Nate Sameth got his first job on Wall Street 10 days before the Crash of 1929. He was straight out of college, making $15 a week as assistant chief statistician at a nice little over-the-counter brokerage operation called Hoyt, Rose, and Troster. He wore his official white coat for about two weeks before his boss, the chief statistician gave him the bad news -- they just couldn't keep the chief statistician either.

The story has a happy ending. The male stenographer at the firm was promoted to chief statistician (as well as stenographer), became an expert in over-the-counter securities and eventually became a professor at New York University.

And Nate Sameth, who contemplatively puffed on his pipe as he told this story last night at an art exhibit commemorating the Crash, didn't do too badly either. He joined the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1934, married an economist there, and eventually became chief finanical analyst, now retired.

Sameth and other art and stock market buffs and gathered for a preview of a collection of Crash memorabilia at the National Portrait Gallery.

"It's a little grisly, but otherwise a wonderful idea," said one guest, glancing around the gallery, appropriately set up with bushels of apples, food stands, and one-man band Bob Devlin playing tunes like "Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?" and "Keep Your Sunny Side up."

Among the party regulars was James Edwin Buck, secretary of the New York Stock Exchange, in three-piece suit. "Actually, I haven't checked the market today," he said, when asked how it was doing. "Oh, but don't print that." Buck helped the gallery obtain the 35 cartoons in the exhibit, many by a New York World cartoonist named Denys Wortman.

Wortman's son was there from Cambridge, Mass. "Guess what he does!" exclaimed a friend with the younger Wortman. The answer -- stockbroker. ("My father died before I became a stockbroker," Wortman said. "He didn't lose a lot of money then -- he didn't have a lot. He was a struggling artist.")

No one predicted another crash. "The government insulates us all." said Knight Kiplinger, a financial reporter, whose grandfather started the well-known Kiplinger Letter, a financial newsletter.