T is for Tulip Mania. Originally cultivated in the Ottoman Empire, tulips were imported into Holland in the sixteenth century. As the Dutch Golden Age grew, so did this colorful flower. Tulips became popular in paintings and festivals. In the mid-seventeenth century, tulips were so popular that they created the first economic bubble, known as "Tulip Mania".
Everyone began to deal in bulbs, essentially speculating on the tulip market, which was believed to have no limits. The true bulb buyers began to fill up inventories for the growing season, depleting the supply further and increasing scarcity and demand. Soon, prices were rising so fast and high that people were trading their land, life savings, and anything else they could liquidate to get more tulip bulbs. Somehow, the tulips enjoyed a twenty-fold increase in value - in one month!
Needless to say, the prices were not an accurate reflection of the value of a tulip bulb. As it happens in many speculative bubbles, some prudent people decided to sell and reap their profits. A domino effect of progressively lower and lower prices took place as everyone tried to sell while not many were buying. The price began to dive, causing people to panic and sell regardless of losses.
Dealers refused to honor contracts and people began to realize they traded their homes for a tulip bulb; panic was prevalent throughout the land. The government attempted to step in and halt the crash by offering to honor contracts at 10% of the face value, but then the market plunged even lower. No one emerged unscathed from the crash. Even the people who had locked in their profit by getting out early suffered under the depression that followed.
From 1634 to 1637, an index of Dutch tulip prices soared from approximately one guilder per bulb to a lofty sixty guilders per bulb. By the peak of tulip mania in February of 1637, a single tulip bulb was worth about ten times a craftsman’s annual income.
Today, Holland is still known for its tulips and other flowers, often being affectionately called the "flower shop of the world." Tulips are cultivated in great fields of beautiful color, and tulip festivals abound throughout the country in the spring. The Dutch people took their love of tulips abroad when they settled, and tulips and tulip festivals are now found in New York and Holland, Michigan, where the connection to their Dutch roots is very strong.
The peak tulip viewing times at the gardens are March 15 through April 1. Garvan Woodland Gardens are beautiful any time of the year, but I think that the tulip season is the best. We make sure to visit the gardens during tulip time each year.
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