The famine of 1816/17

In 1816, the eruption of the Tambora volcano in Indonesia and the volcanic ash it ejected into the atmosphere gave Switzerland 80 percent more precipitation and temperatures 2 to 4 degrees cooler than usual. This climatic change was the cause of the famine of 1817/1818. "The year 1816 is then also distinguished by the fact that snow fell in every month, so that the grain fields were still as green at the end of September as they usually were in July. In the Engadine, the alps had to be unloaded already at the beginning of September. Since it had snowed 19 times during the summer, the cattle could no longer find grass, neither on the meadows nor on the pastures."

Inflation began as early as the fall of 1816, with food prices soon rising 175-200%. This figure illustrates the demand, or rather the supply, which was far below that.

"The situation of individuals was such that they did not even shrink from waste. In heaps one saw the starving people on streets and in all alleys on disgusting dung heaps, rummaging in smaller excrement containers and devouring the most miserable parts of food, potato husks, rotting turnips, etc., taking home the boiled bones they found themselves, until they were boiled two or three times, at last still crushed or pounded with hard teeth."

In Chur, a bone mill was specially set up by the benefactor Prof. Johann Conrad Herold in the Welschdörfli near Breitenbach, where bones were pounded into flour. This was announced to the general population in the "Churer Zeitung" of March 14, 1817. The masher's wages of two Krennen cost one Blutzger. Who did not want to or could not pay, leaves for the two stamped Krennen 10 Krennen of the raw bones. With the addition of bread, potatoes and fruits, the bone meal made a complete food. Another substitute was the wooden bread: for this purpose the bark of birch trees was crushed, mixed with some bran and baked into loaves.

In the circular letter of November 20, 1816, the government had to admit "that it would be a declared impossibility to even somewhat counteract the general lack of the poorer classes of people from the extremely limited source of aid of the cantonal treasury". The municipalities were recommended to appoint special commissions for the poor.

The authorities realized that the creation of efficient transport connections over our passes was of utmost importance. Under the title "Eine Hungersnot stand Pate" Werner Roth-Bianchi reports in an article in the "Terra Grischuna" about the rapid initiation of these projects: On September 14, 1818, construction began on the road over the San Bernardino, which was already completed in 1823. Further road constructions followed[76].

Impressum und rechtliche Hinweise