Featured 1816: The Year Without Summer

Discussion in 'World Coins' started by Seattlite86, Jul 25, 2020.

  1. Seattlite86

    Seattlite86 Outspoken Member

    On April 5, 1815, in modern day Indonesia Mount Tambora began to erupt. The explosions were so loud, they could be heard over 800 miles away. In fact, troops on the island of Java (some 780 miles away) marched out, believing a neighboring post was under attack. For the next week or so, the eruptions intensified up to an estimated Volcanic Explosive Index (VEI) of 7, making it the largest observed eruption in recorded history. Mount Tambora spewed out so much material (an estimated 24 cubic miles) that it lost approximately 1 mile in height. Explosions did not cease until July 17, 1815, though aftershocks and fires were recorded even some four years later.

    Estimated volcanic ashfall during the eruption
    The smoke and ash that billowed out of Mount Tambora traveled across the globe and caused a one degree Fahrenheit drop in worldwide temperatures. This abrupt climate change caused what is known as the Year Without Summer in 1816. Asia, Europe, and North America all recorded frigid summer temperatures that caused flooding, destroyed crops, and killed livestock.

    Elberfeld Brod Token 2-horz.jpg

    For Europe, 1816 was the second coldest year since 1400. Across Central Europe, increased rains caused flooding, making it almost impossible to bring much needed supplies through the unnavigable rivers. This dire situation caused dramatic increases in the cost of grain. The cost of grain in the 19th Century was the economic barometer in the way that the stock market is now. In western Germany in early 1816, the cost of a loaf of bread to 14.5 stubers (a day’s wages). Elberfeld, a town of approximately 21,000 residents, came up with a way to keep people from starving. The mayor of Elberfeld, Jacob Ader, a wealthy banker, formed the Kornverein (grain society/association) and drew together some 125,000 Thalers. This money bought grain from the north, lowering the costs of flour, and reducing the cost of bread by about 5 stubers.

    Elberfeld Brod Token 2.jpg
    Obverse: "SO HABT IHR IN DER NOTH 1817" and "1 BROD"
    Translation: For use in emergency 1817, 1 Bread.

    Elberfeld Brod Token.jpg
    Translation: bought in the time of 1816, Elberfeld grain association

    Some of the bakers sought to increase their profits even further by adding ingredients to the flour to make it go further. Some even claim that plaster was used. In an effort to combat this, the Kornverein minted bread tokens that accompanied the flour they purchased to root out any dishonest bakers. The endeavor was so successful, that the town earned 13,000 Thalers and was able to build its first hospital.

    I found this bread token on Ebay and was initially attracted to it because it was off-center. After doing a quick search about it on the internet, I knew I had to buy it and eventually share its history. I hope you enjoyed reading this. Please feel free to add anything that correlates to Mount Tambora, 1815-1817, or Elberfeld!
    TheRed, johnyb, J.T. Parker and 21 others like this.
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  3. Robert Ransom

    Robert Ransom Well-Known Member

    Nice thread. Thanks for the informative reminder of what can happen in one location that affects the rest of the globe.
    Inspector43 and Seattlite86 like this.
  4. Zeppelingirl

    Zeppelingirl New Member

    Nice! I wonder how many lives were saved because of the Kornverein.
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  5. Chris B

    Chris B Supporter! Supporter

    What a great thread. It reminds me of the below, inflation medal. Different times and circumstances. It is complaining about the costs of common household needs. Bread, flour, meat, bier

    Germany Famine 192303.jpg
    GeorgeM and Seattlite86 like this.
  6. Seattlite86

    Seattlite86 Outspoken Member

    I'm glad you enjoyed it. The story was pretty crazy. Turns out there was an eruption in 1810 that they think might have exasperated the temperature changes.

    That's a good question! The town had some 21,000+ inhabitants and I'm sure neighboring towns benefitted as well. I wonder how the many other places coped with the events?

    Very cool medal. Thanks for sharing it here :)
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2020
  7. coin_nut

    coin_nut Supporter! Supporter

    This may be relevant, a bread token from England in much more modern times. ND Bread token obv.JPG ND Bread token rev.JPG
  8. Robidoux Pass

    Robidoux Pass Well-Known Member

    Interesting thread. I find the size of the eruption (24 cubic miles of material; the mountain losing 1 mile of elevation) to be almost unbelievable. Thanks for sharing.
    Seattlite86 likes this.
  9. Mr.Q

    Mr.Q Well-Known Member

    Great post very interesting thread thank you. Be safe, wear a mask, stay healthy.
    Seattlite86 likes this.
  10. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Supporter! Supporter

    What a great post, and history lesson. This is part of the reason I collect. Thank you @Seattlite86 for the lesson.
    I've been edumacated til my brain is full. Can I go now?
    Seattlite86 likes this.
  11. GeorgeM

    GeorgeM Well-Known Member

    I'll have to go digging. But I think I have a German medal commemorating the year without a summer somewhere. Didn't this event also indirectly lead to the creation of the sci-fi genre (through the writing of the novel Frankenstein: or the modern Prometheus)?


    Also, the rise in the price of oats may have helped the invention of the bicycle in 1817...
    Seattlite86 likes this.
  12. Seattlite86

    Seattlite86 Outspoken Member

    So I looked it up on the German wikipedia site and it looks like the terrible weather in 1816 led to the writing of Frankenstein. Pretty cool! I wasn't able to find any medals from Germany on a cursory search.

    Edit: found it under Effects in the English version! https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Without_a_Summer

    " Die britische Schriftstellerin Mary Shelley verbrachte den Sommer 1816 mit Freunden in der Nähe des Genfersees. Sie besuchten öfter Lord Byron in der nahegelegenen Villa Diodati. Aufgrund des extrem schlechten Wetters konnten die Anwesenden häufig das Haus nicht verlassen. So beschlossen sie, Schauergeschichten zu schreiben und den anderen vorzutragen. Shelley schrieb die Geschichte Frankenstein. Byrons Leibarzt John Polidori (1795–1821) verfasste Der Vampyr – eine Vampirgeschichte lange vor dem Entstehen von Bram Stokers Dracula. Lord Byron vollendete seine Geschichte nicht; er verarbeitete Eindrücke dieses Sommers in dem Gedicht Die Finsternis.[20][21]"
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