Many people left Alabama for greener pastures during this financial panic. (continued below)
(transcribed from History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography by Thomas McAdory Owen)
Flush times in Alabama is a phrase descriptive of a period of the State history, covering approximately the five years ending with 1837. “The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi” is the subject of a series of fascinating and graphic sketches by Joseph G. Baldwin, an early settler of the State, distinguished as a lawyer both in Alabama and in California.
Many causes contributed to inflated conditions
Of that era he says: “And what history of that halcyon period, ranging from the year of Grace, 1835 to 1837; that golden era when shin-plasters were the sole currency; when bank bills were as thick ‘as Autumn leaves in Vallombrosa’; and credit was a franchise” —and the vivid pictures of men and scenes in his pages admirably illustrate the conditions depicted in the extract given.
Many causes contributed to bring about inflated conditions, the result of which could only end in disaster. At that period there was a general atmosphere of unrest throughout the entire country. The population of every section was in a state of flux. The ambition to better conditions not only obtained with young men but also animated men of families, who were prompted by the feeling that a change merited a better outlook for their children. Many men, too, had been failures in their old homes, and change was necessary for them if they were ever to accomplish anything in life. The removal of the Indians and the consequent enlargement of the public domain stimulated migration to Alabama, so that new communities were made overnight. The land was virgin and productive. Bountiful harvests rewarded even limited labors. Good prices were paid for all products.
State banks went under
A State bank had been established in 1823, and from 1833 to 1836 branches were located in Montgomery, Mobile and Huntsville. These institutions were intended to furnish money to the people, and its apparent profits were employed to meet the expenses of the State, but the bank management, dependent upon legislative favor, became involved in the politics of the day. The profits of the banks were such as to prompt the abolition of taxes. The government of the State was carried on by these supposed profits. When the storm broke, the banks went under. Farmers could not meet their obligations to the retailers. The wholesale merchants were helpless. Both farmers and merchants were without means to repay their loans to the banks. Paper money was uniformly refused, and in consequence commodities sold at greatly reduced prices because of the limited specie in circulation. Property of all sorts depreciated.
Unusual severity in Alabama due to speculation
The inevitable end of this orgy of disordered finance, speculation, formative conditions and social unrest is thus described in Owen’s edition of Pickett’s History of Alabama, p. 690: “The financial panic of 1837, which convulsed the whole country, was felt with unusual severity in Alabama.
For some years a spirit of speculation had been growing and spreading, stimulated by increased bank circulation and unlimited credit facilities. Extravagant investments in lands and slaves were made. Property of all kinds reached fictitious values. When the crash came the banks suspended specie payments, and all classes of business stagnated. Thousands of good men were ruined. Numbers emigrated to the newer States or Territories.
Relief Acts passed
In July, 1837, the General Assembly met in called session and passed relief acts, and again at the regular session further measures were enacted. But unfortunately legislation could not bring substantial relief, and years passed before the people fully rallied from the effects of this trying experience.”
- Pickett. Alabama (Owen ed., 1900);
- Brewer, Alabama. (1872); Baldwin,
- Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi (1853);
- Miller, History of Alabama (1901), p. 116;
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