(+) Dutch Tulip Mania of 1636-1637

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

We often think of speculation in stock market, real estate, oil futures, or dot-com companies to be modern ventures for risk-taking entrepreneurs. Not so. Our ancestors were known to take perhaps even greater risks in a largely unregulated business atmosphere. Perhaps the most famous was the Dutch Tulip Mania of 1636-1637. However, it was not confined to the Dutch; many of our ancestors in other countries also joined in the frenzy. Many of them lost fortunes, large and small.

Pamphlet from the Dutch tulipomania, printed in 1637

When we think of tulips, most of us automatically think of Holland. However, it is not a native plant of that country. The first tulip appeared in the United Provinces (now called the Netherlands) in 1593, when Charles de L’Ecluse (or Carolus Clusius) first bred tulips that could tolerate the harsh conditions of the Low Countries. Charles’ bulbs were sent to him from Turkey by his friend, Ogier de Busbecq.

The Netherlands was in the midst of the Bubonic Plague at the time, and Charles de L’Ecluse planned to research the tulip plant for medicinal purposes. He planted a small garden. Reportedly, some people broke into his garden and stole some of his bulbs in order to make some quick money, and in the process started the Dutch bulb trade.

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