The Panic Of 1873: A Case Study

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For my research topic for this class, I chose to look into the Panic of 1873 and its effects at the state level, particularly as associated with the railroads. As a major factor in the panic was the drop off after the post-civil war railroad boom, in which there was heavy investment, but little returns, causing several banks to fail, among the factors leading to the national crisis. However, how did the railroads affect the state of Wisconsin during the crisis? This is the question at the heart of my research project and it seems that the railroads were a highly contested issue at the time, even being called the Wisconsin Railroad wars. The first few sources that I have found seem to answer confirm this.
During the Crisis, the railroads in
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This article was a reprint from the Chicago Tribune’s June 4th, 1874, report on the decision to take legal to prevent the Chicago & North-western Railway company from accepting the terms of the new railroad act that the Wisconsin State legislature passed. The article goes on to discuss the appointing of officials to the united states court to hear the case and how a similar case will probably follow suit for the stockholders. However, since the part of the law being contested is not discussed, it is a limitation of the source, but it does however, show how the concerns of the bondholders motivated them to make a stand against the initiation of the law. This source can help me answer my question by showing the ultimate reaction of bondholders to Act 273. While it doesn’t show how the bondholders reached this decision, it can be assumed to have been in a similar process as to the stockholder’s decision…show more content…
The article from 1873 shows that the state was trying to curb the probability of railroad monopolies, while not everyone supported it.1 So then when the state government did pass a piece of legislation that limited the prices that railroad companies could charge2, those with personal financial interest in the railroads were highly against the bill. The antagonists of the bill, particularly those who were stockholders, then voted to back their company in opposing the legislation3, to the point of legal action in hopes to slow the bill and give it reason to be looked at in federal courts, as it then became a question of constitutionality of the bill.4 Together, these sources answer the question that the railroads were heavily contested, with two very different sides. One there was the state and those who were concerned with the railroads getting too large and potentially forming monopolies; on the other there is those who support the railroads, weather for economic or personal reasons. While these sources do not show the final outcome of the dispute, they do confirm that the Wisconsin Railroad wars were a real thing, even receiving national attention. These source do answer the question, but as I continue research, I hope to find the final outcome, as well as further flesh out the dispute, but this is at least a good broad

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