Old New York In Photos #35

Snow Removal In New York 1908

Looking south from Fourth Avenue & 15th Street on the east side of Union Square horse carts remove piles of snow - January 25, 1908 (photos LOC)

Looking south from 4th Avenue & 15th Street on the east side of Union Square horse carts remove piles of snow – January 25, 1908 (all photos Library of Congress)

While some people were complaining about the lack of snow removal in New York City this past week, it makes you realize how dependent we are on mechanized snowplows.

One hundred six years ago today, a major snowstorm similar to this past week’s storm, hit New York City on January 24, 1908 and dumped over ten inches of snow in New York and 35 mile per hour gusts of wind had some snowdrifts pile up from six to ten feet.

During the snowstorm near 9 East 14th Street - January 24, 1908

During the snowstorm by 9 E. 14th Street – January 24, 1908

The snow began the night of January 23 and continued until the afternoon of the 24th. The temperature never dipped below 22 degrees, but it was still miserable for commuters trying to get around town.

According to the New York Tribune, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals sent men around to spread sand over the streets to prevent horses from falling. Unfortunately they only could get to a handful of spots and horses slipped and fell in heaps all over the city. The human toll from the storm was four deaths and thirteen injuries directly attributable to the severe weather.

The scene in front of Everett House 17th Street north side of Union Square January 25, 1908

The scene in front of Everett House 17th Street north side of Union Square January 25, 1908

All of the snow had to be removed by manual labor. And when the city put out notices that men were needed for temporary work to remove the snow with shovels, over 30,000 men applied.

Men shoveling snow in front of Everett House 17th Street north side of Union Square January 25, 1908

Men shoveling snow in front of Everett House 17th Street north side of Union Square January 25, 1908

At one recruiting station, the United Charities Building on East 3rd Street, 100 men were needed and 3,000 showed up. The police had to be called to keep order and they used their nightsticks to drive back the crowd of desperate unemployed men.

On  January 24, over 800 men and 200 trucks were kept busy removing snow primarily below 14th Street around Broadway, Chambers and Canal Streets.

North side of East 14th Street showing, subway kiosk and the original Academy of Music - January 25, 1908

Cleaning the sidewalks north side of 14th Street looking east from 4th Avenue. Subway kiosk on right and in background the original Academy of Music on left – January 25, 1908

By January 25, over 3,500 men and 1,800 carts were in the streets to clear the snow. It was estimated that 300,000 cubic yards of snow would have to be removed and it would cost the city $100,000.

As compared with the recent storm this past week where traffic was snarled on the Upper East side of Manhattan, traffic was also paralyzed all over the city during the brunt of the 1908 storm. The Bronx was covered in a thick layer of snow and was likened to the foothills of the Adirondacks. In Brooklyn every line of the B.R.T. was out of commission and the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges were at a standstill for many hours. All of Staten Island’s telephone and telegraph wires were down.

The New York Evening World noted that, “As usual in all paralyzing storms in this city the officials of the various surface lines declared that everything was moving as smoothly as on the blandest spring morning.”

An investigation made by reporters showed that nearly every crosstown line in Manhattan was out of service!

So much for the accuracy of city officials then and now.

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4 thoughts on “Old New York In Photos #35

  1. bjmc

    Thanks so much for this incredible website! Amazingly good and the NYC photos brings
    me back to an era I loved but never lived in!

    BMcManus

    Reply
  2. Klemperer

    Thank you so much for this. Yesterday I watched one of my favourite movies (among many), “Manhattan” again, and as we have 70° Fahrenheit right now (November 1!) In Hamburg, I somehow dreamt of the “winter in New York’s streets” seconds in the film (episode at the beginning). Your pictures here made my day. I quite understand that your post is about a day of weather extremes in your city, (in Hamburg the officials in one of our very few icy cold winters recently did not pay workers to remove the ice. They said – and nearly nobody protested – “it is cheaper to face some people that go to court because we did not clear the ice than it would be to pay workers”…. / Yet I happen to love snow, and I would love to live in a world where on such very cold days people would stick together and help, for example, those who can’t get out to buy food and so on… Powder-snow in huge cities can be enchanting, one just has to be a bit slower and one has to help the others. – Well, a thousand thanks for your website!

    Reply

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