Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Great Epizootic of 1872

Since a few of you have asked that I make this a stand-alone article and not simply a part of a larger article, here it is. 

The Great Epizootic of 1872

So now, let's talk about a mysterious illness that brought a halt to our economy in 1872. It affected thousands. It was a plague that stopped Americans from working and changed the way we lived at the time. It was really a mysterious epidemic that swept America.

As for the word Epizootic? Epizootic is an adjective "denoting or relating to a disease that is temporarily prevalent and widespread in an animal population." As a noun, it denotes "an outbreak of an epizootic disease." It is the non-human equivalent of an epidemic.

It is said that the world of 1872 ran on horsepower for a good reason. Because of how that plague affected horses, it was a plague affecting what we humans absolutely relied on at the time. Horses pulled stagecoaches, fancy carriages, carts, and even city streetcars.

Besides transportation needs, horses were also harnessed to both plow and farm equipment, move food to market, and pull boats on rivers. Horses were depended on for mail, milk delivery, ambulances, doctor visits, paddy-wagons, used by the U.S. cavalry, and, of course, to pull fire wagons to get steam-powered water pumps to the scene of a fire.

Fire engines, which were once small enough for gangs of men to pull through streets, were by then so large that they needed horses in harness to move them. Since all cities were mostly built of wood, a fire was always a constant threat. And while the Great Fire of Boston of 1872 that consumed 776 buildings was blamed on the poor response, many said it was because there were no horses available to pull fire pumps that the delay took place. Imagine the destruction of 776 buildings? Imagine the number of people that were displaced?

Every aspect of commerce in 1872 was moved by horses. Horses were essential to pulling all sorts of wagons, including supply wagons of every kind. To get an idea of their importance, horses hauled coal from mines, that coal was used by railroads and steamships. Without that coal, trains didn't move, and ships didn't sail. And of the many occupations that felt the ill effects of the epizootic, teamsters were out of work simply because they weren't needed. Yes, even corpses bound for cemeteries ended up piling up because there were no horses to pull the wagons to get them there.

The disease first struck horses outside of Toronto, Canada, in September of 1872 and then crossed into the United States by way of New York a month later in October of that same year.

What was it? It was an equine influenza epidemic, the likes of which no one saw before. And as with what happens with people who have the flu (influenza), the first symptoms are a higher than normal temperature, coughing, sneezing, loss of appetite, a runny nose, and general weakness. Yes, exactly the same as with people who have the flu. And exactly as with us, infected horses can barely stand, much less do any kind of work.

During that time, people had to resort to primitive means of using wheelbarrows to move supplies, mail, ice, and groceries. In Chicago, the main post office organized men pushing wheelbarrows to move mail to and from the train stations. In many instances, men used goats, dogs, and even milk cows as substitutes for draft horses. Imagine that. Some reports say men were hired to pull wagons and streetcars by hand.

It soon became common knowledge that horses and mules and donkeys were all susceptible to being infected, but bovine such as oxen were not. With that, it didn't take long for oxen to bring premium prices. In fact, some cities were known to ship in oxen during that emergency.

Since the cities in the East were affected worse than the towns and cities out West at first simply because of exposure, it is said that cities saw tens of thousands of horses sidelined with the equine flu. Some newspapers reported that merchants are unable to get goods from the depots to stores or ship goods out.

We have to keep in mind that at that time, more than half of all Americans lived in rural areas of towns with relatively small populations, on ranches and farms. As with most epidemics, the rural areas were not affected as severely as the urban areas. At least, at first. Of course, most urban horses and mules were incapacitated for a week or two.

Cities in the East were starting to fill with listless horses that were very noticeable because they would stand with drooping heads. Most stricken horses are said to have had trouble merely staying on their feet. Those sick horses that did plod along in harness did so while others were confined for treatment in stables and livery where they most likely spread the disease to other horses there.

Part of the problem at the time is that veterinarians initially had no idea how to treat them. Many veterinarians warned against archaic treatments such as blood-letting or purging sick horses with laxatives. While that was the case for some veterinarians, other veterinarians recommended all sorts of medicines and instant cures. Some owners changed their horse diets. Others bathed their horses in disinfectants and acids. Some cures advertised in newspapers were simply harmless snake-oil no different than that sold off the back of a medicine show wagon. Others were worse and actually killed some horses. According to reports, about 1% of the animals died. The rest did fully recover.

On October 25, 1872, The New York World newspaper ran the headline, Is America to Be Horseless?

An 1872 report on equine influenza describes the disease as: "An epizootic specific fever of a very debilitating type, with inflammation of the respiratory mucous membrane, and less frequently of other organs, having an average duration of ten to fifteen days, and not conferring immunity from a second attack in subsequent epizootics."

While it was fortunate for all that the mysterious condition was rarely fatal, what became known as the "Canadian Horse Disease" became the "most destructive recorded episode of equine influenza in history."

While the Great Epizootic of 1872 swept across the country to California, mortality among the horses was relatively low, and most horses survived. Part of the success in beating that epidemic is that people learned from it and adjusted their behavior. Most owners learned that infected animals spread the disease. It became understood that one sick horse could infect an entire herd by contaminating feed and water, especially if confined in a stable or livery.

While initially lost as to find answers, veterinarians learned that animals succumbing to the flu were in most cases already in poor health. If they weren't already in poor health, their owners overcompensated for the loss of other horses by pushing healthy horses too hard.

Despite the media passing along useless and even harmful information, yes, like today, most soon learned that the equine flu's most effective treatment was rest and time. As with people who realize that a cold and flu has to run it's course, the same was with the horse flu of 1872. Owners found that forcing horses that were close to recovering back to work too soon risked relapses. Most learned that giving their animals clean water and allowed them to rest would result in their recovery.

It should be noted that while conditions in Eastern cities improved, the West suffered terribly from a shortage of horses. Since towns were isolated in many cases by many miles, and the U.S. Army was adversely affected, troops who were normally mounted cavalry were forced to march and fight on foot. The vast majority of affected horses that survived were back to full health with rest. Until their horses recovered, many in the cavalry became infantry. 

It's a safe bet to say those used to riding who were suddenly afoot weren't happy. I'm sure it wasn't to their liking.

Tom Correa

Monday, November 16, 2020

The SS Arctic & The SS Pacific of the Collins Line

The SS Pacific 1849

The first SS Pacific of note to have vanished did so in 1856. In that case, the SS Pacific was a wooden-hulled, sidewheel steamer built in 1849 specifically as a part of the transatlantic service with the Collins Line. It was a steamship that was designed strictly to outclass its British rival which was specifically the Cunard Line. The SS Pacific and her three sister ships were considered the largest and fastest transatlantic steamships of their day.

That SS Pacific, which should not to be confused with the SS Pacific that went down off the Washington state coast in 1875, started out setting a new transatlantic speed record in her first year of service. But then, mysteriously, only after five years in operation in the Atlantic, she disappeared. It's true. On January 23, 1856, while on a voyage from Liverpool, England, to New York, her crew, and 200 passengers simply vanished and were never seen again. 

She was commanded by Captain Asa Eldridge of Yarmouth, Massachusetts. Yes, he was a true Cape Cod skipper with a great reputation as a good captain and a superb navigator. Capt. Eldridge was born on July 25, 1809. He was the son of Capt. John Eldridge, who was ship captain of with his own slendid reputation. It's said that as with most all Cape Cod boys of the time, young Asa Eldridge went to sea early and worked his way up to command what can only be considered many fine ships. He sailed for years with the Dramatic Line and then with the Collins Line both of which belonged to American shipping magnate E.K. Collins out of Massachusetts and New York.

Edward Knight Collins was a shipping magnate who I find very interesting simply because of the ups and downs of his life. He was born in 1802 and went from this business to that, until 1836 when he launched the Dramatic Line of sailing ships. Actually, "sailing packets" to be correct. The packet trade of the transatlantic was all about shipping regularly scheduled cargo, passenger, and mail trade by ship. The ships are called "packet boats" or "sailing packets" because their original function was to carry "packets of mail." A "packet ship" was originally a vessel employed to carry post office mail packets to and from British colonies, as well as British embassies, across around the world. 

American shipper E.K Collins's main transatlantic competition was Great Britain's Cunard Line. Though he grew to have a huge share of what was considered "the world’s most important shipping route" of the day, that route between New York and Liverpool, he received a U.S. government subsidy in 1847 to carry mail on that route.

Known as the "Collins Line," its inaugural voyage took place in April 1850. Because of the cost to build and operate bigger steamships, and the fact that his ships were considered to be the biggest, fastest, and most luxurious on the Atlantic, Collins went back to Congress for an increase in his subsidy for carrying mail in 1852. His line had four steamships, the SS Atlantic, SS ArcticSS Baltic, and the SS Pacific

The SS Arctic 1850

As for the SS Arctic, her last commander was Captain James F. Luce who was said to have been a very experienced ship's captain. Over the years, the ship gained a reputation as being one of the fastest ocean liners of her day. In fact, in February of 1852,  she set a record when she reached Liverpool in 9 days, 17 hours, which was thought to be extremely exceptional -- especially considering it was a winter crossing. During that time, the SS Arctic became the most famous ship of the Collins Line. Those were the days when she was known as the "Clipper of the Sea."

The SS Arctic sunk in 1854. It was on September 27, 1854, while en route to New York from Liverpool, that the SS Arctic collided with the much smaller French-owned SS Vesta about 50 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. While there were problems later determining who was actually aboard the SS Arctic, it's believed that she had about 250 passengers and 150 crewmen aboard when she went down. The tale of her sinking shook society at the time. 

In accordance with the maritime regulations of the day, the SS Arctic did in fact only carry six lifeboats, the total capacity of which was around 180 people. Remember, there were about 400 people aboard. That number included women and children. Sadly as it is, it wouldn't be until after the sinking of the White Star Line's RMS Titanic in 1912 that the issue of not having enough lifeboats would be addressed by the authorities who put forth those maritime regulations on both sides of the Atlantic.

On that September day in 1854, Capt. Luce ordered the lifeboats launched. It was soon after his order given that he realized that his crewmen along with several male passengers piled into the lifeboats. Yes, that included the French Ambassador who was en route to New York. He is said to have jumped from the ship to get into one of the last lifeboats.

Everyone else was left to survive the frigid water on makeshift rafts. Of course, the women and children aboard were simply left to die. When many of us think about those days, we think of chivalry and self-sacrifice, the essence of doing the right thing. That was not the case that day. No, not at all. Cowardice and self-preservation prevailed over goodness and honor. 

Unable to leave the ship, those who didn't crowd into the lifeboats simply went down with the ship when she finally slipped away and sank four hours after the collision. Captain Luce, himself, unlike his crew, knew his duty and initially went down with his ship. Yes, initially. The fact is, he survived. Captain Luce had resurfaced after initially going down with the ship. Imagine that. It's something that I've never heard of ever happening. And by the way, when he was rescued later, it was lucky for him that he was found. The fact is, it was after two days of searching that his half-dead body was found clinging to a piece of the wreckage -- actually the paddle-wheel box.

Of the six lifeboats? Two of the six lifeboats safely reached the Newfoundland shore. One lifeboat was retrieved from the ocean by a passing steamer that joined the search for survivors. A few survivors were in fact rescued clinging on to their make-shift rafts. Some didn't make it and died. As for the other three lifeboats, no one knows what became of them because they disappeared without a trace.

Of the 85 survivors of the sinking of the SS Arctic, 61 were crew members and 24 were young male passengers. All of which would be a disservice to men everywhere if they were called "men." Of the more than 300 lives lost, almost all were women and children. In fact, what's shamefully true about the sinking of the SS Arctic is that all the women and children on board perished. Among those lost was the wife and two children of Edward Collins himself. He lost his entire family that day.  

I find it interesting how the public's grief quickly turned to rage and condemnation of the crew as the full story started to survive. Accounts started to come forward of how the lifeboats were launched in an atmosphere of panic among a crew that completely ignored the basic principle of "women and children first." 

The cowardice of the crew, and their dereliction of duty towards their passengers, soon reflected on all sailors and not simply that horrid group of worthless individuals that made-up the crew of the SS Arctic. Formal inquiries were demanded by many. The public wanted authorities to look into the disaster. Americans wanted to know about the sorry actions of the crew. Some called for the crew to be hanged. But in the end, no formal inquiry was held beyond the insurance investigation. And sadly, for the sake of justice, not one of the crew was ever called to account for their actions. 

As for that crew, Captain Luce was exonerated from any blame and retired from the sea. It's said that the American crewmen who survived the SS Arctic sinking, those responsible for letting women and children drown, chose to stay in Canada instead of returning home to the United States. Many didn't want to return in fear for their lives as some called for retribution.

Less than two years later in 1856, the Collins Line's SS Pacific disappeared without a trace on her way from Liverpool to New York. Over a hundred years later in 1991, a ship's wreckage was found off the coast of Wales, and many claimed that wreckage was the SS Pacific, I read where there was a question whether the wreckage was indeed the SS Pacific

The problem with identifying that discovered wreckage as the SS Pacific had to do with there not being anything to corroborate that it was the lost vessel. Also, over the years that wreckage has proven to be a ship that may have been lost to the sea in the late-1860s or later because of some of the dated artifacts that have been recovered.
As for the mystery of that SS Pacific, there is a story about how someone is said to have once found a message in a bottle. Yes, a message in a bottle, right off the west coast of mainland Scotland in 1861. Supposedly, the note said the SS Pacific hit an iceberg and sunk. Is that story real considering all hands and passengers were lost and there was never a trace of any debris, cargo, personal effects, or bodies? No one knows for certain.

That was 1856, the same year that Congress canceled their increased subsidy of the Collins Line. With two of its Line's four steamships sank and the subsidies ended, the Collins Line struggled until it simply could not make ends meet. By February of 1858,  the Collins Line shut their doors and folded up. 

As for Edward Collins himself, he moved to his summer home which was known as "Collinswood" located in Wellsville, Ohio. It's said he dabbled in coal and oil for a while. He then remarried and by 1862, in the middle of the Civil War, he moved to New York City. 

On January 22, 1878, almost 22 years to the day that he lost his first wife and children in the sinking of the SS Arctic, and almost 20 years since losing the Collins Line, he died. As for the rest of the story? Well, believe it or not, it's said that the once-wealthy shipping magnate E.K. Collins is buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York. Yes, an unmarked grave. Imagine that.

Tom Correa

Monday, November 9, 2020

Victor Davis Hanson on the 2020 Election

Dear Friends, 

Here is a great commentary by Victor Davis Hanson regarding the recent election. I am sharing this with you because it is such a great commentary of what has taken place.  I hope you find this as fascinating as I do. 

Tom Correa

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Who Was Texas Guinan

She was born Mary Louise Cecilia Guinan on January 12, 1884, in Waco, Texas. Her parents were Irish immigrants who arrived in Canada and migrated to the United States. Mary Louise went on the stage at a young age. At a young age, she left home in search of fame and fortune. While that's not unusual for someone who sees their small town as limiting, her dreams led her to fame of sorts.  

For a number of years, she barnstormed with stage companies and then was part of travel rodeos. She is reported to have joined a Wild West Show before she ended up in Chicago where she got married to a newspaper cartoonist in 1905. Supposedly, her first marriage only lasted two years. By 1906, she was divorced and living in New York City working as a juggler, singer, and dancer on Vaudeville. 

She was known to a gifted storyteller who had the gift of gab. The vivacious Mary Louise was described as a combination "barking P.T. Barnum and flirtatious Mae West."  It wasn't because of her size, or because she was also known for being loud, brassy, obnoxious, and sarcastic with everyone that met that she was saddled with the moniker "Texas Guinan." She was from Texas. 

In Chicago, she had parts of increasing importance in a series of musical comedies and revues, including Miss Bob White, The Hoyden, The Gay Musician, and The Passing Show of 1913

By 1917,  she landed in California where she landed a job as an actress in about 200 silent films known as "two-reelers," films that were about 20 minutes long. Because of her talent with horse and familiarity with guns, she usually played the part of the Western heroine who wasn't afraid to grab a six-gun or the reins of a horse. It's said her small parts actually creating a new role for the Western woman in films -- one who wasn't afraid to be a heroine. In those films, she typically portrayed a blunt, aggressive, Western heroine more in the tradition of the dime-novel. It was during this time that she was also part of a troop of entertainers who when to France to entertain the troops during World War I. 

As for her appearances in films, it's said that her "cowgirl heroine" act in movies was fairly unique in film at a time. That's very true when one considers how women in Westerns, what film-makers called "Horse Operas" or "Oaters," were normally cast as helpless damsels in distress who needed a tall, dark, and handsome hero to come to their rescue. While she was looked upon as unique,  she was already looked at as being too old to work in films even by the Hollywood standards of the time. To fight being alienated from being cast because of her age and the fact that she wasn't very slim, she tried running her own silent film production company for a while. 

As an actress in silent movies, Texas Guinan created a new kind of heroine in films. But since she was not a quiet or shy person, her brassy attitude, age, and size all worked against her in Hollywood. Of course, that didn't stop her from being herself. In fact, I'd say it was her being herself that landed her in a position more suited to she was. That has to do with the story of how she returned to New York. 

According to legend, she was attending a party when she began to sing and entertain people there. While it was all a spontaneous response to liven up a fairly dull party, the people throwing the party liked what they heard and hired her to emcee their club in New York.  She was 39 and had a reputation for being outspoken and brassy. Becoming an emcee was considered groundbreaking since most in that position at the time were men. The fact is, it was seen as a man's profession.

"Hello, Suckers!"

To fit in with the East Coast celebs visiting the club she was hired to emcee, it's said she died her hair blonde and wore strings of pearls. For all practical purposes, Texas Guinan became a flapper. She was fashionable and intent on enjoying herself while flouting conventional standards of behavior. Yes, all while showing everyone a great time. To do so while working in that club as an emcee and hostess during the Prohibition era, she was known to greet both wealthy gents and gangsters alike with "Hello, Suckers!" That was Texas Guinan. 

She became quite the celebrity in New York and teamed up with a known bootlegger and gangster by the name of Larry Fay in 1924. While working at his El Fay Club, she hobnobbed with the rich and notorious alike. Along with being emcee, she got a percentage of the club and was in charge of the entertainers, including the showgirls. Those luscious ladies were bait to get the guests in the door. It's said that many of those showgirls were on loan from the Ziegfeld Follies and who were known to supplement their wages as prostitutes. 

Guinan's job was to greet and insult guests. Yes, sort of like a female Don Rickles. That was her schtick. Along with coaxing those there to get drunk on the bootleg whiskey, she became quite a celebrity in her own right. Between Fay and Guinan, they are said to have made a million dollars in today's money. 

While some say she saw everyone as a sucker ripe for the pickings, she is known to have given a great deal to charities. As for her work ethic, she was said to be a hard worker who was the first to arrive at the clubs and the last to leave. She had a large home in Greenwich Village. She moved her parents and brother Tom from Texas to live a better life with her there. What might not surprise some is knowing that Texas Guinan was a voracious reader and she loved her home. Her father and mother were known to sit in her clubs enjoying milk or coffee while enjoying their daughter's "insult comedy" performance. 

What was her act? She was perched on a stool in the center of the club. She was armed with a whistle and she used her booming voice to single-handedly create an atmosphere of fun which was absolutely unique among nightclubs of the Prohibition-era, and greeted each newcomer with "Hello, Sucker!" Her particular name for the free-spending out-of-towner was a "big butter-and-egg man," which entered the vernacular of the era.

Her Arrests!

As for being arrested, she was arrested routinely for violating Prohibition -- but because of expensive lawyers, she was never tried in court. Also, the authorities could never prove she had any ownership in the clubs. Of course, her arrests made headlines on both the front page and in the society columns. And her attitude about her arrests only made her more famous. 

It became such a common practice for the police to raid her club that she paid the police to let her know when they were coming. She would prepare for them by welcoming them with photographers and even having her band play the "Prisoner's Song" as they escorted her out of her nightclubs. It's shouldn't surprise anyone that she was known to routinely buy the police breakfast since she was also known to bribe the police to get rid of any evidence that may get her in real trouble. 

As for her partner gangster Larry Fay, it's said he was not happy to hear she wanted her own club. When it became known that she felt threatened by him when she brought it up to him, her friend Owney "The Killer" Madden came to her aid. Because both she and Fay knew Madden would protect her no matter what, Fay decided to leave her alone. Fay himself was killed in 1933 at another club that he owned. 

After the police closed the El Fay Club, she reappeared at the Del Fay and then at the Texas Guinan Club, the 300 Club, the Club Intime, and Texas Guinan’s Salon Royale. In a short time, she became one of the best-known celebrated figures of the 1920s. 

As for Texas Guinan, she was known for saying, "Never give a sucker an even break." And yes, she charged a very steep cover charge and outrageous prices for the bootlegged booze she was passing off as premium liquor. Especially for the times, $25 for a bottle of rum was certainly outrageous. Of course, it's ironic that she didn't drink while she attracted the wealthy, film, stage, and radio celebrities, and the notorious to her clubs -- as well as clubs she may have had a share in over the years. 

What was the attraction? She adorned herself in furs and jewels. Of course, she famously wore a police whistle around her neck which she used during her arrests. Where ever she worked she was the life of the party, and everyone wanted to say they knew her. In the 1920s in New York City, Texas Guinan was the "undisputed queen of the nightclubs." 

She typified the craziness of post-World War I America, the Roaring Twenties, the days of bootleg whiskey, speakeasies, and flappers. It's said she loved her fame, attention, and status. And for those who came to see her and have fun, it's said they loved her charm, glamour, and confidence as she poked fun at everyone no matter what their station or their status. Texas Guinan returned to the Broadway stage with her own revue, Padlocks of 1927. 

Things did change for Texas Guinan with the stock market crash of 1929. While people say the stock market crash under the Hoover Administration is when the Great Depression started, I content that the Great Depression actually started a few years earlier for blue-collar workers. It was in 1929 that the wealthy got hit. Because of the economic impact on the wealthy and celebrities, nightclubs like hers didn't fare very well. 

Because of that, Texas Guinan relocated to Hollywood again to make a "talking picture," the film Queen of the Night Clubs (1929). As with many actors, she took her act on the road, and in 1931 her road company was refused permission to perform in France because of her reputation of consorting with gangsters. It was because of their refusal that she renamed her revue Too Hot for Paris. She continued touring and returned to Hollywood to make another "talking picture," the film Broadway thru a Keyhole (1933)

During her Western tour, she fell ill and died on November 5, 1933, in Vancouver, British Columbia. She died of amoebic dysentery which is a parasite infection of the intestines. It's believed she contracted the disease when she visited the Chicago World's Fair during the previous summer. It is important to note that about a hundred others also died from that same thing as a result of contaminated water at the hotel where she and the others were staying.

It's said that more than ten thousand people showed up for Texas Guinan's funeral at Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, New York. She was buried dressed in a white beaded chiffon dress with a diamond ring and necklace. On her shoulder was pinned a spray of orchids. At one point her funeral became chaotic when a crowd forced their way past the police all in an effort to tear flowers off her silver coffin as keepsake mementos. She was only 49 years old and lived a life that some called "remarkable." Yes indeed, I'd say she certainly lived a remarkable life.

Tom Correa

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Presidential Elections Are Messy And Don't Always End Well

Presidential elections have not always been easy going for everyone concerned, including for we the American people. In 2000, that presidential election was a real mess. First, a television network mistakenly announced the wrong projection on election night, and that led to an early concession call by Al Gore to George W. Bush. Gore withdrew his concession an hour later. The presidential election hung in limbo for the next 36-days as a political and legal war over how to resolve what was essentially a tie that took place. 

George W. Bush was ultimately declared the winner after a divided Supreme Court ended the manual recount in Florida that some on the Left still claim might have produced a different outcome. The problem was not uncounted votes. Instead, the issue of fraud became obvious when the Left only wanted to count what they saw as votes for their side -- votes that the Left kept finding, which miraculously only went to them and none to their opponent. 

In the end, it was the closest presidential election in American history up to that time. How many votes separated them? Well, several hundred votes in Florida determined the winner out of more than 100 million ballots cast nationwide. 

Here's something to think about. If you think that this is just a symptom of recent times, don't. The presidential election of 1876 was a real mess. And frankly, because its resolution was left to Congress and the Supreme Court, it had horrible consequences for the nation for almost a century. Consequences that cost the lives of many black and poor white Americans in the South.

While Republicans were very popular before, during, and after the Civil War, there is a reason that the Democrats made such a showing at the 1876 Presidential Election. The fact is that 1876 was not a good year for the nation. The Panic of 1873 threw our country into what became known as the "Long Depression." 

Subsequently, from 1873 to 1879, it is estimated that more than 20,000 businesses, including more than 80 railroads, went bankrupt. Americans were broke and hurting in 1873, and that was the case until 1879 officially. Although, there are those who say that economic depression lasted well into 1885. And there is something more, as a result of the high cost of the Civil War, those funds expended by the states before and after the war, there was a great deal of economic instability of the states' economies. As a result of that being the case, 10 states and almost 300 banks also went bankrupt. It wasn't until 1878 that unemployment peaked during that economic depression. 

While there is no mistaking the fact that political corruption in the government was a factor of discontent with voters in 1876, we should not make the mistake of thinking that they did not vote their pocketbooks as Americans have during every instance of economic hard times.

In that election, the Democrat candidate emerged with the lead in the popular vote, but 19 electoral votes from four states were in dispute. It was a long and drug out election where Congress was forced to get involved. In fact, in January of 1877, Congress was forced to convene to settle the election. 

In 1876, the nation went to the polls to elect President Ulysses S. Grant’s successor. The candidates were  Democrat Samuel Tilden, Governor of New York, versus Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, Governor of Ohio. Tilden emerged with a lead of more than 260,000 popular votes. Though that was the case, Tilden only had 184 electoral votes. He was one electoral vote shy of the number needed to defeat Hayes.

The returns from three states, Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina, were being disputed, with both sides claiming victory. Together, the states represented 19 electoral votes, which along with one disputed elector from Oregon, would be enough to swing the election in favor of Hayes.

Since the U.S. Constitution did not provide a way of resolving the dispute, Congress would have to decide. As anyone knows, that meant politics and deal-making. At the time, Democrats controlled the House of Representatives, and Republicans controlled the Senate. Yes, like today in 2020. 

To find a solution, a political solution, the House and the Senate created a bipartisan electoral commission with five representatives and five senators. The commission also included five Supreme Court justices. In the end, after a series of votes along strict party lines, the commission awarded Rutherford B. Hayes all three of the contested states in early March of 1877. Their decision made him the winner of the presidential election of 1876 -- by a single electoral vote.

Soon after his inauguration, Hayes made good on his promise, ordering federal troops to withdraw from Louisiana and South Carolina, where they had been protecting Republican administrators and freed blacks. Hayes effectively ended the Reconstruction Era and began 100 years of Democratic Party control of the South. 

So now, what sort of deal was struck to get the commission to vote for Hayes over Tilden? Well, that has to do with what became known as the Compromise of 1877. The fact is, as the electoral commission deliberated, politicians from both parties met in secret to hash out what become known as the Compromise of 1877. That so-called "compromise" ended Reconstruction and resulted in almost a hundred years of Democratic Party control and institutional racism in the South.

For his part, Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes agreed to place a Democrat Southerner on his cabinet. Hayes agreed to hand over control of the South to Democrat state governments. He promised and did, in fact, remove federal troops stationed in the South. Of course, along with removing all federal troops from the South, Hayes promised that he would not use federal troops to intervene in race riots and violations of the Civil Rights of blacks and poor whites in the South. 

Let's be clear here, to get the presidency, Hayes effectively made freed blacks and poor whites the targets of terrorism, abuse, intimidation, and murder by the militant arm of the Democratic Party -- the Ku Klux Klan. With Hayes in office, it became obvious that Americans did not have a President Grant to take the fight to the KKK anymore. And yes, the Klan would actually grow in numbers and reach their peak in the 1970s before seeing any sort of real decline. 

As for their part of the Compromise of 1877, Democrats agreed not to dispute Hayes's election to the presidency. Along with that, Democrats agreed to respect the Civil Rights of black Americans. It was something Democrats had no intention of respecting. Because of the Democrats going back on their word, the Hayes administration period is one marked with horrible violations of Civil Rights and murders of black Americans with the federal government refusing to act. It is also marked with Democrats in state offices reversing most of the Reconstruction policies put in place. 

Democrats controlling the South did not honor their agreement to safeguard the rights of both black and poor white citizens. In fact, they did the opposite and reigned terror on blacks and poor whites alike. That was so much the case that there was a campaign to disenfranchise black and poor white voters and ensured racial segregation by imposing Jim Crow laws, which endured until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Everything that took place due to the mess that was the presidential election of 1876 simply demonstrates what sort of ill can take place by leaving an election to the Congress and the Supreme Court to decide. As a result of that agreement, Americans paid a horrible price with churches and homes being burned to the ground. Families were terrorized, both black and white Americans whipped and murdered, lynched in many cases. To me, the resolution to the presidential election of 1876 was a pact with the Devil. 

Tom Correa