Skip to main content

The Blizzard Of ’88

July 2024
1min read

I’d want to be in New York City with my maternal grandfather during the Blizzard of 1888. He told me of it one day—I must have been four or five—as we walked across the frozen part of the Central Park lake. Even now, the memory of the skaters and a small bonfire on the other shore blends both with his account of the East River freezing over and with skaters in subsequently seen Currier and Ives prints of Central Park as it was in his youth. Scraps of his observations—the motionless city, the EI trains stalled for hours —blend today with facts from published history—the thirty-foot drifts in Herald Square, the necessity of communicating with Boston via transatlantic cable through London, the food shortages. At four I couldn’t know to ask what I would today, and so I want to be walking beside him on Monday, March 12, 1888. An ambitious young man of nineteen, just starting to work for an engineering journal, he was unable to get to work. But what did he do that day? What did he see? A lover of theater, was he one of the handful of people who managed to watch Ellen Terry and Henry Irving in Faust ? Did he watch one of the multitude of fires that burned themselves out because no fire engines could reach them? I’d want answers to questions that, even now, I hardly know enough to ask.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.