Wednesday, October 19, 2011

the Panic of 1837--Pt. 1

It has long been part of the Ellsworth mythos that his father was "ruined" by the Panic of 1837. Elmer Ellsworth's father was, by training and trade, a tailor. He ran a business in Waterford, although I do not know if it was a brick-and-mortar shop or if he worked from his home. A year prior to the fateful year of 1837, Ephriam Ellsworth moved to Malta, not too far away, where he met and married Elmer's mother, Phebe.

I do not know if he moved initially in order to improve his business, but I can think of no other reason. In Malta he continued his trade, hoping to be able to make a good living catering to the travelers who frequented Saratoga Springs and Ballston Spa.

As the financial panic grew, travel to resorts slowed considerably, as did the need for a tailor. Rather than let everything collapse, Ephriam widened his horizons. In the Censusof 1850, Mr. Ellsworth is listed as a "Butcher."

Butchers in the 1800s did not work for a grocery, or even for a meat shop. There was no reliable way to keep meat fresh. A butcher worked by appointment. If a farmer needed a cow or pig butchered, he paid the butcher to come to him, do his work, and leave--often with a nice cut of meat as well as his pay.

I think we should call that "reinventing himself," not "ruined."

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