The Year Was 1873

The year was 1873 and much of the world was entering into a long period of economic depression. The beginning of the “Long Depression” 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. 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. 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)

“The 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. 

“Before 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.”

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 Island joined the federation as Canada’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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10 thoughts on “The Year Was 1873

  1. I love this feature too! I am printing all of them and keeping them in a three-ring binder, as every year gives a condensed timeline that is so important to when our families came to America.

  2. Do you have site where I can get a copy of all these ” Year Was ” features that you have printed so far? I have started studying history in order to help me understand some of the timelines in my research.

    Thank You, Joan Lente

  3. This is just a terrific idea, please do more! This one actually helped answer a couple of questions I’ve had regarding our family…being able to put events in historical contents sure adds to the story. Thanks!

  4. I loved the article on the James boys, mainly because they were my great great uncles. Their sister, Susan married Allen Parmer. a member of Quantrill’s band, had 4 daughters, one of which was Zelma Parmer Edwards, my Grandmother. It’s great fun to be related to these infamous bandits! Nancy Walker

  5. 1873, A great year for grandparents! Two of mine were born that year. (Actually I hadn’t even noted before that they were born in the same year). One was the daughter of a silk weaver in Macclesfield, Cheshire, England. It would be seven more years before she came over to the United States. The other was the son of a recently married oyster dealer in Camden New Jersey, the first of many occupations for him. These year highlights are really a delightful way to examine your families in new lights. And I love the references. Keep them coming.

  6. These historical articles are great! They give us such insight to our ancestors’ “current events”.
    I would love to see some info on Missouri history in the 1800’s, especially about the 1811 earthquake that changed the Mississippi River (recently on The History Channel).
    Keep up the good work !

  7. Love these articles. We have a gggrandfather who barely survived the SS Atlantic shipwreck, so it was especially nice to see that included.

  8. I tried to print Year Was 1873, using printer friendly version, but got Quick Tips instead.

  9. This an attempt to connect to Nancy Walker. My Great Grandfather George Robert (an orphan) may have lived with Allen Parmer in Wichita Falls. I can send you pictures of George to see if he appears in any photo’s you may have.
    Please contact us. We are on the verge of finding his family.

    Susanna Lamont
    [email protected]

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