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Despite the post Civil War prosperity of the "Gilded Age" we see the deleterious effects of the Panic of 1873 and the Depression of 1893, as well as the pre-Civil War challenges of the Financial Panic of 1837 and Panic of 1857, which clearly influenced the careers of both John Nickinson and EJ Phillips.

New York, Feb. 23, 1886 Yes, I think I shall be happier even travelling to S[an] F[rancisco]. than I should be in having a four months vacation, although there will be very little money in it, after hotel bills are paid. Still it will be better than idleness. Last Summer cost me $650 and I shall not have that much to spend on a vacation for the coming Summer.  I never before realized the worth of $10 per week as I have this season.  It was, I now find, my savings money and it being taken from me I have very little to save from.  ... You certainly ought to be able to come to N.Y. without spending ten dollars for where would you spend it?  Certainly not with your Mother, your Sister or your cousins or your Aunt. As for your sporting friends who have taken or helped you to waste your money in the past. Keep away from them.  [Son Albert Nickinson was 22 at this time.]

"Vacations"  For the years with a number of letters 1886-1898 EJ Phillips worked for most of the year in 1886-1887 and 1890. 1888 and 1889 seemed too have about 8 weeks "vacation" each, 1891 had 20 weeks, 1892 18 weeks, 1893 16 weeks, 1894 20 weeks, 1895  12 weeks.  She only worked for a few months in 1897 (but traveled to 22 cities) and only sporadically in 1898.   

Chicago, June 9, 1887 Keep a dignified presence, never let anyone know how poor you are, for no one has any sympathy for the poor cuss who has no money in his pocket.  

We have a number of paper forms that went with money orders, from the 1870's sent to Mrs. Zavistowski, obviously for the care of Hattie and Albert.  It seems that bundles of cash were sent. 

Money Order from EJ Nickinson to Christine Zavistowski

"said to contain money valued at $20 which we undertake to forward to the point nearest to destination reached by this company only, perils of Navigation excepted.  And it is hereby expressly agreed that said UNITED STATES EXPRESS COMPANY are not to be held liable for any loss or damage, except as forwarded only; nor for any loss or damage of any box, package or thing for over $50...

New York, Feb. 10, 1886 I will send you money for your next weeks board -- how shall I send it?  In a letter & trust to the honesty of the mail or by Express or money order -- I think I can risk a V in a letter -- do not you?

San Francisco Aug. 29, 1888  If I had five in paper I would put it in this letter, but I cannot get one.  All is gold and silver

EJP to Neppie, Philadelphia, Sept. 10, 1893   I have to use a part of your birthday gift until I get back to draw from the bank [first mention of a bank].

US Banking history Civil War to WWII   https://eh.net/encyclopedia/us-banking-history-civil-war-to-world-war-ii/  When did consumers start to have bank accounts?
As described by Gresham's Law, soon bad money from state banks drove out the new, good money;[citation needed] the government imposed a 10% tax on state bank bills, forcing most banks to convert to national banks. By 1865, there were already 1,500 national banks. In 1870, 1,638 national banks stood against only 325 state banks. The tax led in the 1880s and 1890s to the creation and adoption of checking accounts. By the 1890s, 90% of the money supply was in checking accounts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_central_banking_in_the_United_States#1863%E2%80%931913:_National_Banks

Bimetallism and free silver, William Jennings Bryan Politics  1896 election

EJ Phillips certainly mentions money and seems to discuss it fairly frankly, but until the transcription was complete it was hard to know what it all added up to and to put it into context.  1887 seems to have been a particularly tough year, as she tried to get Albert set up to earn his living.

Reliable data on US incomes only became available with the introduction of the federal income tax.  (The 16th amendment was adopted in 1913.)  I found a useful chart in Standing at Armageddon: The United States  1877-1919 on the distribution of wealth in 1890, which came from an 1896 book (An Essay on the Present Distribution of Wealth in the United States).  The poorer class was defined as an annual income under $500 and estimated to contain 5 and a half million families.  The middle class earned between $500 and $5000 with another five and a half million families.

The well to do had incomes between $5000 and $50,000 with 1.375 million families, while the wealthy had incomes of more than $50,000 and included about 125,000 families.  The wealthy and well to do (12% of families) owned 86% of the wealth. 

From what I can estimate, EJP's income, while she was working steadily seems clearly middle class by this definition.  She talks about earning $65/week in 1885 (a reduction of $10/week (from 1884?).  This would work out to about $3000/year.  She does talk about being idle for four months in the summer of 1885, having "three weeks vacation" in 1887, 12 weeks in 1889 (perhaps $2000 for that year), 2 weeks in 1890, 6 months in 1891, 5 months in 1892 and 12 weeks in 1896.  She only worked about 2 months in 1897.  What I’m still not certain of is how many weeks (including travel and rehearsals) she was actually paid for, and clearly salaries considered due were not always readily forthcoming. 

The lack of inflation (in fact deflation) would seem to support my assumption that her salary stayed fairly constant, though I suspect it went down in the 1890;s.  (See the chart from The Value of A Dollar.)  In 1894 the leading lady (Olive Oliver) in Lady Windermere's Fan got $40/week but EJP lamented that no one was offering her $100/week.  

Certainly a number of people around her earned much less.  Teachers, though socially middle class, earned only $250/year in the late 19th century.  In 1886 EJP told Albert that $10/week in  Middletown  ($500/year) was worth $20-25 in New York  ($1000-1300).  In 1887 Everett Root was earning $3/week at Marshall Fields in Chicago  ($150/year).  The same year Will Law in Philadelphia made $10/week ($500/year) and paid the servants $3/week ($150/year) but his prospects for marriage seemed quite far off. 

By comparison EJP's first salary (from the 1850's) was $8/week, for 9 months ($285/year) out of which she had to buy stage clothes and pay board ($2.50/week or $90/year).  

1870 Census records for Rockland County, New York show Antonio and Christine Zavistowski, daughters Emeline and Alice and EJ Nickinson and Hattie and Albert.  Dollar figures are given for real and personal value and only Antonio [$500 personal] and Christine [$15,000 real and $5,000 personal] have listings. 

In 1887 Uncle [Zavistowski] was frequently earning $5/day in the livery business (maybe $1000/year.)  May Robson in 1888 was paid $25/week by Palmer ($1250/year) and went to the Lyceum Company at $35/week (at most a $500/year increase). In 1888 JH Stoddart earned $150/week ($175 when traveling), about $7500/year which enabled him to support a family and buy a large farm in New Jersey. 

While there was no federal income tax,there were property taxes.  Hattie Nickinson Dolman writes from Philadelphia in 1894 "I want to come but John has felt the hard times in his business & the house is such a tax upon us that we have nothing left for anything else." 

History of US Income Tax, Library of Congress, 2012 http://www.loc.gov/rr/business/hottopic/irs_history.html The origin of the income tax on individuals is generally cited as the passage of the 16th Amendment, passed by Congress on July 2, 1909, and ratified February 3, 1913; however, its history actually goes back even further. During the Civil War Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1861 which included a tax on personal incomes to help pay war expenses. The tax was repealed ten years later. However, in 1894 Congress enacted a flat rate Federal income tax, which was ruled unconstitutional the following year by the U.S. Supreme Court because it was a direct tax not apportioned according to the population of each state. The 16th amendment, ratified in 1913, removed this objection by allowing the Federal government to tax the income of individuals without regard to the population of each State

Household accounts
I have two small account books for 1866-1868 and 1870-1875.  They combine lists of cities EJ Phillips was traveling to, and expenses, including sums of money sent to the children.  There are also a number of money orders, many sent to Mrs. Zavistowski in Philadelphia and in Suffern NY. and some listings of salary received. See   Clothing &Costumes    Food  and   Housekeeping

.Notebook recording  family expenses 1874 - 1877

Board for children $8.00 per week 1874

Some living expenses can be approximated from the letters. In 1886 rent of the New York flat was $45/month ($540/year, though it seems to have been given up that spring).  In 1887 board in New York was $20/week (about $1000/year).  In 1888 Hattie and John paid $17/month rent ($200/year) and in 1890 Albert and Neppie paid $15/month.  

Stage clothes were not cheap

Once I started charting expenses I began to wonder just how comprehensively she reported other expenditures. In 1886 a carriage in New York was $2.  Insurance on the flat (unspecified period of time) was 77 cents.  In 1888 a trunk was $22, a telegram from San Francisco to New York was $1.15.   In 1892 Elizabeth Ellen Dolman's funeral and doctor's bills were $152 and in 1895 reefers for a five year old (EP Nickinson) were $5-14.  One acre lots in Denver sold for $200 in 1889 and were worth $500 in 1891. 

Housekeeping 1890

A NY Times article Jan 30 1885  discusses theatrical salaries and appears under the headline "STARS AT UNION-SQUARE A RADICAL CHANGE BY SHOOK & COLLIER

Boston, May 26, 1886  I cannot tell you yet whether we go to Utica or not -- if not -- we lose a full weeks salary, which at the present time is not pleasant to think of.

Boston, May 27, 1886  Have to buy four dresses for the new play and have nothing to buy them with. Next week I get only 2 night's salary, scarcely 20 dollars but even that is better than none. It will pay any expenses between here and Chicago   Where I shall stop in Chicago will depend upon how cheap the hotels are. So at first direct your letters to McVickers Theatre. I am not playing this week, only rehearsing.

Boston, May 30, 1886  We are to be in Chicago seven weeks. I hear the lowest terms at Palmer House (where I wanted to stop, it being near the theatre) is $3 per day rather more than present salary will warrant me paying. So I do not know where I shall stop. 

Chicago, July 9, 1886   We shall leave here on Sunday or Monday for our Western trip.  That is the 25th or 26th of July, no salary while traveling.  Open 2nd of August in San Francisco.  I shall send you the $50 next week.  Salary day is Wed.  It is after 1 PM when salaries are paid, so shall not probably send before Thursday.  You will get it on the 17th and then we are free from the Johnsons, and I hope forever.   

Chicago, July 21, 1886  "I get no salary next week - and it will cost about $3 per day for my expenses on the road."  Tomorrow I shall send by PO order to you $15 - that will have to do you until I get my 1st weeks salary in San F'co, which will be the 11th of August.  They pay salaries (due on Monday) on Wednesdays.  I wish I could send you more dear - but my salary seems, nay is, so small for the heavy expenses I have, that it is impossible for me to do so. I have not returned Miss Greenwald's money she so kindly offered & that is not right.  I owe nothing but for storage, payable on my return to New York.  I get no salary next week - and it will cost about $3 per day for my expenses on the road..

San Francisco, Aug. 9, 1886   I borrowed money I sent you this morning, as salary is not to be paid until Wednesday, and as it takes a week to reach you.  You must remember my salary is very small when divided into three parts. I cannot under present circumstances save a cent.  I have received eleven weeks and 2 nights salary since I left  New York - and I am in debt for storage, $22.50 and borrowed $20 from Miss Greenwald.  

New York, Oct. 28, 1886  I got my salary yesterday, but only a few of us did.  I shall not send you any tonight, for I have to get shoes, stockings, flowers, bonnet, gloves &c &c to Jim the Penman and when I get through, I will see how much I have left to send you.

New York, Nov. 4, 1886  No salary for me this week, the theatre having been closed last week.  We all feel very sore about it but what can we do? Fortunately I have just enough to pay my board this week, I having been very careful of spending for the play, or I should have been without. 

New York, Nov. 10, 1886  I asked AM [Palmer] for increase in salary -- but he said he couldn't afford it just now, would give me more soon as he was able, and he would do it without being asked. He is to give me extra however when I play this new part [Priest and Painter, later called Foregone Conclusion]

New York, Jan 9, 1887  What we are going to do for money I do not know.  I am about beside myself. 

New York, Feb. 9, 1887  Do not rely on much from me, for I spend all.  The money goes and I seem to get nothing for it. it will be bad for me, for I have not been able to save a dollar, nor have I any new clothes. So do not, for pity's sake, run in debt, for I shall not have any money to help you out. Do not think that I write this way to annoy you. I am only stating facts so that you may know how I am situated and not depend upon me to again help you out of debt.  I am willing, but my purse is empty. 

New York  April 4, 1887  Remember the money I gave you was the saving of years.  The $100 you had in the Bank for me, I had saved five years before you put it in the bank.  The four months I was idle in the summer of 1885 [when the Union Square Company was disbanded] took everything for our support except that $100.  Then I began on a reduction of $10 per week salary. Your affairs followed, and how can you suppose that I have any money?  In the theatre, when subscriptions are being taken up for flowers or charities - where I used to give $5, I now give $1 or 2.  I am looked at in astonishment, but I have to bear it. Salary not raised I am sorry to say - but the present might be less.  And I am grateful to get what I do.  Of course you know I do not like the long trip to S[an].F[ranciso]., but it is either that or no work.  

New York, Apr. 7, 1887  I will enclose $5 in this to bring you here.  Then I shall have barely enough to take us to Phila & back out of this week's salary.  Did want a new bonnet but will have to do without.

Boston undated [1888]  My first salary was eight dollars per week, and I had to buy stage clothes out of it 

Chicago, June 9, 1887   I congratulate on your success of at last obtaining employment and sincerely hope it will be a pleasant position for you. As far as the salary  - you can, if you so determine, save money on it.  Many men support families on a smaller amount. 

Boston Oct. 1, 1887 Your present salary [in Middletown] is better than twenty in New York. 

New York, Dec 2, 1887 The more I work, the longer my engagements, the poorer I get, and do not have much of a good time either! 

Boston, June 8, 1888 Not yet got salary, and hear that we are not to be paid until we get to N.Y.. But I hope it is not true.

Philadelphia, Pa, June 21, 1888  I do not intend spending another $100 for that play [Heart of Hearts], even if I had it to spend.   There may be a good deal of trouble over it.  But no matter.  I have been too long with him [AM Palmer], I guess.  He has given $25 per week more to [Alessandro] Salvini for the California trip, without his asking for it, yet he lets me go on the same small salary, and knows I spend most of what I get for his plays, and I am tired of his treatment of me, compared with the way he treats others. Mr. [James H] Stoddart gets $25 more per week when he travels.  Making $175 per week.  I have to spend 50 for the stage. 

Pittsburg, May 4, 1891, All the members of the company not in the cast of Alabama received notice this morning that their season ended on the 16th of May in Buffalo.  Alabama will be run in Chicago for three weeks - and I think it will be the only play done on the California trip.  So unless something transpires I shall be idle for several months. I am sorry but cannot help it - such is the state of the drama at present time.  I do not like losing my salary for three weeks in Chicago, but am glad to escape going to California - as I at present do not feel well or strong enough for the journey.  

Boston, May 19, 1889  And my purse is very thin taking into account my long vacation.  After 1st of June it will be 13 weeks before I again receive salary. 

Hartford, Nov. 8, 1892 I do not like our play and do not like my part but the salary is good and I like it. The travelling is pretty severe on your young Mother, but I hope I shall be able to stand it.  I am with a very nice party of people, all respectable and well-behaved and I am happy with them. 

Hattie to Neppie, Philadelphia, Oct. 10, 1893  She [EJP] does & always has [fretted] when she is away from her children.  She worries how they may be getting on & when she is home she worries because her salary isn't coming in.  Summer vacations have never done her any good for that reason.  .. I am in hopes that as Mama gets a little more rest & (a few more salaries) she'll begin to feel better. 

Milwaukee, Nov. 8, 1893  I do not know how my affairs are going to turn out.  The Palmer Co open in San F'co on Xmas day and my name is on the list and has been rumoured in the papers as going with them, but so far nothing has been said to me by either Palmer or Frohman about the matter.  If they do want me, I shall kick considerably against going, for the Company is to play new plays almost every week for three months which means daily rehearsals, eight performances and getting dresses ready for each new play.  I do not think my strength would hold out and there certainly would not be any money in it for me at present salary.  If they are willing to double my salary then I may accept, if asked! 

Newark NJ, April 3, 1894  I expect my season to close in Chicago about the 12th of May, for I think there are plenty [of others] anxious to go on for the "Duchess" [in Lady Windermere's Fan] for half my salary.  Nothing further has been said to me, and I do not think they will be likely to keep me at present salary. 

Boston, April 7,1895  I am also going to try to get a few weeks engagement, if possible, for it seems cruel to lose the weeks of April & May doing nothing, when I need so much more money than I have, and I feel more able to work now, than at anytime this Season.

Portland, Sept. 15, 1896 But then the hardest part of the travel will be over, but by that time it will have been pretty severe.  And I imagine rather exhaustive to the treasury.  But we have our salaries up to date and have no right to criticise our management. 

Philadelphia, Apr. 5, 1897  No one has offered me a hundred per week yet for this or next season.  I wish they would come along for I am tired of being idle.

Theatrical salaries 1858 from Rede's Guide to the Stage http://books.google.com/books?id=W3oXAAAAYAAJ&dq=rede's+guide+to+the+stage+1858&source=gbs_navlinks_s   has theatrical salaries by city and theatres. 

Theater programs often have many ads  Newspapers also a nice source of images.

Early playbills provided the dual purpose of serving as an advertisement for a performance as well as a program. By the mid-nineteenth century, printers began producing playbills on larger sheets of paper. Playbills eventually became poster size, which made them unwieldy for use as a program. This necessitated the printing of separate, smaller programs to be handed out to the audience upon entering the theatre. In 1884, in New York, Frank Vance Strauss elaborated on this idea, creating the multi-page Strauss Magazine Theatre Program, later entitled The Playbill, providing a theatrical program in a magazine format. http://www2.lib.virginia.edu/exhibits/theatre/playbills.html

A distinction is generally made between playbills and programs, although they often serve the same purpose: distributing information within a theater. Technically, the playbill is a long, narrow theater announcement, and was frequently, but not always, posted. Most playbills are printed on one side. In contrast, a program is a printed document composed of one or more folded sheets printed on both sides. By the late nineteenth century, the long, narrow playbill was largely supplanted by the folded program.

In the 1870s, many theaters published their own programs, but it was also commonplace for publishers or printers to supply programs for theaters. These published programs were financed by a multitude of large and small paid advertisements secured by the publisher. These ads sometimes obscured information about the actual performance.

In 1884, a man named Frank V. Strauss began to gather ads for the Madison Square Theatre in New York City and soon began printing programs for many theaters. He founded the first company devoted primarily to the publishing of theater programs. The title of the programs he published was "The Playbill," which is still in widespread use for theater programs, and is an exclusive registered trademark.  Theater Playbills and Programs, American Memory, Library of Congress http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/vshtml/vsprge.html  

1865 Cincinnati photographers' advertising on reverse of photos of Albert and Hattie

We have a surprising number of photographs, both because they were a necessary professional expense for EJ Phillips, and because they were becoming more affordable and ubiquitous.  19th century Photography and technology 

The cult of celebrity is not a 20th century phenomenon. In the latter part of the 19th century innovations in the use of photography as advertising spurned a new avenue of celebrity likeness-based souvenirs. Portraits of personalities from the stage who were previously portrayed in engravings and traditional portraiture were now available to an interested public in a more realistic and affordable form – the cigar/cigarette card included as an incentive in the purchase of a smoking product and cabinet photographs sold as souvenirs by theatrical promoters. THE NINETEENTH CENTURY ACTOR PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION, 1868-1897 & n.d., Smithsonian Institution, Franklin A. Robinson, Jr. http://siris-archives.si.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?uri=full=3100001~!227734!0&term=  

Albert's career 
Getting Albert established in a job and settled was particularly a concern in 1886-1887.  

Chicago, June 9, 1886  I think the Texas scheme a very good one if you had the money to carry it out -- but there lies the difficulty.

New York  Jany 9th 1887  Sorry you had to spend any money in repairing your press.  It has already cost too much, and if it is beginning to break down that will be so much more less.  Try and get $250 for it before any more money is spent on it. What we are going to do for money I do not know.  I am about beside myself.  New plays being talked about and no money for dresses.  Hattie no dresses! I no dresses! Oh dear! Oh dear! Do be careful of the amounts I send you, and do not spend anymore on uniforms, billiards, &c. Think that if I cannot dress the parts I may be cast for, I shall have to take a back seat, and somebody else will be put in my place.  I have to state these disagreeable facts to you, Albert, for you are so thoughtless, and are so easily led by companions who have not your welfare at heart, but only their own pleasure.    

New York Feb 9, 1887 Do not rely on much from me, for I spend all.  The money goes and I seem to get nothing for it  

 New York April 2, 1887  For the trouble that has overtaken you I am primarily to blame!  And I humbly ask your pardon!  Had I taken the advice of all our friends when you entered J & CJ's store, you would today be a self respected man.

Everybody told me and advised me to take your money or make you pay your own expenses.  Had I done so - you would not have been able to have seen and indulged in all the extravagances of this City!  I am to blame for it!  I have made you a selfish spendthrift - and an ungrateful man! 

Today or yesterday, I should still continue the same course if I had the means, but I am a monument of my own weakness and folly, and your affliction.

That Mrs. G[arretson] will help you I doubt, for you will find that no one will help those who do not help themselves.  And should she advance what you want, what prospect have you of ever repaying her?  You are only stepping deeper into the mire.  Take a spade, a broom, a hoe and earn your honest bread - rather than cringe to people who will scorn you for your indebtedness. 

Your stock has cost $1000.  Surely some one will buy it for $150.  Take it and leave Middletown .  You can board with Aunty until you get something to do.4 weeks tomorrow I go to Boston for four weeks.  After that I have no certainty of anything.  Members of the Company who have tried to find out from AMP[almer] what he intends to do - have not received a definite reply.  He does not seem to know what he is going to do.  

And then what becomes of me and you?  I have no money!  Don't think I am telling you an untruth.  I am not!  As you, "tricked the old lady by losing your hat xing the ferry, in order to get a new sealskin cap" so you have tricked her until all is gone.  Are you the happier for it?  Alas!  NO.  And I suffer more for you than for myself.  May you at last see your errors and mend - and with God's help become a wiser better man. 

For the trouble that has overtaken you I am primarily to blame!  And I humbly ask your pardon!  Had I taken the advice of all our friends when you entered J & CJ's store, you would today be a self respected man.

Everybody told me and advised me to take your money or make you pay your own expenses.  Had I done so - you would not have been able to have seen and indulged in all the extravagances of this City!  I am to blame for it!  I have made you a selfish spendthrift - and an ungrateful man! 

Today or yesterday, I should still continue the same course if I had the means, but I am a monument of my own weakness and folly, and your affliction.

See also San Francisco letters of  Aug. 9 and 10, 1886

The figures I was most curious to compute when the transcription was essentially complete (Jan. 1997) were the sums going to Albert.  Her Vs. ($5) to Albert in 1886 added up to about $190, reached $275 (plus the $200 note) in 1887 (on top of the $1000 for the printing press earlier in 1885?) and just $96 in 1888.  I only realized when first re-reading the letters chronologically that the same V was often referred to in two to four letters, making them seem more numerous than they were.  But EJP's gifts were clearly generous.  

The engagement and wedding year -- 1889 saw Albert getting $100 for furniture (as John Dolman's family had given him when he married Hattie) and $20 in cash.  1890 (with Edward's arrival) added up to $80, 1891 yielded $70, 1892 and 1893 were both $120, $65 in 1894, $56 in 1895 and in 1896 $183.  In 1897 the sum dropped to $11 and 1898 yielded a $5 valentine for Ted. 

French china in from Macys in 1890 ranged from $70-150 set.  Twelve piece china chamber sets were $5-15 and towels $4/dozen.  The watch Hattie gave John in 1890 was $65 and Mr. Woodruff's fishing tackle was worth $1000.  

Economics and Panics
Panic of 1837
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_of_1837 a financial panic i n the United States that touched off a major recession that lasted until the mid-1840s. Profits, prices, and wages went down while unemployment went up. Pessimism abounded during the time. The panic had both domestic and foreign origins. Speculative lending practices in western states, a sharp decline in cotton prices, a collapsing land bubble, international specie flows, and restrictive lending policies in Great Britain were all to blame.[1][2] On May 10, 1837, banks in New York City suspended specie payments, meaning that they would no longer redeem commercial paper in specie at full face value. Despite a brief recovery in 1838, the recession persisted for approximately seven years. Banks collapsed, businesses failed, prices declined, and thousands of workers lost their jobs. Unemployment may have been as high as 25% in some locales. The years 1837 to 1844 were, generally speaking, years of deflation in wages and prices.[3]    accessed 2018 April 15.

Panic of 1857 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_of_1857 a financial panic in the United States caused by the declining international economy and over-expansion of the domestic economy. Because of the interconnectedness of the world economy by the 1850s, the financial crisis that began in late 1857 was the first worldwide economic crisis.[1]...   Beginning in September 1857, the financial downturn did not last long; however, a proper recovery was not seen until the American Civil War, in 1861.[3]  Since the years immediately preceding the Panic of 1857 were prosperous, many banks, merchants, and farmers had seized the opportunity to take risks with their investments and as soon as market prices began to fall, they quickly began to experience the effects of financial panic.[3]   accessed 2018 April 15.

After first season losses [1872], the theatre showed profits for ten years, and Union Square companies made lucrative tours after 1877.  When company actors were not occupied in New York, "[AM] Palmer sent them forth, in the belief they were better at work than lounging around New York, thereby making money for the other managers, for his artists, and for himself. [Durham 1986] 
This was in spite of the Panic of 1873  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_of_1873  a financial crisis that triggered a depression in Europe and North America that lasted from 1873 until 1879, and even longer in some countries (France and Britain).  ...The Panic of 1873 and the subsequent depression had several underlying causes, of which economic historians debate the relative importance. American post-Civil War inflation, rampant speculative investments (overwhelmingly in railroads), the demonetization of silver in Germany and the United States, a large trade deficit, ripples from economic dislocation in Europe resulting from the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), property losses in the Chicago (1871) and Boston (1872) fires, and other factors put a massive strain on bank reserves, which plummeted in New York City in September and October 1873 from $50 million to $17 million.  accessed 2018 April 15. 

New York Clipper 1873 INTRODUCTORY OVERTURE , MONDAY, NOV. 10, 1873 . Having elected the most successful aspirants to various offices of trust and emolument, the metropolis is once more settling down to its every day routine of business , pleasure and wickedness.  The election possessed but little interest for those outside of the magic circle , and except for the domestic squabble between the happy families of Tammany and Apollo Hall , there would have been very little to divert attention from our usual public and private duties . The professional repeaters came up smiling every time, the intimidator of nervous voters acted his part in his usually villainous style , the virtuous challenger at equally virtuous ballot-box stuffers stood up nobly in defence of right , and the numerous auxiliaries played their little parts with their accustomed stoicism and ability . And so. that ends that . The times continue greatly depressed in all branches of business , and the outlook is anything but cheerful . Railroad corporations are daily running off the track, banking institutions continue to discover "discrepancies" in the accounts of their honest officials, dry goods houses are floundering in the mire of uncertain -or doubtful speculations , and ; the whole world seems to. have turned topsy turvy .  Establishments heretofore employing from two hundred to two thousand men each have ceased operations entirely, or are running . on half time , and with reduced labor . Everything wears very lugubrious aspect , and the most dreary and comfortless season of all the year is just about opening . Amusements feel the pressure quite sensibly . In this city the tendency is still downward . In the face of the hard times , the gentlemen who manage Italian opera have the assurance to charge three and four dollars for single seats but the falling off in the attendance at these expensive luxuries shows that even the aristocratic portion of our community is beginning to squirm and wriggle in opposition to the imposition . The high tariff theatres, although putting up attractive programmes and stars of high degree, find it necessary to do a little "papering" , in order that the auditorium may present a show of business . Edwin Booth was his own star last week , and his acting was witnessed by .pretty large audiences . The "idiotic drama" , as Sothern’s plays are now called , having ceased to attract at Wallack's the manager jumped into the breach to save, if possible,. the failing fortunes of his house. The Geneva Cross attracted a number of large audiences to the Union square Theatre during the early portion of its season, but lately the houses have dropped , and , the upper portion of the theatre looks sad and lonely.

Al Hayman note on theatrical financing 

Depression of 1893 https://eh.net/encyclopedia/the-depression-of-1893/ one of the worst in American history with the unemployment rate exceeding ten percent for half a decade. ... a watershed event in American history. It was accompanied by violent strikes, the climax of the Populist and free silver political crusades, the creation of a new political balance, the continuing transformation of the country’s economy, major changes in national policy, and far-reaching social and intellectual developments. Business contraction shaped the decade that ushered out the nineteenth century.

Henry George 
Boston, Sept, 9, 1887 Have you ever read Henry George’sProgress and Poverty”? If not I will send it to you.  It ought to be read by every thinking man & woman. I have not quite finished it but will by the time you let me know if you have read it or not. You will perhaps find it rather dry reading at first, but I think you will get interested in it, and as I have done become a convert to his theory 

But I fear great deeds will have to be done before his principles can be put into practice. Those who hold the land also hold the power! But the “Bastille” was destroyed. The American Revolution took place and also the Civil War and who can say what men may yet do for the good of their fellow beings. Certainly something is needed for Poverty and Crime are daily increasing. Human beings are not naturally so bad, until driven by want and in desperation so those dreadful deeds that fill our daily papers with such tales and pictures of horror! That are anything but edifying to young or old. You will think “Mom” has got into a moralising mood. Wish I could do more – get into a moralising Action. But I hope and that is all I can do, that something will soon be done to help poor suffering humanity, not by strife and blood shedding but by Peace, Mercy and Love.

Progress and Poverty: an inquiry into the cause of industrial depressions and of increase in want with increase of wealth was first published in 1880.  Henry George (1839-1897) American economist, founder of the single tax movement, was a candidate for mayor of New York City in 1886.  

Chicago July 2, 1887  I am glad you are keeping well and the employees are quiet.  The strikes here and the anarchist troubles have made the City very dull.  People who have money are afraid to risk it in any business.  Thousands of men are walking about doing nothing.  How it will all end remains to be seen.   

Haymarket Affair, Library of Congress 1886 https://guides.loc.gov/chronicling-america-haymarket-affair
Haymarket Affair
The Dramas of Haymarket
, Chicago Historical Society and Northwestern University http://www.chicagohistoryresources.org/dramas/overview/over.htm
Haymarket Riot
, Wikipedia

Depression of 1893  The financial crises of 1893 accelerated the recession that was evident early in the year into a major contraction that spread throughout the economy. Investment, commerce, prices, employment, and wages remained depressed for several years. Changing circumstances and expectations, and a persistent federal deficit, subjected the treasury gold reserve to intense pressure and generated sharp counterflows of gold. The treasury was driven four times between 1894 and 1896 to resort to bond issues totaling $260 million to obtain specie to augment the reserve. Meanwhile, restricted investment, income, and profits spelled low consumption, widespread suffering, and occasionally explosive labor and political struggles. An extensive but incomplete revival occurred in 1895. The Democratic nomination of William Jennings Bryan for the presidency on a free silver platform the following year amid an upsurge of silverite support contributed to a second downturn peculiar to the United States. Europe, just beginning to emerge from depression, was unaffected. Only in mid-1897 did recovery begin in this country; full prosperity returned gradually over the ensuing year and more.
David O. Whitten 2010, Economic History Association
Coxey's Army 

Pullman Strike
Hattie to Albert,  Philadelphia, July 8, 1894  Mrs. Dolman rec'd a telegram from Walter yesterday afternoon dated Ogden Utah which read "Tied up here.  No mails.  No danger"  So I am afraid the L.W.F. [Lady Windermere's Fan] Co is having a hard time of it in the West.  Walter is a long way from home to be thrown out of work. 

Philadelphia, July 19, 1894  Mrs. Dolman got a letter from Walter this Morning.  He and the Co were detained in Ogden 10 days.  Says there were three thousand travellers detained there who could not go either way.  When Walter's train started it was guarded by U.S. troops.  He is now in Washington State. 

Philadelphia, August 12th, 1894   Walter [Dolman] is in San Francisco.  Opens there tomorrow night for a week.  He had great experience during the strike at Salt Lake and Ogden under guard of the U.S. troops.  He has seen more of life since Easter Monday than he ever saw before.  Love and Kisses from your loving Mother 

The Pullman strike had begun in Chicago in May 1894.  Eugene Debs led the Albert American Railway Union, to boycott  servicing of Pullman railway cars.  US government ordered Debs to call off the strike on July 2, saying the strike was interfering with interstate commerce and the postal service.  On July 3 Pres Cleveland ordered US troops to Chicago on July 3.  They were withdrawn on July 29.  The Pullman strike was declared officially over by the American Railway Union in August.

Pullman Strike
, Chicago, May 1894, Chicago Public Library http://www.chipublib.org/004chicago/disasters/pullman_strike.html 

Thomas Kessner, Capital City: New York City and the Men Behind America's Rise to Economic Dominance, 1860- 1900, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003 provides interesting insights into EJ Phillips' first hand reports. 

Economics of Railroads
In the last third of the nineteenth century, the heyday of the railroad era, close to half a billion acres, a territory only somewhat less than the entire expanse of Europe, were added to the cultivated areas of the nation. ...Marking time by the traditional measure of sun movement meant innumerable clock adjustments as the locomotives traversed the land ... [and] wreaked havoc on railroad scheduling and safety, until finally the roads established a national system of four administratively determined "time zones"... The railroads not only fostered myriad new businesses, including such basic industries as iron, steel, coal, lumber, leather and glass, they also became the largest employer in the land, with brigades of construction workers, maintenance men, operations specialists and clerical staff.  To supervise and direct these vast armies, the railroads developed new techniques of organization and management ... These railroads molded the early history of corporate America. Indeed, the railroads were the early history of corporate America. Until the last decade of the century, these carriers were virtually the only large corporations run as private businesses, For a quarter century, nearly all of the corporate securities traded on the stock exchanges were railroad related securities.  The budding field of corporate law was in large part railroad law. The advances made in accounting and business organization were dictated by the need to keep track of increasingly scattered and complex rail activities. Railroad men were the first business leaders to influence national policy regarding corporations and monopolies. Kessner, "The Rottenness in New York" in  Capital City

"From 1875 to 1897, seven hundred railroad companies representing one hundred thousand miles of track - more than half the nation's total  - defaulted. Mobilizing billions in investor funds, Drexel, Morgan sifted through the best of these roads, selecting more than twenty in all, and acquired precious equities by buying their debts..... But the railroad market proved difficult to tame. The roads continued to build parallel lines and undercut price standards. [JP] Morgan railed at the blind pursuit of railroad growth (throughout the 1880s, more than $5 billion was poured into new railroad ventures, adding close to seventy-five thousand miles of new track), terming it "suicidal" for the $10 billion railroad industry. ... Morgan fashioned a railroad cartel to enforce "reasonable, uniform, and stable rates" and deny financing to any road that violated the agreement. That eliminating competition seemed to violate a key principle of the free enterprise economy did not disturb him.  Such matters concerned ideologues,; Wall Street bankers focused on stability and profits" Kessner, Thomas, "Shaping Modern Capitalism"  Capital City

New York Stock Exchange
  Cornelius Macardell NY Stock Exchange dues Nov  1879-May 1880. DC Hays had become Treasurer of the NYSE in 1866.

Cornelius Macardell, Albert's father-in-law  became active in Wall Street at the beginning of the Civil War and in 1886 was elected to membership in the New York Stock Exchange. A few years ago [reported his1904 obituary] he sold his seat for $40,000 which was the highest price that had ever been paid for a seat at that time.  

When did Cornelius Macardell sell his seat for a record [at the time] of $40,000?  Probably after 1885 but before 1900. perhaps around 1890?
Macardell, Cornelius Papers Handwritten financial and legal documents, such as receipts, deeds, mortgages, and bonds, ca. 1867-ca. 1881; presented by Esther Macardell Philbrick.  New York Public Library http://www.nypl.org/sites/default/files/archivalcollections/pdf/18274_0.pdf Would be interesting to see what's here.

To finance the Civil War, the federal government issued debt and for the first time paper money–a dramatic boom for stock markets. In 1863 the New York board, with about 500 members, renamed itself the New York Stock Exchange. In 1869 the NYSE fixed the membership at 1,060 (soon to rise to 1,100 through sale of new seats). This followed one other important step. On Oct. 23, 1868 the exchange vested a seat with property rights. That meant a membership could be sold at the market price or given to heirs. It thus became very much like the pieces of paper that it conferred a right to trade.

The notion quickly arose that NYSE seat prices might be a harbinger of things to come financially. In reality they are probably as much dependent on share volume as rising stock prices (see box, p. 122). Seat prices started out in 1868 at $7,000 and rose by 1885 to $35,000. Paralleling this rise was the attention given many members. To much notice, in 1898 newspaper editor Moses King published a book describing, with pictures, almost every seatholder. End of an Era, Forbes Oct 11 1999  http://www.forbes.com/forbes/1999/1011/6409121a.html

Moses King, King’s Views on the New York Stock Exchange 1898 http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/digital/collections/cul/texts/ldpd_5767556_000/ldpd_5767556_000.pdf has photographs of Stock Exchange seatholders, but none of Cornelius Macardell as he had presumably sold his seat by that time. 

Originally, the number of NYSE Memberships increased or decreased as Members joined or resigned.  In 1868 the Exchange established a fixed number of Memberships and revised its rules to allow Members to sell their seats. After selling for as little as $4,000 in the late 1860s and early 1870s, Memberships reached $80,000 by the turn of the century, reaching a high of $625,000 during the bull market of 1929 before reaching new highs of over $1 million during the 1980s stock market boom. In 1990, a seat sold for $250,000.  The highest price ever paid for a seat was $4 million on Dec. 1, 2005, followed by several seat sales at the same price; prior to 2005, the record seat sale was $2.65 million set on August 23, 1999.
Historically, seat prices fluctuated according to the interplay of supply and demand and reflected the profitability of the brokerage business, the level of trading volume on the Exchange, and general economic conditions. A Brief History on NYSE Seats http://www1.nyse.com/press/1135856420824.html   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Stock_Exchange

NY Stock Exchange history https://www.fxcm.com/uk/insights/new-york-stock-exchange-nyse/ Membership After its founding, the membership of the NYSE gradually expanded and by 1868 it was set at a fixed number of 533 "seats." The term came from the fact that, in its early years through around the 1870s, members sat in chairs to trade. Holding a seat on the NYSE entitled the owner to directly trade stock on the exchange. Because of this privilege, the seats, which were initially sold for a price of US$25, gained value over time and became a commodity in their own right. The most expensive seat ever was sold for US$625,000 in 1928, which on an inflation-adjusted basis was the equivalent of over US$6 million.[9] In 1878, the number of seats was set at a fixed level of 1,060, though it was raised to 1,366 in 1953

Thomas Kessner in Capital City reports that between 1897 and 1904, in what remains the most intense period of merger activity in American history, 4,277 firms were amalgamated into 257, as Wall Street created trusts in every field. ... Not long before, the stock market had been viewed as a raffish arena for contests between the unwary and their slick cozeners. But the Exchange won back the confidence of investors. On banner days in January of 1899, trading volume exceeded 1.5 million shares, indicating to The New York Times "many gauges of coming and lasting prosperity, supplemented by confidence in the future of securities."  

Kessner describes the depression of 1893 as "the most severe financial collapse in the nation's experience.  It was even more devastating coming as the third economic  crisis in as many decades. In these troubled years, it was far from clear that Morgan and his fellow capitalists would escape responsibility for the economic disaster.. Then, even before the nation recovered from the depression, a gold emergency hit, threatening to undermine the American monetary system and its money markets.  This crisis was hardly over when the 1896 presidential election turned into a referendum on corporate capitalism, as the Democrats joined western populists on an agrarian economic platform that deeply unnerved Wall Street.  This was followed by an imperial war in Cuba and the Philippines, which Morgan opposed. Kessner, Thomas,  "The Age of Morgan" in  Capital City: New York City and the Men Behind America's Rise to Economic Dominance, 1860- 1900, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003

Wall Street has grown extraordinarily complicated over the last two centuries... But the core of the Street's business would still be recognized by a nineteenth century trader. Daniel Drew and Jacob Little would still recognize many trading techniques and basic financial instruments.  Fortunately their philosophies for taking advantage of others have been replaced with investor protections and a bevy of securities laws designed to keep the poachers out of the henhouse, where they had comfortably resided for almost 150 years. Geist, Charles R. Wall Street A History, New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997

But the Spanish American War did get Albert to San Francisco and Honolulu, a great adventure and a trip he had wanted to make long before.  I'd be interested to know more about the NY Stock Exchange from 1886- 1895 or so -- the period which these letters cover.  Certainly the panic of 1873 and depression of 1893 must have affected EJ Phillips' career. 

Sutro Tunne
l Company stock certificate California 1880 100 shares $10 each -- one of the many lovely -- and worthless stock certificate we have. This one now hangs on my wall above a coat rack, thanks to Uncle Ted Nickinson. The back seems to record transfer to Cornelius Macardell in March 1880, though the ink is very faded and hard to read.

The story of the Sutro Tunnel Company is one that weaves together social, economic and political forces in the Western United states in the 1860s and 1870s. Beginning in 1865, Adolph Sutro began soliciting investment in a tunnel that would drain and ventilate mines along the Comstock Lode in Nevada. In the thirteen years from 1865 to 1878, Sutro journeyed from Nevada to san Francisco to Washington DC to Europe in search of political and financial support.  As the project’s feasibility and potential profitability became clear in 1866, the Bank of California tried to obstruct Sutro’s plan, which sparked a great rhetorical battle with the Sutro Tunnel Company. The debate highlights a pervasive suspicion of fraudulent business plans, profiteering and monopoly.

As the tunnel finally began operation, Adolph Sutro quietly headed for the exit. In 1879,Sutro took a stack of honest miner stock certificates representing his own portion of the Sutro Tunnel Company from San Francisco to New York, where he met Edward D. Adams, a partner at the banking house of Winslow, Lanier and Company, who would help him sell his shares. By May 11, 1880, Adams had assisted in the sale of hundreds of thousands of these shares to speculators “on the street,” from whom he reaped a total of $709,012.50.  With amazing abruptness, Sutro resigned from the Sutro Tunnel Company and took his the proceeds from his shares to buy one-twelfth of all the real estate in San Francisco, particularly concentrated on the northwest side of the city where he later built the Sutro Baths and Cliff House

The closing chapter in Adolph Sutro’s involvement in the Sutro Tunnel Company reveals how his intentions for the project changed as the project progressed. The tunnel was complex engineering feat, built with the genuine intention of providing ventilation and draining to the Comstock mines. But the twelve years of delay from Sutro’s federal mandate to the tunnel’s completion crippled the tunnel’s effectiveness by missing out on the bonanza years. It succeeded neither in the discovery nor the exploitation of any major new deposit. In the final years of construction, it seems that Adolph Sutro’s vigor and optimism, which was present in that 1878 interview with the Lyon County Times , was the primary driver for confidence in the Sutro Tunnel Company. Sutro’s hard-fought triumph over the Bank of California suggests that the tunnel was never intended to be a Twain-like hoax. Sutro promised miners, investors, and the United States Congress that the tunnel would unlock untold amounts of wealth, and amidst the 1860s bonanza that sounded plausible. As the tunnel was completed, however, Sutro would not be left holding the bag when nothing panned out. Sutro therefore promoted the tunnel until the paper stamped with the icon of the honest miner fetched him hundreds of thousands of dollars. When bad geological luck seemed clear, Sutro could rightly say he had built a great tunnel, but what would his sweat equity be worth if he did not sell it for cash? In the end, Adolph Sutro chose to profiteer off the Sutro Tunnel Company as the sunset on the Comstock’s golden days, the honest miner moved on to his next venture.  The Sutro Tunnel Company 1866-1878, Chip Schroeder 2011 https://www.academia.edu/1223157/The_Sutro_Tunnel_Company_1866-1878

Unfortunately, the Sutro Tunnel opened as the Comstock mines declined. When the major companies ceased pumping in the 1880s, water flooded the lowest levels of the mines. The tunnel, however, provided a passive drain at the 1,640-foot level. To this day, it continues to function in this capacity as water constantly flows from the tunnel mouth, leaving the historic upper levels of the Comstock mines dry.  In response to a resurgence of gold mining in the 1970s and 80s, miners began reworking the tunnel, but they only managed to repair about five hundred feet before the price of gold fell and the work ceased. Today the Sutro Tunnel and the adjacent town of Sutro remain as relicts of a great engineering feat. http://www.onlinenevada.org/articles/sutro-tunnel

Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutro_Tunnel     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolph_Sutro

Buck, James E.,The New York Stock Exchange: The first 200 years, Essex Connecticut: Greenwich Publishing Co, 1992
Davis, Tracy C. Economics of the British Stage 1800-1914, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000 http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0521571154/102-9481253-0860929?v=glance 
Depew, Chauncey M., One Hundred Years of American Commerce, New York : D.O. Haynes & Co., 1895. http://www.archive.org/stream/onehundredyears00depeuoft/onehundredyears00depeuoft_djvu.txt
Derks, Scott, editor,. Value of a Dollar, Detroit: Gale, c. 1994.  http://www.amazon.com/Value-Dollar-Millennium-Scott-Derks/dp/product-description/1891482491
Fox, Cynthia G. Income Tax Records of the Civil War Years, NARA National Archives and Records Administration, Prologue Quarterly 18(4)  Winter 1986  http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1986/winter/civil-war-tax-records.html  
Geist, Charles R. Wall Street A History, New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997
Gordon, John Steele, The Scarlet Woman of Wall Street: Jay Gould, Jim Fisk, Cornelius Vanderbilt, The Erie Railways Wars and the Birth of wall Street, New York, Weidenfield & Nicolson, 1988
Harpers Weekly 19th century advertising http://advertising.harpweek.com/
Ingalls, Nell, The Value of Money, Suburban Library Reference Service, IL, 1998 http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/homestead/2004-September/000319.html
Kessner, Thomas, Capital City: New York City and the Men Behind America's Rise to Economic Dominance, 1860- 1900, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003
Leach, William, Land of desire: Merchants, power, and the rise of a new American, New York: Parthenon Books, 1993.
Manzella, Abby, Looking at the Business of Theater 1896-1919, Univ. of Virginia, 2000 http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/INCORP/theatre/theatrehome.html
Painter, Nell Irvin, Standing at Armageddon, the United States 1877-1919, New York: W.W. Norton, c.1987.
Roy, William G, Socializing Capital: the rise of the large industrial corporation in America, Princeton NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1997
Trachtenberg, Alan, The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age, New York: Hill and Wang, 1892, 

Last updated Jan. 12, 2019

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