The great epizootic of 1872. Equine Influenza Devastates America. AMERICA COMES TO A HALT.
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The great epizootic of 1872
Equine Influenza Devastates America
Imagine a transportation disaster that within 90 days affected every aspect of American transportation, everything Americans took for granted, everything that ensured their safety, every city, town and village where they lived, and left everything in its path under siege.
Once upon a time, America derived most of its power from a natural, renewable resource that was roughly as efficient as an automobile engine but did not pollute the air with nitrogen dioxide or suspended particulate matter or carcinogenic hydrocarbons. This power source was versatile. Hooked up to the right devices, it could thresh wheat or saw wood. It was also highly portable — in fact, it propelled itself — and could move either along railroad tracks or independently of them.
10/14- Buffalo, NY
10/19- Syracuse, NY
10/21- Keene, NH
10/22- NY, NY
10/23- Bangor, Me
10/26- Pontiac, Mi
10/28- Wash D.C.
11/1- Newark, De
11/4- Springfield, Ill
11/6- Richmond, Va
11/27- New Orleans
A highly contagious strain of equine influenza originated in Toronto, Canada and swept south into the US in late 1872, affecting the entire country within 90 days. It is estimated that 80%-99% of horses were eventually infected. Horses were unable to stand in their stables and were seen coughing violently in the streets.
Imagine an equestrian health disaster that crippled all of America, halted the government in Washington DC, stopped the ships in New York, burned Boston to the ground and forced the cavalry to fight the Apaches on foot...
In Philadelphia, streetcar companies suspended service; undelivered freight accumulated at wharves and railroad depots; consumers lacked milk, ice and groceries; saloons lacked beer; work halted at construction sites, brickyards and factories; and city governments curtailed fire protection and garbage collection.
Physicians struggled to reach patients in a timely manner. Firemen hitched themselves to wagons. While the mortality rate was relatively low, estimated at only 1%-2% overall, large cities lost many more horses than in rural areas. Since there were no horses to haul coal out of mines, many railroads went bankrupt as well as thousands of other businesses.
A four story horse hotel to quarantine the animals. The city of Philadelphia reported the loss of 2500. There were 600,000 horses in the state of New York alone, over 90% fell ill.
Reporting in the New York Times gives an insight into the extent of the outbreak. "There is hardly a public stable in the city which is not affected, while the majority of the valuable horses owned by individuals are for the time being useless to their owners," the paper reported on October 24, 1872. "It is not uncommon along the streets of the city to see horses dragging along with drooping heads and at intervals coughing violently."
Five days later it reported that 95% of all the horses in Rochester, New York, were affected. "Large quantities of freight are accumulating along the Erie Railway in Paterson, New Jersey. The disease is spreading rapidly in Bangor, Maine. All fire department horses in Providence, Rhode Island, are sick."
By November 1, the Times was discussing the likely cost of the epidemic.
"What will be the effect of even a temporary withdrawal of the horsepower from the nation, is a serious question to contemplate," its correspondent wrote. "Coal cannot be hauled from the mines to run locomotives, farmers cannot market their produce, boats cannot reach their destination on the canals ...”The writer continued: "There seems to be no longer any doubt that the horse disease has reached Chicago and that several hundred animals are already affected. The fatality arising from the epidemic is on the increase in Boston, with deaths averaging 25 to 30 daily."
One of the major casualties of the Great Epizootic was the city of Boston itself. A great fire swept through the industrial section on November 9, ultimately destroying 26 hectares of the city, comprising 776 buildings.
No one is certain how the fire started. The water supply in the area was inadequate, and many of the buildings had wooden roofs and were filled with flammable materials. Citizens of Boston were forced to haul water to the location on foot, without the assistance of heavy, faster-moving horses.
Captain John Bourke was one of the most famous soldiers to emerge from that conflict. He served on the staff of General George Crook, who had been described as “the greatest Indian fighter the army ever had.” After the conclusion of his military career, in 1891 Bourke wrote a detailed account of his adventures in Arizona. "There was still another source of discomfort which should not be overlooked. At that time the peculiar disease known as the epizootic made its appearance in the United States and reached Arizona, crippling the resources of the Department in horses and mules; we had to abandon our animals, and take our rations and blanket upon our backs, and do the best we could" Bourke wrote.
The Chiricahua Apache chief, Cochise, was a famous mounted guerrilla.
After the end of the Civil War, railroad construction in the United States had been booming. By 1873 railroad mileage had doubled itself since 1869, and this was a cause of rash speculation. Between 1866 and 1873, 35,000 miles of new track were laid across the country. Banks and other industries were putting their money in railroads. While business was expanding the currency was contracting. Paper money had depreciated, and the conditions foreboded a crash. So when the banking firm of Jay Cooke and Company, a firm heavily invested in railroad construction, closed its doors on September 18, 1873, a major economic panic swept the nation.
The failure of so many railroads, unable to function without the availability of horses, contributed greatly to the speculative collapse. Saddled by so much debt, the lack of revenue during the epidemic made it very difficult for the companies to meet their obligations. The collapse was disastrous for the nation’s economy. Other strong institutions tottered and thousands of people in every rank of life were stricken with absolute ruin.
The blow was felt for years in impaired credit, pressure for payment of dues, the lowering of securities and general dread of even safe enterprises. Savings were exhausted and many banks went under. The New York Stock Exchange closed its doors for ten days. Credit dried up, foreclosures were common. Factories closed, costing thousands of worker’s their jobs. A startling 89 of the country’s 364 railroads crashed into bankruptcy. In two years, a total of 18,000 businesses failed and by 1876, unemployment in this country was at 14 percent.
THE IMPACT ON PRICES
Consumers“willingness to buy”
Price decreases; QD increases
0 10 20 35 55 80
…a specifiedtime period
…other things being equal
QD – how much will be purchased at a specific price [& date].
Law of Supply
Price increases; QS increases
Price decreases; QS decreases
“S”refers to the“whole supply curve”and refers to what
producers will supply at“different prices”.
“QS”refers to a“point on the curve”and refers to what
producers will supply at a“particular price”.
Change in “QS”
1. Price change
(up/down “S” curve)
3. Point to point
(along “S” curve)
Producers want the
highest price possible.
Reasons For Upsloping “S” Curve
1. There is increasing opportunity cost if you don’t produce.
2. Current producers produce more [overtime/more shifts]
3. New producers are attracted to the market.
Price of Corn
Connect the Points
10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80
Quantity of Corn
GRAPHING SUPPLY [Change in QS]
Price of Corn
Plot the Points
Connect the Points
10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80
Quantity of Corn
Price (per pound)
Price (per flag)
Patriotism Surge after 9/11…