Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Voices from the Past: The Day the Tackle Ads Stopped (1893)

Voices from the Past: The Day the Tackle Ads Stopped (1893)

As statisticians tell us we have exited a major recession in the last financial quarter, I thought it would be interesting to run a little piece in Voices from the Past to show how the tackle industry was impacted by a similar economic downturn in 1893, referred to as the Depression of 1893 or the Panic of 1893.

Brought about by a collapse in the railroad industry--America's largest business--and worsened by a run on gold and silver, the Depression of 1893 saw unemployment spiral from 3% in 1892 to a high of 18.4% in 1894. It would not drop below 11.7% again until 1898, meaning this economic downturn lasted five years. At one point, 15,000 American businesses failed every month.

The financial panic was chronicled in this 1896 Broadway melodrama.

How did it effect the tackle industry? Many stalwart companies such as Thomas J. Conroy were forced into bankruptcy. By 1899, such titans of the Victorian tackle trade as U.S. Net & Twine and Merwin, Hulbert & Co. had vanished.

But even companies that survived were hurt. Here's an ad from May 11th, 1893 Forest & Stream showing how much the fortunes of even Abbey & Imbrie had been hit.

The firm had begun advertising with the magazine almost exactly 20 years before, and had not missed a single issue. To halt all advertising--even for a short period, as they returned not long afterward--is a remarkable example of how the economic panic had hit all quarters.

So let's pause and remember today the economic distress of the 1890s, and how, for a brief period, it even stopped the advertising for the best known New York trade house.

-- Dr. Todd

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