. [Times files]

4. (September 19, 1968) WALL STREET FIGURE – Francine Gottfried, 21, leaves coffee shop at Chemical Bank of New York Trust Co., where she is employed as an IBM machine operator. Earlier in the day she had caused a near riot at Wall and Broad St. in New York where a crowd of about 5,000 had gathered to watch her emerge from the subway on her way to work. Miss Gottfried, who measures 43-25-37, said of the incident, "I think they're all crazy,…I'm just an ordinary girl." [Times files]

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