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The Panic of 1873


Before the Transcontinental Railroad had been completed and while the nation was still embroiled in a “Civil War,” Congress approved the construction of another, this time northern, transcontinental railroad. The goals of the Northern Pacific were simple:

  • connect the Great Lakes with Puget Sound on the Pacific,
  • open vast new lands for farming, ranching, lumbering and mining
  • link Washington and Oregon to the rest of the country.

However, the construction of this northern track was rife with corruption. The Panic of 1873, as it has come to be known, didn’t just affect the nation for that single year; this economic depression continued for another 5 1/2 years.


You are here today to discover how this economic depression befell our nation, how the collapse of banking and industries proved disastrous for the United States and how the nation ultimately recovered. Before you move on, watch the Financial Panic of 1873: Causes and Summary video.


You will answer each question by reading from the link/s provided. If you feel that you need further information for understanding, use a metasearch such as Dogpile or Unabot, or a search engine/directory such as Google or Bing. Be sure to answer each in Google Classroom, in complete sentences.

  1. Explain how Thomas Durant, vice president of the Union Pacific Railroad (and creator of the Credit Mobilier of America scandal), was able to “steal” $16.5 million of taxpayer money.
  2. Describe how the bankruptcy of Jay Cooke and Company created a ripple effect throughout the banking industry.
  3. From what you have already read, describe the economic impact this had upon the “Average Joe” by listing the number of failed businesses and peak percentage of unemployed.
  4. From what you have already read, explain why the Democrats were able to take control of a majority of Congress during this time.

*Due by the end of the period for points*