August 24, 2010


Oskar Werner and Julie Christie in ‘Fahrenheit 451’

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.  Sunday marked a highly significant anniversary which I somehow overlooked – it was Ray Bradbury’s 90th birthday!  Fortunately it is being celebrated for the entire week here in Los Angeles – Bradbury lives in Pasadena – and readings are being held at a number of different venues, all gratis.

My favorite Bradbury work is Fahrenheit 451, a perfect small story that was made into an excellent film, something that rarely happens.  Something Wicked This Way Comes is also wonderful…if you’d like to see a complete list of his oeuvre, look here.

Here’s wishing Ray Bradbury – a great American cultural icon who has given joy to millions -many, many happy returns.

It must have been the alignment of the planets, but this date in the middle of the 19th century was loaded with important stuff, beginning with the publication of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre on 1847. In 1853, this was the day that chef Charles Crum created the first potato chip. (Who can claim that Jane Eyre has meant more to them than potato chips?) Since he worked at a posh hotel in Saratoga Springs, New York, the chips were initially referred to as Saratoga chips.

Illustration from ‘The banks of New York’ by J. S. Gibbons

But one of the biggest pre-Civil War events was the Panic of 1857.  It began with the collapse of the Ohio Life and Trust on August 24.  The cause was embezzlement, but banks suddenly imposed so many restrictions on loans and deposits that people started worrying about the entire financial system.  Then, in mid-September, a ship carrying more than $1 million in commercial gold and 15 tons of federal gold sank in a hurricane on its way from the new San Francisco mint to banks on the east coast.

By October the stock market was collapsing, there was a run on the banks and almost two years of rising unemployment began that only ended with the Civil War.

The panic spread to Europe, Asia and South America, making it the first ever world-wide financial crisis.  Harper’s Weekly blamed it on greedy stockbrokers and land speculators. Sounds familiar.



  1. History is a vast early warning system. ~Norman Cousins


    Comment by Nina — August 24, 2010 @ 10:44 am | Reply

  2. if there were no stock markets we would not have this kinda problems happened again just before the great depression of the 30ties
    Great reporting


    Comment by avery zia — August 26, 2010 @ 9:17 pm | Reply

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