SUMMER OF 1896 New York City Heat wave

In the nineties, with a population approaching 2,000,000, no serious outbreak of pestilence had occurred for a score of years. Never was the city's sanitary condition put to a severer strain than during the summer of 1896. On Wednesday, August 5, four deaths occurred from the excessive heat, and the newspapers the next day announced in headlines that it was the "worst day" of the season thus far. But matters grew incredibly worse before another week had elapsed. On the sixth day of August five deaths were reported; on Saturday, the eighth, there were ten. Then there was a sudden leap to forty-five deaths on Sunday, the ninth. The next day Seventy-two deaths occurred and 200 prostrations. On the next day, Tuesday, August the eleventh, the citizens were appalled by a record of 120 deaths from the heat, and 300 prostrations. Even yet the death angel was not through with the afflicted city; ninety-three deaths on Wednesday, with 314 people prostrated; and sixty-eight deaths on Thursday, closing the calamitous catalogue. Thus the nine days had carried off 420 victims, the temperature for the nine days averaging 90.77 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat did not reach 100 degrees at any time during this period. It was rather the continuance of it day and night, the absolute stagnation of the air, and the oppressive humidity, that made these days so trying to all and fatal to so many. Yet it was the heat pure and simple and no disease produced or fostered by high temperature that caused the death record to rise to such alarming figures. Then, as now, it was in the poorer districts of the East Side, between the Bowery and the East River, that the greatest suffering prevailed during these heated terms. The people were huddled together in tenement houses, containing four families on a floor, and mounting up floor after floor to the fifth story. Not content with choking people to death in that manner, with a narrow street in front, some of the landlords put up rear tenements on the same lots, separated from the front building by scarcely twenty feet. Source: History of New York State 1523-1927 Publisher: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc.-New York, Chicago. Copyright: 1927 Volume I and V ___________________________________________ Transcribed by Miriam Medina Back To MANHATTAN Main Back To BROOKLYN Main