At least 989 individuals perished in weather so hot it melted asphalt and drove scores of New Yorkers insane. For a solid week New Yorkers cursed, collapsed, threw themselves into wells, leaped to their deaths from bridges, overwhelmed morgues, and stretched police and hospital workloads beyond their limit. Some fell to their deaths while sleeping on rooftops while seeking relief from their stifling, windowless tenements--dizzy, confused, dehydrated--trying to escape the suffocating air inside.Curious to know what the conditions were like here in Hudson during that same week, I scoured the pages of the Hudson Daily Register. The reports of what was happening in New York City that appeared in the Register seem reserved by comparison. On July 2, 1901, under the headline "Fearful Havoc of Hot Wave To-day," the Register ran this account on the front page, where national and international news was reported:
Yesterday in New York.
New York, July 2--New York was like a vast oven yesterday. A brazen sun poured scorching rays upon the great city, brought death and desolation, and almost succeeded in paralyzing commerce and industry. The occasional puffs of wind seemed to bring new waves of torrid air and afforded no relief to suffering humanity. The network of steel and iron tracks and structures were transformed into radiators to disseminate the heat; the bricks and stone became fuel, and the asphalt pavements blistered and felt like sticky mud, in which every foot step left an imprint.
The local bureau of the Associated Press put out this bulletin at an early hour this morning:
"Our records show that between the hours of 2 a.m. and 12 p.m. of July 1 the excessive heat was directly responsible for 75 deaths and 141 prostrations. This record is based on returns by the police and the hospital records and other reliable sources."
The following day, under the headline "Still No Relief from Warm Wave," the Register had this report:
The Death List.
New York, July 3--Up to noon today the total number of deaths from heat in New York and Brooklyn was forty-seven. Deaths in other cities were twenty-two.
The Board of Governors of the Stock Exchange voted to close the exchange on Friday and Saturday and the banks decided to restrict business all that is possible on those days. This is due entirely to the intense heat.
On June 28, a small item about the weather appeared on the page devoted to local news in the Register.
On that same day, the Register included two items about the state of the "air conditioning" in two local businesses where people might be inclined to take refuge from the heat.
This news item about ice deliveries, which appeared in the Register on July 1, confirms that the heat wave continued.
On July 2, this item appeared in the Register, announcing that the Central Hotel has put electric fans in "various rooms."
The Hudson Valley wasn't spared the deadly consequences of the oppressive heat. This item, which appeared in the Register on July 6, reports how a worker, deranged by the heat, threw himself into Rondout Creek.
COPYRIGHT 2014 CAROLE OSTERINK
Photograph of the Central Hotel, which stood on the southeast corner of Warren and Fifth Streets, courtesy Historic Hudson