Tulip mania was the original economic bubble. Long before the dotcom bust and the housing crash, 17th Century Europeans speculated in tulip bulbs. You read that right – tulip bulbs.
Introduced to the continent by the Ottomans, tulips became a status symbol commanding top prices at a time when Holland was developing into an economic giant. Tulip bulbs became a sort of substitute currency and were widely speculated upon – after all, we’ll always need tulips, right? You could trade a tulip bulb for a ton of butter! Men even speculated in tulip futures and other derivative products. Everyone was getting rich.
But like shady Internet companies and Arizona condos, the market eventually crashed, as recounted in this excellent Wikipedia entry on tulip mania.
All that was left were the tulips themselves. Fortunately, they are beautiful and bloom on the streets of DC every April. Seeing them, it’s hard not to get a touch of tulip mania. Good thing that tulip futures aren’t listed on the NYSE – otherwise, I’d be buying.
Here are some colorful photos of tulips around Washington.