Summertime in the City

Storm Clouds

The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch ran an article about the sweltering summer of 1901, as part of their ‘A Look Back’ series. While not exactly late-breaking news, I still found the article relevant. This has been an extremely hot summer this year, but the summer of 1901 still holds the record as the hottest summer in Saint Louis. The article goes on to detail how Saint Louisans coped with, or sometimes didn’t that awful season.

There was no air conditioning in 1901. Even the electric fan was a novelty. According to the article, Saint Louis’ own Emerson Electric had patented the ceiling fan only four years earlier. So how did they cope with the heat back then? The Eads Bridge suspended the pedestrian toll so people could walk for free above the Mississippi River. Churches and restaurants allowed men to leave their jackets at home. According to the article:

The Post-Dispatch raised money to distribute free ice for the poor. Children rushed home from the ice stations with dripping buckets. Katie Lee, 10, whose family of seven lived in the crowded Ashley tenement at North Fourth and Biddle streets happily hefted a basketful. “It’ll make a lot of ice water, won’t it?” Katie said.

Tragically then, like still today, too many perished under Saint Louis’ summer heat.

“I’m burning up. Won’t somebody do something to relieve me?” screamed Clara Bosch of South Broadway. A short time later, her husband found Clara hanging from a rope in their basement. Her death was a suicide. The dead included John Boepple, a butcher who succumbed to heat. Local tradition has it that Boepple invented the hot dog. Another was George Straube, who fell asleep on his second-floor windowsill and fell to his death.

What caught and held my interest about this article the most was its conclusion. “The newspaper ran photographs of prominent Saint Louis families on the front porches of their summer retreats in Michigan. They looked comfortable in jackets and hats.” Some things never change.

It rained this morning, for the first time in I don’t know when. It wasn’t a whole lot, but it was still welcomed and appreciated. It meant though that I did not go bicycling this morning. I did make it out yesterday morning and then went to the Gardens in the afternoon. After suffering under tripe-digit temperatures, yesterday’s high in the nineties didn’t seem too bad. I guess that I’m just like a frog in a frying pan. I’ve gotten use to frying.

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