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.

You Really Don’t Wanna Face the Wrath of the German Santa

Still can’t get enough of these guys.

Here are Jim and Alex talking about Saint Nikolaus and his dark, little “mini-me”/evil-twin type character Knecht Ruprecht who rolls w/Santa and beats all of the naughty little kids with either a pole, a stick, or some kind of tree root.

And to think that we only give them coal instead of candy! Heck, coal has little remedial value. In fact, a smart little naughty American kid will claim that it is “clean coal” and make a tidy little profit off of it by selling it to a pandering member of Congress. But a good whoppin’ with a birch root? Now that’ll show the little bastards.

Merry Christmas y’all…and Fröhliche Weihnachten! Sretan Božić! in the Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian tongues (although, of course, they celebrate it at different times, but that’s a whole other story).

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.

Ode to Beautiful Jugendstil Darmstadt

Or at least what’s left of it. Much of it was unfortunately destroyed by Allied bombing in World War II, the worst of which was on September 11, 1944. But there are still traces of beauty that endure. Since I spent five of the most wonderful years of my life there, I want to share these pictures and brief comments:


This is the beautiful Schloß Marktplatz circa 1900 where they hold the yearly Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market). This area was spared the bombing and still looks exactly now as it did back then.


Just across the way from the Marktplatz is the main square of town, the Luisenplatz, where every strata of life mixes from the businesswoman changing trains to loitering beer-swilling punk rockers with green-spiked hair.






These last five images are of the Rosenhöhe (Rose Hill) upon whose benches I first fell in love. Smiles to you Angi Zimmer, wherever you are.


This wonderful place is Ground Zero for the Jugendstil movement (German variant of Art Nouveau). It was founded by Hesse-Darmstadt Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig in 1899 as an artist colony where the people of his duchy could contemplate all of the possibilities of life. It thankfully also survived the bombing.



These two pictures are of the Orangerie, the beautiful Baroque garden I used bike through everyday on my way to work. I used to pick really tart kumquats off of trees lining this path when the mood would strike.




And finally it’s nice to know there will be more than just nostalgia when I go back to visit Darmstadt. This is one of Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s final creations, Waldspirale (Wooded Spiral). I’ve never seen it in the flesh because it was finished in 2000, two years after I moved and a year after Hundertwasser died. And yes, this is a real residential apartment house with real people living in it. Hmmm, might I one day be one of them???