The year was 1926 and in Europe, it was a soggy one. In January, an early thaw and storms caused floods from England to the Rhineland. The warm weather and rains began Christmas night of 1925 and by early January, rivers were overflowing with melted snows. In the British Isles, communications via telegraph and telephone were interrupted because of flooding and cyclones and London suburbs were hit hard with flooding from the Thames. The flooding extended to the European continent including rivers and lowlands in France, Germany, Romania, Hungary, Belgium, and the Netherlands. For more information read this Time magazine article from 11 January 1926 covering the floods.
In the Soviet Union an estimated 10,000 cases of ergotism were reported in 1926. Ergot is a fungus that infects rye and when ingested, can cause convulsions, trembling, delusions, and hallucinations. In gangrenous ergotism, the poison can constrict blood vessels, causing infection and burning pain, eventually leading to gangrene. Although the cause of ergotism wasn’t identified until the mid-nineteenth century, it has since been linked to the spread of the bubonic plague and the Salem witch trials.
In northern England, Scotland, and Wales, coal miners went on strike in protest of a pay-cut. The miners fight led to a general strike when the Trades Union Congress (T.U.C.) joined them in an effort to shut down London and force the government to intervene on behalf of the miners. The government didnâ€™t agree and brought in forces to keep the city running. The strike was over quickly in London, although the miners held out for four months, but they too eventually returned to work with their demands unmet.Â
In 1926, Henry Ford created the eight-hour workday and five-day workweek for his employees and it soon became the norm. His motives werenâ€™t altogether altruistic though. He wrote in the company newsletter,
“Just as the 8-hour day opened our way to prosperity in America, so the 5-day workweek will open our way to still greater prosperity . . . It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either lost time or a class privilege . . . People who have more leisure must have more clothes. They eat a greater variety of food. They require more transportation in vehicles.”
In Florida, a land boom was turning to bust. As the Florida population was growing land speculators were buying land in the hopes of turning a quick profit when they sold it. Some were buying the land without having the money to pay for it and hoped to have the land sold before they paid for the property, using the profits to make the final purchase payment. When the land boom finally turned to bust, many speculators were stuck with overpriced land and no buyers.
While over-speculation nudged Florida into a tailspin, Mother Nature gave it an even bigger push–in the form of a hurricane that struck Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Dania, Hollywood, and Hallandale. Most of the residents were new to Florida and despite dire weather predictions from the U.S. Weather Bureau, they had no idea how severe the impending storm would be and most did nothing to prepare. When the eye of the hurricane came ashore, the now terrified residents left their homes, not realizing that the storm was not yet over. Most of the 100 people who died in Miami were those caught outside after the eye of the storm had passed.