Homepage    A to Z Index  Bibliography  People   Places   Plays   Site Map   About these letters  About EJ Phillips  Chronology  EJ Phillips Facebook Fan Page

Blizzard of 1888 

previous: NY Life

The Blizzard of 1888 lasted 36 hours and began on March 12. New York City was virtually isolated when snow halted transportation and disrupted communications. Messages to Boston were relayed via England [Enc Am Facts & Dates]  National Geographic 1888 I:37. 

50 West 24th Street 
New York 
March 13th/88 

My dear Son, 

Are you snowed up or snowed down or snowed under? I do not find any news from Middletown in any of the papers, although there seems to be all the other places in the State mentioned. I pray you are safe. No use to telegraph you for you would not get it.

Went to rehearsal yesterday at 11. After Stage manager, prompter and the stage hands, no one was there but Mr. [EM] Holland and Mr. [Harry] Hogan and myself. The wind coming from the West made it very difficult for me to get back home, but I got here safe and have not been out since, as the theatre was closed last night,  Mr. [James H] Stoddart not being able to get here from Rahway [New Jersey]. 

I guess he is here now, as I have been notified that we are to play tonight. Snow and sleet are falling fast, and I think our house will be slim. This is my tenth consecutive winter in the City, and this is by far the heaviest snow storm we have had. Even the elevated roads were compelled to stop running. 6th Ave surface cars not running yet. 

I hope I shall hear from you soon, for I thought of you all day yesterday and today, battering with the storm through your long walk to the factory or perhaps "called out" by fire. Write when you get this, if you have only time to write me one sentence. The papers have very little news that you can rely on. Hoping that you have not had much hardship.   With love and Kisses I am your loving Mother

Middletown Blizzard photograph http://www.thrall.org/middletown/c1_16.htm

Grand Central Depot New York 1888 Blizzard


50 West 24th Street 
New York   
March 15th [1888] 

My dear Son, 

No news from you yet. Only news from Middletown this morning was the destruction of a church in a village near there. I wonder if you had to go to that.  

Mr. [James H] Stoddart left home on Monday 9 AM. In driving to the Station his wagon broke down, and he and his man had to mount the horses & get to the station. He remained in Rahway at the hotel until yesterday morning, when he came with a train of three engines and got to the City about 5 PM yesterday. 

He does not know how his man got home, and his people do not know anything about him. We closed Monday night, and Tuesday night Mr. [John] Findlay went on for Mr. Stoddart's part. 

The weather is getting a little warmer and the Sun did a little thawing today. I do not venture out, except to the theatre.  Have not had news from Hattie since Monday 11 AM. 

The newspapers I guess have reached you by this time and will give you more news than I can. I hope I shall soon hear from you. Love and Kisses from your loving Mother 

50 West 24th Street 
New York 
March 18th/88 

My dear Son, 

You must have had a rough time of it, but I am glad it was no worse. I could not reach you by telegraph or mail, so had to wait.  I imagined all sorts of things though. 

Well all our human greatness was put at a stand still in a few hours. We were quite as much cut off from the outside world as you were in your country town. It was dreadful.  

Provisions advanced in price. Coal rose 50 per cent. No milk to be had. The poor must have suffered dreadfully.  But, "an ill winds that blows nobody good". Men had employment given them and it will be many days yet before they are idle, for the snow still lingers in the lap of Spring. 

I wrote you Friday and enclose $2. Will enclose a V in this. Hope your factory will be in working order again this week. 

So you had to stop at Hotel all night. The hotels in New York were filled to their utmost capacity.  So were the waiting rooms at Depots and station houses. Oh it has been a lively time, but cold.  Love and Kisses from your loving Mother

JH Stoddart writes of the blizzard in his memoirs.  "We produced a very pretty play called Heart of Hearts at the Madison Square on January 16, 1888.  I had a long and a very good part in it. I remember this play more vividly than any other of my experience for it was played in the year of the great blizzard.

 "I was living, at the time, on my farm in New Jersey, and...at the height of the great storm I left home for the theatre some hours before my usual time...The drifts of snow were up to the horses' shoulders. [After the cart broke down and the horses were worn out he tried the railway but couldn't get to New York for two days (or return home.] ...At last I reached  New York, I could scarcely recognize it. Broadway looked like the arctic regions with its mountains of snow, which in many places were tunneled and fires built underneath to get rid of the enormous drifts.[ Recollections of a Player

50 West 24th Street
New York  
April 18th/88

My dear Son 

I expect we shall rehearse Jim [the Penman] next week, as we open with it in Boston  next Wed'day.  However I can get away from Monday rehearsal, if you think I had better stay all night and take  9 AM train on Monday. 

I do not mind taking the 7:20 train Sunday night as I shall be here before 11, and it is after that hour when I get home every night.  The 23rd Street ferry is very convenient to this house.

We leave for Boston on the 29th for five weeks. Get back 3rd of June. Today bought trunk for the trip -- $22, gloves for Jim and Partners $6.90.  A pretty big hole in salary.  Well half a loaf is better than none, and that is about what it amounts to. 

Will have to see how much my expenses are in Middletown before I give you any this week.  I shall not have to buy a trunk next week.  Of course you have heard that Roscoe Conkling expired at 2 this morning.  Another great man gone.  No more this time, but love and Kisses from your loving Mother 

Madison Square Park now has a statue of Roscoe Conkling, US senator and presidential candidate, who died of exposure after trying to walk home from his downtown office in the Blizzard of 1888. Blue Guide NY

Roscoe Conkling, Madison Square Park

next: Babies: Jack

Bibliography 
The Great White Hurricane: Blizzard of 1888, Borgna Brummer, Information Please http://www.infoplease.com/spot/blizzard1.html
Blizzard of 1888, Virtual New York, New Media Lab, CUNY  http://www.vny.cuny.edu/blizzard/bliz_hp.html 
Wikipedia, Blizzard of 1888 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blizzard_of_1888

Last revised Nov 27, 2010

Homepage     A to Z Index  Bibliography  People   Places   Plays   Site Map   About these letters  About EJ Phillips  Chronology   EJ Phillips Facebook Fan Page