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HEYDAY

The Great Fire of 1835

On 16 December, around 9 pm, a night watchman named William Hayes was patrolling the financial district, when he smelled smoke at the intersection of Exchange and Pearl Streets. The source of the fire was a large warehouse. Although help was immediately called, the fire spread to fifty other buildings, in less than a hour half. It was difficult for firemen to combat the fire, due to the icy winter winds. Also, the firemen had to cut through Hudson River ice, in order to extract water. However, this method was to no avail, as the water immediately froze in their hoses. By the next morning, the fire had created over $17 million in damage and destroyed goods. The great amount of damage was a result of inadequate water supplies in New York City and the fact that houses were built primarily of wood. The Great Fire of 1835 may have caused the Panic of 1837, which was a speculative fever, during which every bank stopped payment in gold and silver coinage (specie). This failure of the banks resulted in a five-year depression in the United States.

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