An extremely hard-to-find stock certificate from the Gary & Interurban Railroad Company, featuring a beautiful vignette of a detailed trolley ... [ View
The Panic of 1873 was one of the worst financial crises in the nation's history. It stretched on for five years, closing banks and deflating the markets, as well as damaging people's faith in the future of the nation. The depression began on September 18 with the surprise collapse of Jay Cooke
and Co., one of the country's most reputable brokerage houses. Jay Cooke's downfall, due mainly to an ill-fated decision to fund a second transcontinental railroad line, was less a smoking gun than a highly visible symptom of America's fiscal instability. After twelve years of unchecked expansion, the economy was bloated from inflation and excess speculation and when the Panic hit, it had devastating results. Along with Jay Cooke, thirty-seven banks and two brokerage houses closed their doors on this day. In the ensuing days, the losses increased and the NYSE was forced to shut down for over a week. With the situation growing dire, the secretary of the Treasury decided to infuse the economy with $26 million in paper money. Despite the government's efforts, the Panic did not subside, and the economy continued its slump through the end of the decade.