Days of September

As September 2011 closes, we are reminded that it was three years ago this month that the United States’ economy took a nose-dive from which we still seek to recover. The economic difficulties started that month deeply inform my will to create this project exploring life in America in her places called Columbia.

Columbia was America’s poetic name, and the name for a secular goddess symbol for the United States. Cartoonists depicted this figure in different ways to suggest the mood of the American people.

Grant & Columbia

The country’s mood was definitely battered by the events of the September one hundred-thirty-eight years ago that are now called the Panic of 1873. In fact, it was on 30 September 1873 that the stock market reopened after a ten-day closure. The economic downturn started that year was unmatched until the Great Depression of the 1930s. Some historians believe our current economic troubles more closely resemble those of 1873 than those of 1929.

This Harper’s Weekly cover from October 1873 shows President Grant assisting Miss Columbia out of the ruins of Wall Street. I first saw this image at our very excellent National Portrait Gallery; a history-savvy curator placed it next to their portrait of this president. Thomas Nast, he who gave us a fat, well-fed Santa, is the cartoonist.

To view the Library of Congress webpage on this image, click here.

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A personal note: Ulysses Simpson Grant and I are both descended from Matthew Grant. Matthew Grant was the second man to be clerk of the Town of Windsor in the Connecticut Colony. His diary is in the Connecticut State Library; a passage therein has Colonial America’s first reports execution for witchcraft.

The last Grant in my lineage was Aruma Grant; her grandson Halsey Fitch Northrup married Mary Adelia Lansing, who was descended from same Schuyler family as Grant’s first vice-president, Schuyler Colfax. Halsey and Mary are my great-great grandparents.