1854: cholera dampens festive spirits
In 1854, Munich was stricken by a cholera epidemic, leaving 3,000 victims in its wake. Thousands more died throughout the rest of Bavaria. On 5 July 1854, the first German industry exhibition opened in Munich. In order to not interfere with this, the risk of a cholera outbreak, which had taken hold in India and had long since reached Europe, was downplayed by officials as a rumor. On any given day, the exhibition drew 5,000 visitors or more — the outbreak of the disease began on the very first day. Most of the sufferers lived in the south of the city, close to a fish creek. It flowed through the city and was heavily polluted from garbage and laundry washing. It was not only ‘normal citizens’ who fell victim to the plague in huge numbers, but so too did the wife of Ludwig I., the queen mother Therese — the very woman to whom the first Oktoberfest was dedicated, and after which the Theresienwiese was christened! She returned to Munich after she was prematurely given the all-clear and was dead the next day. In summer 1854, there were around 15,000 cases of cholera, leading to 7,730 deaths. It’s no wonder that Oktoberfest wasn’t on the cards.