Thursday, 5 April 2007

Interesting Celery Fact No. 7

In 1876 the Austro Hungarian empire was thrown into turmoil when the merchant classes led a revolt against taxes. Most hated of all was the Celery Tax, which had been considered iniquitous when introduced in the 1840's, and had then been regularly increased. Celery was seen as "the little luxury everyone can afford", not just in the low countries (as has been well documented), but across Central europe since the 1750's, but the celery tax ate into the customer base very quickly. First to suffer were the very poor, who were immediately priced out of the celery market, but as the tax burden grew heavier and heavier, the wealthier peasants, and even burghers started to feel the pinch, and farmers found demand for celery was plummetting.

In '76, the worm finally turned, as the merchants found that they, too, were no longer able to afford the celery which was so much a part of their daily lives, and a pamphlet, entitled "Against the Gentrification of Celery" began to be circulated. As the upper middle classes began to forcibly resist the celery tax, the poorer and more downtrodden followed suit, until the Duke of Hapsburg gave way, and removed celery tax altogether, in what was known as the Budapest Celery Amnesty.

An interesting aside to this story is that the little town of Unterdenverdegris had it's very own Lady Godiva moment as a result of this crisis. The mayor of the little town was begged by his wife to stand up to the Hapsburgs, and refuse to collect the celery tax. He laughingly told his wife that he would do so, if she would ride naked through the town on a donkey. This she did, but there the parallels with Godiva end. The mayors wife was, to put it kindly, a rather homely lady, and once the people of the town found out why she was undertaking this naked ride, they swore never to complain about celery tax again, if only she would promise never to repeat her daring ride.

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