A New York City Snowstorm In 2021 & 1857

Big Snowstorm. Big Deal. New York City – Then and Now 1857 & 2021

New Yorkers making their way along Centre Street during a huge snowstorm. The building is the Tombs prison.  February 1857 Ballou’s Pictorial Magazine 2-21-1857

“Congealed rain, frozen particles, precipitated from the clouds, and preserved by the coldness of the atmosphere in a frozen state until they reach the earth.”

This is how the New York Almanac and Weather Book (1857) defines what we are experiencing currently in New York City. Nowadays, this simple phenomenon called snow, throws our incompetent city and state government into a tizzy.


In 1857 New York City had several snowstorms during January and February.

The New York Daily-Times described the snowstorm that hit the city on January 31.

“The snow that had fallen in the night superadded to the accumulations of several previous storms had left hillocks three and four feet high, everywhere in the streets and deep drifts in many places on the sidewalks.”

As you can see from our 1857 illustration, New Yorkers went about their routines, trudging through the storm as New Yorkers (used to) do. Transportation (horse drawn omnibuses) continued and business went on as usual.

There was no street cleaning per se, so you made the best of it.


On February 1, 2021 New York City was getting at least a foot of snow. When the storm is over some parts of the city will be coated with over two feet of snow.

And as in 1857, people today generally do make the best of it.

It;s not a big deal. It’s snow. It will eventually melt. The mayor and governor make the snow out to be an enemy of epic proportions. Stay in. Stay safe. We’re all in this together. Don’t travel. We’re shutting down outdoor subway lines.

Unsurprisingly there was no mail delivery. What’s their motto again? “Neither rain, nor sleet, nor…” oh never mind.

Maybe the politicians are correct. People do stupid things in normal circumstances. Apparently common sense and the ability to read diminishes in a snowstorm.

“Hey, let’s ignore all those red signs with rescue ladders attached to them warning people not to venture out on to Central Park lake.”

Spectators lined up to watch daredevil after daredevil walk out on to what appeared to be very thin ice.

The majority of people in Central Park were enjoying the snow and the beautiful sights.

For the most part people are tired of being cooped up in their homes. Families want to get outside. It was quite apparent on Cedar Hill. Hundreds of children coasting on plastic. Not one old-fashioned Flexible Flyer wood and metal sled in sight.

Cedar Hill Central Park, Feb. 1, 2021

Don’t get too close to this guy. Oh. It’s okay he’s got a mask.

Covy the Snowman. Central Park, Feb 1, 2021

Then if you want solitude you could walk out to the Great Lawn which looked more like the Great Tundra.

Great Lawn Feb. 1. 2021

And for complete solitude the view from Oak Bridge looked like it was straight from a nineteenth century Hudson River School painting of upstate New York.

View from Oak Bridge Central Park Feb. 1, 2021

Overall a beautiful day. Though Central Park didn’t exist, weather-wise it’s a day not that much different from 1857.

One thought on “A New York City Snowstorm In 2021 & 1857

  1. Jane B

    Interesting. It snowed an inch in December in Oklahoma and barely made the news. In 1976 it snowed so much we were kept out of school for 75% of the winter. That was unusual but Okies didn’t react like it was a big deal. My point is that isnow can be nconvenient in the city but I think New Yorkers make such a big deal out of something that doesn’t hang around for very long . Most streets are plowed and sidewalks shoveled. I try to enjoy the beauty of it.


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