The Long Depression was a worldwide price and economic recession, beginning in 1873 and running either through March 1879, or 1896, depending on the metrics used. It was most severe in Europe and the United States, which had been experiencing strong economic growth fueled by the Second Industrial Revolution in the decade following the American Civil War. The episode was labeled the "Great Depression" at the time, and it held that designation until the Great Depression of the 1930s. Though a period of general deflation and a general contraction, it did not have the severe economic retrogression of the Great Depression.
It was most notable in Western Europe and North America, at least in part because reliable data from the period is most readily available in those parts of the world. The United Kingdom is often considered to have been the hardest hit; during this period it lost some of its large industrial lead over the economies of continental Europe. While it was occurring, the view was prominent that the economy of the United Kingdom had been in continuous depression from 1873 to as late as 1896 and some texts refer to the period as the Great Depression of 1873–1896, with financial and manufacturing losses reinforced by a long recession in the UK agricultural sector.
In the United States, economists typically refer to the Long Depression as the Depression of 1873–1879, kicked off by the Panic of 1873, and followed by the Panic of 1893, book-ending the entire period of the wider Long Depression. The U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research dates the contraction following the panic as lasting from October 1873 to March 1879. At 65 months, it is the longest-lasting contraction identified by the NBER, eclipsing the Great Depression's 43 months of contraction. In the United States, from 1873 to 1879, 18,000 businesses went bankrupt, including 89 railroads. Ten states and hundreds of banks went bankrupt. Unemployment peaked in 1878, long after the initial financial panic of 1873 had ended. Different sources peg the peak U.S. unemployment rate anywhere from 8.25% to 14%.