May 9, 1873: Gründerkrach and the Long Depression

Volksbank kurz vor dem Krach (People's Bank Shortly Before the Crash) by Christian Ludwig Bokelmann

Volksbank kurz vor dem Krach (People's Bank Shortly Before the Crash) by Christian Ludwig Bokelmann

On this day in 1873 the Vienna Stock Exchange (Wiener Börse) crashed, setting off ripples that would lead to the Panic of 1873 and the Long Depression. Since it began shorty after the founding of the German Empire (aka the Second Reich) it became known as the “Founder’s Crash” or Gründerkrach.

Some theorize that it all kind of starts with Austro-Prussian War of 1866. Prussia’s quick victory at the Battle of Königgrätz/Sandowa in Bohemia ticked off the French public who had backed Austria. The French cries for “Revanche pour Sadová” would eventually help lead to the Franco-Prussia War of 1871. Both events allowed Otto von Bismarck to consolidate and finalize the Unification of Germany under the Prussian Crown without the rival powers from Habsburg Austria. This would turn Austria’s attention away from German affairs and toward Balkan and Slavic ones within its own empire. Soon they would occupy Bosnia and before you know it WWI gets underway (there are a lot more parts in between, but those are for other posts).

Battle of Königgrätz by Gegorg Bleibtreu

Battle of Königgrätz by Georg Bleibtreu

Although Austria was left out of Germany, many Germans still invested at the powerful Vienna Stock Exchange. The influx of capital into Germany from Austrian and French war reparations fueled wild speculation in the hot hi-tech items of the day like railways, factories, and steamships. America also had “irrational exuberance” in those same industries.

Panic of 1873, Run on the Banks, NYC

Panic of 1873, Run on the Banks, NYC

On this day in 1873, the bubble burst and things were not very good for a lot of people for a long time. Both European and American history are genuinely lacking in the amount of scholarship devoted to the Long Depression. The granddaddiest one of them all the Great Depression has overshadowed it. As a result I think we sometimes lose a little perspective when we only have one example to to go on.

The Burdens of the Long Depression on Pres. U.S. Grant's Shoulders

The Burdens of the Long Depression on President U.S. Grant's Shoulders

So in these down economic days of the late millenial aughts, I challenge my colleagues to pick it up a little and give us some perspect on the 1870s. From what I gather, those days seem more appropriately juxtaposed to what is going on today than the Great Depression. Please feel free to email or write any comments if you have a book that covers the Long Depression well. And happy gathering.

Update: Reading through the H-Net sites I found this call for articles from the Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory. They are putting together a special issue on “Crises and Depression.” The due date is December 1st.

Germany vs. USA: Adventskalender

Here’s a Christmas-themed episode of one of my favorite webcasts, “Germany vs. USA.” These two guys, Jim from Mississippi and Alex from Germany, regularly put together 4-5 minute videos comparing the cultural and linguistic differences between Germany and the USA. Enjoy:

From the show’s homepage:

What happens when you take a good’ole, Bible-belt, Mississippi conservative and an urbane, plurilingual, liberal, Euro-German and put them in the middle of San Francisco?

Germany vs. USA (GvU) explores the contrasts and joys of two unlikely friends, Jim and Alex, as they learn more about each other’s cutlures, languages, and the greater friendship between Europe and America. Insightful, whimsical, educational and always genuine (not to mention unscripted) the show aims to bring a slice-of-life perspective to viewers around the world.

A Song for You

Leon Russell, Willie Nelson, and Ray Charles, but the song really gets goin’ when Ray hits the mic.

One More Cup of Coffee

The White Stripes making Dylan their own:

Watching the World Wake Up from History

Here’s another example of the psychological force of an Obama victory:

I talked with my Dad, Glenn, on the phone tonight for quite awhile. We have a lot in common lately, besides just the genes and all. He and I are both living in apartments by ourselves after longterm co-habitive relationships. And oddly enough, we’re both looking forward to the Obama presidency. I was shocked!

My Dad has previously been known to me in some respects as a very racist man, a good man, but the issue of race runs inside of him so deeply. He grew up in the foothills of the Ohio Appalachians, son of the authoritarian Pike County Sheriff and a amazingly lovely woman who died of colon cancer at the tender age of 36 sending his 15 year-old life into a violent whirlwind.

There is so much more to say regarding my father’s childhood, but for now it is important to note the role that racism plays in the Appalachian upbringing. The word nigger is thrown around without a second thought. I grew up much of my life in lower-end mixed race neighborhoods where the charged atmosphere of that word rang from him into me and out with me into the world. I instinctively knew that racism of that sort is wrong, and I fought against it every step, but it’s impossible not to absorb elements of your home life into yourself in one way or another. My own problems in dealing with race have led me into embarrassing misstatements, arguments, and actual fistfights, all of which are unique stories themselves and ones I will share at various points. But this moment is for something a little different: the paradigm shift in my father’s world.

Robert Glenn Snively, Sr., my somewhat racist father, has gone from verbally hatin’ on niggers to being proud that America elected Barack Obama. Some of this has been expected. My Dad has always been a deep-down good-hearted and complex individual. When I was growing up he could turn on a dime from racial tirades to rationalizing his relationship with one of his good black friends, Willy, or telling me about his army days in Germany where he lived in a ten-man bay with nine black men he considered his brothers. So yeah, some of it is not a surprise, but mostly it just blows my mind.

Dad came out to visit me in early June this year and was lamenting Hillary’s defeat because he couldn’t fathom the idea of a black president, “I never thought I would live to see the day.” But now, with this election, there has been a sea change in him. He likes Barack Obama and he expects good things from him.

2008 has certainly been a season of change.

I love you Dad. Here’s the perfect appendix, The Cobalt Season w/”Careful Not to Draw Your Maps in Pen & Ink”:

The LA Enigma

You know, Los Angeles, I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. You entice me so much. Your mythos, your money, your mystery…your myriad of problems. You seem faster than the speed of life.

Someday I’ll pay you a visit and you can spin me around your freeways and beaches. But until then, keep shining on American Diamond and I’ll keep contemplating how your Ding an sich sparkles out to the rest of us:


According to Moby “We Are All Made of Stars.” No argument here. We’re LA-tastic!:



Or perhaps Aimee Mann has it right: you got a lot of money, but you can’t afford the “Freeway”:

It’s probably both, but what the hell do I know from afar?