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Eyewitness to the Great Blizzard of 1888


Video description
Albert Hunt recalls the Great Blizzard of 1888 in Winsted Connecticut. He worked for Dowd Printing Co. on North Main Street.

This is a wire recording from 1949 made at Pete’s Steak & Lobster House on Elm Street in Winsted. Also hear “Buddy” Ryan who introduces Mr. Hunt. Recording made by Howard Deming who was 8 years old in 1888. He remembered the snow so deep he could walk on the snow and sit on the telephone pole cross bars. In the days before the storm, it was warm and balmy. People were outside preparing their gardens for what seemed like an early spring, but the barometer was falling.

Special thanks to the Connecticut Historical Society for the photographs.

Drifts were reported to average 30–40 feet (9.1–12 m), over the tops of houses from New York to New England, with reports of drifts covering 3-story houses. The highest drift (52 feet or 16 metres) was recorded in Gravesend, New York. It was reported that 58 inches (150 cm) of snow fell in Saratoga Springs, New York; 48 inches (120 cm) in Albany, New York; 45 inches (110 cm) of snow in New Haven, Connecticut; and 22 inches (56 cm) of snow in New York City. The storm also produced severe winds; 80 miles per hour (129 km/h) wind gusts were reported, although the highest official report in New York City was 40 miles per hour (64 km/h), with a 54 miles per hour (87 km/h) gust reported at Block Island.[5] New York’s Central Park Observatory reported a minimum temperature of 6 °F (−14 °C), and a daytime average of 9 °F (−13 °C) on March 13, the coldest ever for March.

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The Season: Winter

The Skiing Party, Wengen, Switzerland by Sir John Lavery

For much of the nineteenth century, it was customary for Society to spend the winter months in warmer climes such as the Riviera, where the capricious weather of England or Russia was forgotten amongst the charms of sun, warmth and gambling. Some time during the mid-1890s, as the craze for outdoor sports gripped English and Continental society, a few intrepid sportsmen took up skiing. The sport was not wholly unfamiliar, as Switzerland was a somewhat popular destination for invalids and others on the European spa tour, but the concept of sports created solely for the winter season was largely unknown in England. Skiing, however, did not become overwhelmingly popular until the late 1900s, when Society discovered the Swiss Alps. To the horror of the French, wealthy Europeans and Americans deserted the Riviera by droves, to patronize such places as St Moritz or Davos or Caux, to learn to ski, to ice-skate, or to toboggan down the slopes. Almost overnight, the quiet invalid resorts nestled amongst the snowy downs of the Swiss Alps transformed into smart, chic places where society could mingle with their like against a background no different than that of Paris or Vienna.

Further Reading:
Switzerland in Winter by Will & Carine Cadby
The Exploration of the Alps by Arnold Lunn
Edwardian Promenade by James Lavery
Belle Epoque: Paris in the 1890s by Raymond Rudorff