Steven Wheeler is Director of Archives, Corporate Giving and Education for the Corporate Responsibility Group of NYSE Euronext.
As our mild, nearly snowless winter segues into spring, here’s a reminder that the month of March can pack a wintry wallop – the Blizzard of 1888 that crippled the East Coast 124 years ago today.
On Monday, March 12, 1888 New York City was hit with one of the most severe blizzards in history. Overnight the storm had dumped 22 inches of snow on the sleeping city and by morning all roads in the city were blocked. The temperature plummeted to 5 degrees and it just kept on snowing – accumulating about 40 inches of snowfall in total. Moreover, fierce winds created snow drifts as high as second story windows in places.
Only 61 of the NYSE’s members managed to get to the Exchange that morning (most of them lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but a handful of intrepid souls made it in from Jersey City and Hoboken). After trading only 15,000 shares, the market closed at noon. The next day the NYSE was closed again as the city continued to dig out.
This photograph shows New Street, the alley behind the NYSE, with snow piled up and weighing down the telegraph and telephone wires. So many overhead wires were damaged during the storm that the city began the next year to relocate all utility wires underground.
The statue of George Washington, which had been dedicated on the steps of Federal Hall five years earlier to mark the site where the first president took the oath of office, was literally snow-capped by the storm.