Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The sun still continues its terrible work

While the current era complains about the heat advisories of 2016 in the latest heat wave, we are not the first to experience a heat wave.  In 1896, there wasn’t air conditioning…

The heated term was the worst and most fatal we have ever known. The death-rate trebled until it approached the ratio of a cholera epidemic; the horses died by the hundreds, so that it was impossible to remove their carcasses, and they added a genuine flavor of pestilence, and we had to distribute hundred of tons of ice from the station-houses to the people of the poorer precincts.

Theodore Roosevelt

The Boulevard at Revere Beach

The Boulevard at Revere Beach by Picasa.

One of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history was the 10-day heat wave of 1896, but it is largely forgotten to history.

For 10 days starting on August 1, the temperature soared to 90 degrees and higher, while staying above 70 degrees at night. Humidity hovered at 90 percent, and here wasn’t a breath of wind.

From Boston to New York to Chicago, more than 1,500 people died from heat prostration or related illnesses. More people died in the stifling heat than in the Great Chicago Fire or the New York draft riots.

‘No relief yet,’ read one headline during the middle of the heat wave. ‘The sun still continues its terrible work.’

The Boston Globe on August 11, 1896, reported a ‘startling list of fatalities from the excessive heat. ‘ The newspaper reported 22 deaths in Chicago, 46 in New York, 16 in Brooklyn, 21 in New Jersey. In Providence, R.I., ‘many’ died. In Lawrence, a man dropped dead of sunstroke and two others were overcome by the heat and later died.


And in Washington

Some people chose intoxication as a means of relief. Women, who, unlike men, couldn't go to saloons to drink beer, were nevertheless free to stop by the soda fountains at their local drugstores. A Washington Post reporter on August 9 observed women enter an unnamed drugstore on Pennsylvania Avenue and order "wine of cocoa" and calisaya, two tonics containing 15 to 20 percent alcohol. According to the soda fountain attendant, either drink if "properly taken" offered "artificial strength to combat the heat," but which were often consumed in excess, in which case they were "just as intoxicating as whisky and much more injurious." A wealth of information, this attendant went on to confide that some women also resorted to drinking cologne, which offered a 50 percent alcohol ratio. Men too would drop by the drugstore soda fountain, particularly on Sundays when the saloons were closed. Their favorite beverage was Jamaica ginger, another intoxicant as strong as whiskey. Whiskey drinkers would "come to us and buy 25 cents worth of Jamaica ginger, take it home and dilute it with ice water and sweeten it with sugar. By the time the bottle is empty they feel as if all the saloons in the city had been open and visited."


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You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.

Harlan Ellison