Editor's note: The following text was originally published on January 11, 1836 from the New York Herald. Thanks to volunteer researcher George A. Thompson for finding, cataloging and transcribing this article. The language, spelling and grammar of the article reflects the time period when it was written.
TREMENDOUS SNOW STORM.
New York has just been visited by one of the most splendid snow storms that ever perhaps has taken place since the old colonial times, when sleighing continued on Manhattan Island for three or four months a year without intermission. The quantity of snow now lying in our streets is beyond any thing that ever appeared in our time. About four or five years ago, we had a tolerable snow storm, which afforded fine sleighing for six weeks in succession. But the quantity then was only half what it is at present.
On Thursday night last, the wind at east by north, thermometer 32°, it began to rain with violence, blowing a heavy gale at the same time. The rain and gale continued all day Friday, the wind shifting, [and] gradually changed to sleet, then small hail, and latterly large light flakes of snow. On Saturday morning, wind N. E., thermometer 32°, the early risers found the whole city and surrounding country covered with six inches of light flaky snow, which the wind in its hasty journey would seize in its terrible hand, and scatter about in wreaths with perfect ease. The shipping in the harbor became weather bound -- the packets and steam boats did not dare go to sea.
During the whole of Saturday, the snow storm continued. At mid day, the weather was somewhat soft, but still the wind blew high and occasionally fierce -- The merry sleigh bells began to jingle through the streets.
In spite of the weather, Wall street was as crowded as ever, and the gallant brokers kept up their little groups all the morning on the side walk, in the midst of the unruly elements. The walking was wet and disagreeable.
The Ruins, during the snow, presented a most remarkable and novel appearance. It looked like the burning craters of so many miniature volcanoes on the snowy tops of the Andes or Himalaya mountains. -- Here and there the snow would lay piled up in heaps on the broken fragments of columns, walls, bricks, and other mutilated materials. Other places were perfectly bare -- a steam, curling up like smoke, as if from half a dozen of steam boilers, was blowing off under the bricks. On these spots the snow melted as soon as it fell, and was converted by the burning merchandize to little beautiful clouds of vapor.
"The Ruins" -- There had been a disastrous fire in the city a few weeks earlier.
On Saturday night, the weather grew colder and colder -- the snow thicker and thicker. Several snow balling rows broke out among the boys and the hackmen in Broadway. A squad of young clerks met by arrangement in Broadway, at 9 o'clock, and made a dead set at the rascally hackmen. At this period the snow was in an admirable condition for snow balling. It was soft, spungy, abundant and not extremely cold. From the opposite points the assailants made a severe fusillade upon the hackmen lying very quietly in their hacks near the Park. They durst not leave the hacks for fear of their horses running away, and the young fellows pelted them without any mercy. Every body relished the sport -- the very hack horses laughed outright -- shaking their very manes, and switching their tails in joy, as much as to say -- "don't spare the drivers, boys -- they don't spare the whip upon our backs."
Towards eleven o'clock at night, the intensity of the storm increased. The thermometer gradually sank -- the barometer gradually rose. Towards morning, however, the thermometer rose again to 32°, wind still violent, and blowing from the N. E. The soft spungy flakes changed into hard, dry, round, clear, pearly white snow. Still there was a softness about it which gave it the power of cohesion. The trees now presented a splendid appearance. Every branch was thoroughly enveloped with a garment whiter than fine linen -- to such an extent that many gave way and broke entirely. In the Park and College Green many trees were then stripped of their pendant branches by the weight of the superincumbent snow. Round the Bowling Green, on the Battery, and in Wall street, the trees presented the same dismantled appearance.
Throughout yesterday morning the wind blew violently apparently from the north-west and across the North River slantingly. The waves ran furiously against the western side of Castle Garden. The whole country around looked white -- nothing dark but the surly, agitated, gloomy, disturbed waters. Bedlow's Island, Governor's Island, Staten Island, looked like so many pearly icebergs rising out of the stormy billows.
The London and Liverpool packets, the Ontario and the Roscoe, sailed yesterday, and by this time they must be far on their journey, with a smacking breeze behind, and a boundless ocean ahead.
On the Battery, the snow was on a level nearly three feet deep. On taking a turn there, we found the top of the wooden benches the only [indication of the] foot path.
The Rail Road cars which left Philadelphia on Saturday morning, at 7 o'clock, did not reach this city til yesterday at day light. We learn that they struggled an hour in passing the Delaware at Camden. The cars could not proceed faster than three or four miles a hour, so deep was the snow. There was an unusual number of passengers, male and female, besides many small children. Embarking on board the boat at South Amboy, they made a start for New York, but did not reach further than Perth Amboy, where, by the violence of the gale, the steam boat ran ashore. Here the passengers remained all night, without food or fuel, or place to lay their heads. The poor females were in terrible distress. About three o'clock in the morning, the boat started again, and reached the city about half past five. It was snowing violently all the time.
We learn the line will not resume their operations for some time. We are therefore cut off from all communication with Philadelphia, except by the ordinary line over land.
In the city all the streets running east and west are almost, if not quite impassible, from the snow having been driven into them by the violence of the gale. The shipping in the docks and at anchor in the stream, present an appearance truly beautiful, and it was well worth the walk to see them. From the truck to the deck, each mast yard and shroud was covered with a coat of pure white pearly snow. The dusky sails were covered with a "cloth of brilliant white." The tarry shrouds were enveloped in a covering as unusual as it was beautiful, and the tout ensemble was strikingly splendid.
In the midst of this dreadful storm, should not a thought be given to the hapless seaman braving its terrors. May not a tear of pity be dropped for the luckless vessels thrown upon our coast, where all the elements are combined to destroy them. Many wrecks are strewn along the shore, whose crews, half famished and perishing with cold, are vainly striving to reach the land, in the hope of finding a shelter from the ruthless storm -- death stares them in the face which ever way they move -- if they proceed, how unlikely are they to find a house upon our desolate coast, and if they remain, the snow drift will be their burial place, the saint-like snow their shroud.
And how truly is it said, that "one half of this world know not how the other half lives." How many hundreds of families are there in this city perishing for want of food and warmth. Let the haughty rich, who are seated by their cheerful fires, think of the sufferings of those devoted wretches -- let them by contributing a few dollars from their heavy purses, alleviate the suffering of thousands, whose grateful prayer of thanks will afford a truer satisfaction and a purer pleasure that the lavish expenditure of thousands upon things, which, if they afford pleasure at all, it is as unreal and fleeting as the summer cloud.
Throughout the whole of yesterday it rained -- or snowed -- or sleeted -- or drifted. Up to a late hour at night, the same weather continued. In some of the streets the snow is seven feet high. Last night it had not become extremely cold, but to-day it is expected to be clear, cold and severe -- just such a day as will afford an opportunity for the finest sleighing that we have had in forty years. For nearly four days and four nights has the weather endured as we have represented it. To-day, if it should be clear, the whole city will be out sleighing -- sleighs will rise in value, and every thing in the shape of a sleigh will be put in requisition. New York Herald, January 11, 1836, p. 2, cols. 1-2
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