History Schmistory: February 3. Tu-soon!

1637: The so-called “Tulip Mania” in the United Provinces (now the Netherlands) collapses faster than the 2008 US economy. Yep, the fleeting tulip craze was more potent than the Macarena or the pet rock, with certain savvy merchants gaining more than 400% of their initial investments. The most sought after tulips were deliberately infected with a mosaic virus which greatly weakened the already prolonged maturation of the plant, but happened to result in a wild array of variegated color schemes that were so popular, merchants began selling “futures”; flowers that did not yet exist! Whaaa?
The craze was predictably short-lived, being rudely interrupted by another unanticipated yet much more hostile virus. Namely, the flippin’ black plague!

Monkeys in contemporary 17th century Dutch dress are shown here dealing in tulips, a satirical commentary on speculators during the time of “Tulip Mania”.