The year was 1873 and much of the world was entering into a long period of economic depression. The beginning of the â€œLong Depressionâ€ is typically marked by the crash of the Vienna stock market, which sent ripples across Europe and eventually the United States with the fall of Jay Cooke & Company. The Cooke investment bank was heavily invested in the overbuilt railroad system which was beginning to fail. With the fall of this prominent company, a financial panic ensued and the New York Stock Exchange had to close for ten days. Railroads, factories, banks, and businesses had to close their doors resulting in skyrocketing unemployment rates.Â The Long Depression would last into the 1890s.
There were other smaller scale disasters in 1873. The British SS Atlantic out of Liverpool (with a stop at Queenstown) hit a submerged rock en route to New York and was wrecked in heavy seas off Nova Scotia. It is estimated that 545 of the 952 passengers perished.
In Baltimore, Maryland, a fire began in the factory of Joseph Thomas and Sons and spread over ten acres of the city.Â Photos of the fire and aftermath can be found online at the Maryland Historical Society.
A cholera epidemic swept through Birmingham, Alabama. Below is an interesting excerpt from a report from Mortimer H. Jordan, who was secretary of the Jefferson County Medical Society of Birmingham, Alabama, at the time of the epidemic (found on the website of the Reynolds Historical Library at the University of Alabama at Birmingham)
â€œThe treatment adopted was the opium and mercurial. When the stomach seemed so inactive that nothing made any impression upon it, an emetic of mustard, salt, ginger, and pepper, suspended in hot water, in many cases produced a warm glow over the surface of the body in a few moments. . . . Diuretics produced no good results. No condition in life, sex, or age escaped. The sucking babe and those of extreme age suffered alike from its ravages.Â
â€œBefore closing this paper, justice demands that we should briefly allude to the heroic and self sacrificing conduct, during this epidemic, of that unfortunate class who are known as “women of the town.” These poor creatures, though outcasts from society, anathematized by the church, despised by women and maltreated by men, when the pestilence swept over the city, came forth from their homes to nurse the sick and close the eyes of the dead. It was passing strange that they would receive no pay, expected no thanks; they only went where their presence was needed, and never remained longer than they could do good. While we abhor the degradation of these unfortunates, their magnanimous behavior during these fearful days has drawn forth our sympathy and gratitude.â€
Further north and west, Jesse James and the James-Younger gang robbed a Rock Island train near Adair, Iowa. This first train robbery netted the gang more than $2,300, but was most likely a disappointment for them. They were expecting a $100,000 gold shipment, but that shipment had been switched to another train at the last moment.
North of the border in Canada, the Dominion Parliament had more lawful goals in mind when it established the North-West Mounted Police, the predecessor of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Canada was growing and in 1873 Prince Edward IslandÂ joined the federation as Canadaâ€™s smallest province.
In music, the song Home on the Range was born (Daniel Kelly & Brewster M. Higley). The tune went on to become the state song of Kansas and is known around the world.
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