The Panic of 1901 was triggered by more competition over the railroads. Company consolidation was roaring along full swing at the turn of the 20th century and two businessmen -- James J. Hill and E. H. Harriman -- were in stiff competition for a key railway company. Hill and his backers managed to secure the deal, but not before Harriman and his associates tried to snap up one of his opponent's other main railway lines.
As Harriman snatched stocks from Hill's company, other railroad stocks started to show declines as people panicked. Soon, the whole market followed, and it wasn't long before absolute pandemonium raged across the floor of the stock exchange. Typically respectable men grew wild-eyed and violent, and the ticker tape lagged so far behind the extreme rush of transactions that the final one didn't tick by until more than 15 minutes after the closing bell rang.