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  • Writer's pictureMatt Oberholzer

This Week in History

Updated: May 8, 2023

8/15/1969 – Woodstock Opens

Before Woodstock was a cultural phenomenon, it was a financial fiasco.

Organizers behind the legendary music festival in upstate New York, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this summer, said they wound up $1.3 million in debt after the historic 1969 event—roughly $9 million in today's dollars. But they eventually broke even years later thanks to album and movie ticket sales.

In addition to basic problems like miles of traffic jams and a lack of sanitation and food for a colossal crowd estimated at over 400,000 (with only 186,000 tickets sold), Woodstock organizers failed to adequately fence in the concert area. As a result, many fans attended without paying for admission — which was $18 for the three-day festival, the equivalent of about $125 today. That meant festival producers had even less money than expected to pay Woodstock's performers, several of whom reportedly demanded twice their usual pay rate, upfront.

8/16/1896 – Gold Discovered in the Yukon

While salmon fishing near the Klondike River, George Carmack, Skookum Jim and Tagish Charlie spotted nuggets of gold in a creek bed. Their discovery would spark the last great gold rush in the American West.

The timing of the discovery was lined up with what many consider to be the second worst financial crisis over the last 200 years (only the Great Depression was worse). This crisis was the result of a “double dip.” The Panic of 1893 was a national economic crisis set off by the collapse of two of the country's largest employers, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and the National Cordage Company. Following of the failure of these two companies, a panic erupted on the stock market. The Panic of 1896 was an acute economic depression in the United States precipitated by a drop in silver reserves, and market concerns on the effects it would have on the gold standard.

One estimate is that 2.4 million ounces of gold came out of the Klondike in the first three years of the stampede, which is about 75 tons of gold or approximately $3.5billion.

8/19/1909 – First Race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Initially opened to showcase Indiana’s growing automotive industry, the Indianapolis Speedway was built on 328 acres of farmland. The venue has changed over the years from hosting occasional races so spectators could see different manufacturers compete before heading to showrooms to hosting one big annual race.

Today’s race covers 500 miles, compared to the initial race of just five miles. The first race saw approximately 12,000 attendees whereas the most recent race held 325,000.

With the 500 Festival producing reoccurring events in Indianapolis since 1957, the overall economic benefit to the city since its inception is estimated to be more than $400 million. Based on current growth rates, the impact of the 500 Festival is likely to be greater than $210 million in this decade (2010-2020) alone.

8/21/1959 – Hawaii Becomes 50th State

While the U.S. annexed Hawaii as a territory in 1898 under somewhat shady circumstances — and over the objections of many Hawaiians — by the 1950s most Hawaiians were in favor of being admitted as a state.

Three days after Hawaii was admitted to the Union, Pan American became the first airline to provide jet service to the newest state, according to the Los Angeles Times. This convenience changed the face of Hawaiian tourism entirely.

The flurry of commercial activity led to a corresponding boom in development: In 1964, construction spending was up nearly 20 percent from the previous year and included a $27 million high-rise on Waikiki Beach that was then the world’s largest single-unit apartment building.

In 2019, visitor spending brought $17.75 billion to Hawaii.

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