The Great Earthquake

When The Great Earthquake struck New England, learned men blamed everything from God’s wrath to an overabundance of lightning rods in Boston. Two hundred and twenty-five years later, geologists are at last discovering the true causes.

Shortly before dawn the five-inch pine spindle of the Faneuil Hall wind vane snapped, dislodging the thirty-pound gilded cricket that spun ten feet above Boston’s marketplace roof. Early risers first heard the baying of dogs, then the roar. Beneath the autumn moon, fifteen hundred chimneys swiveled and spewed bricks; the gable ends of brick houses that had survived the fire of 1747 collapsed onto cobblestone.Read more »

The Winds Of Ruin

A stifling spring or early summer afternoon draws on toward evening. To the west and south, a sullen cloudbank, swollen with moisture, pulsing with electrical display, rides up on the push of hot Gulf air.

Back-lighted by late sun, the advancing storm front can be seen to churn and shift and tumble in mighty collisions. But now, on the ground, the last memory of a breeze has subsided into a wrapping, oppressive stillness. A breath, it seems, scarcely can be drawn. Read more »

The Hinckley Fire

All through the late spring and summer of 1894 a haze of woodsmoke hung over the town of Hinckley in Pine County, Minnesota. Small fires burned unheeded in the cutover timberlands throughout the county, throughout the whole eastern part of the state. In mid-July, section gangs of the St. Paul & Duluth Railroad were out fighting fires north and south of Hinckley, and they succeeded in getting the flames under control before the right-of-way was damaged. At about the same time, a correspondent for a St.Read more »

The Great Blizzard Of ’88

At fifty-eight years of age, Roscoe Conkling was still a strapping figure of a man, proud of his strength. The former senator, presidential aspirant, and kingpin of Republican politics in New York State neither smoked nor imbibed. He exercised and boxed regularly. So when William Sulzer, a young lawyer who had an office on the same floor as Conkling’s in a Wall Street building, could not find a cab, Conkling decided to leave for his club, two and a half miles away, “on my pins.”

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“… I Will Stamp On The Ground With My Foot And Shake Down Every House …”


The town of New Madrid in southeastern Missouri looks out over a treacherous stretch of the Mississippi River, studded with bars and laced with stumpy shores—a graveyard of rivercraft, and haunted. Some of the ghosts are dead dreams. Read more »

The Drought And The Dole

Few places are more unpleasant ban Washington in the summer, and the summer of 1930 was worse than most. The pressures of the business downturn had kept Herbert Hoover a prisoner in the White House through a hot June and a hotter July —the stock-market crash was less than a year old—and in those days before air conditioning, editorial writers were beginning to express concern for the President’s health.Read more »