"Instant Disaster" Books

One of my (many) guilty pleasures—anyone else read them? You know, the ones published five minutes after some horrible disaster occurs? I have books at home, published the same year, about the San Francisco Earthquake/Fire and the Titanic, and I’ve just gone nuts on bookfinder.com and ordered books on the Galveston Hurricane (1900), the Johnstown Flood (1889) and the Genl. Slocum fire (1904). Good grisly reading! Now, if only I could find books on the 1866 Brooklyn Theater fire and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory . . .

I couldn’t read anything recent, I’d feel ooky. But I’d expect my great-grand-clone to sit back eagerly with some 9/11 books, published in 2001.

Are there any on the Boston molasses flood of 1919?

Much to Wumpus’ surprise, I’ve actually heard of that! I’ll have to check . . . I also just ordered Great Disasters from the Pages of the New York Times, and it’s at least bound to be in there!

Ooooh, I forgot, I also have a really heartwrenching book on the Iroquois Theater Fire of 1903 . . .

Best. Disaster.Ever.
I’m hoping there’s a folk song.

OK, I see that as a challenge . . . I’m gonna have to start working on one . .

Oh the fact’ry made molasses, in Boston’s old North Side.
Well, they thought they had a yummy treat, the city’s joy and pride.
But the Lord’s almighty hand loosed the flood so sweet and brown—
It was a sticky day for Boston when molasses came to town.

It was sad (so sad!) It was sad (so sad!)
Oh, the sweet, sweet flood still lingers—
Some lost husbands, wives, and little children dipped their fingers
It was a sticky day for Boston when molasses came to town.

Well it was January fifteenth, and temps were just at zero—
When the 90-foot tank ruptured and the world it all turned brown!
The town was flooded just like Rome was ruined by old Nero;
It was a sticky day for Boston when molasses came to town.

On April 27, 1870 a huge crowd filled the second floor courtroom in the VA State Capital to hear the decision of the VA Supreme Court of Appeals in a contested mayoral race here in Richmond (these were some civic-minded folks, I’m telling you). Just as the decision was to be read a balcony in the court room collapsed onto the floor below, which in turn collapsed into the House of Delegates below that. 62 people died and 251 were wounded.

I don’t know that a book has been written about it, but you can visit the Capital today and the hostesses will be happy to tell you all about it, including showing you pictures taken not long after the event.

No way, man. That title belongs to The London Beer Flood of 1814.

Now, there’s a song just begging to be written.

Hey—whaddaya think I am, Irving Berlin?

Yeah, Eve, we do – I esp. liked the lingers/fingers rhyme: worthy of Ira Gershwin.

Wow. Thanks, Eve. I have to say it is entirerly too rare that my hopes are realized in such an immediate fashion.
Now we just have to get it recorded. (I’ll round up some musicians, you get to work on the beer flood song for the B side :slight_smile: )

Great work, Eve!

Now, you all remember the plague, and you all remember the fire–
Let’s now sing about the Great Beer Flood that turned London into a mire!

Beer, beer, ‘orrible beer! Filled us with foam and with fear!
Drink till you’re made of it, don’t be afraid of it–
Or we will all drown in beer!
Streets they all ran with it, so down a can of it,
Even your dog, cat and deer!
London will drown in it, so, laddie, down with it!
Save us from swimmin’ in beer!

Well speaking of disasters…

Do you have any Challenger books? How about Election 2000? Is there a book on the Making of Glitter?
Wasn’t there some lake in Africa that let loose a bunch of CO-2 and that gas ran downhill and killed a village?

i have quite a few disaster books.

i have many books on the galveston hurricane, one of them from 1900. i’m still amazed how quickly they published it. it is called " the great galveston distaster."

numerous titanic books, too many to list.

“to sleep with the angels” and “the fire that will not die”, about the fire at our lady of angels school in chicago.

“the circus fire” about the big top fire in hartford.

“the triangle fire” by leon stein about the triangle shirtwaist fire nyc.

“twelve days of terror” shark attacks in nj

“firestorm at peshtigo” huge forest fire in michigan, same day as the infamous chicago fire.

“flu” about the 1918 flu epidemic

“the winecoff fire” about a fire in an atlanta hotel.

“the texas city disaster” explosion in texas city 1947.

“the proving ground” sailing disaster sydney to hobart.

“lusitania” by diana preston

" disaster on the mississippi" about the sultana explosion.

“one pitch away” about the 1986 league championships and world series.

Rocking Chair, I just ordered that Great Galveston Disaster book–is it any good?

Irving Berlin ain’t got nothing on Eve! :cool:

Official site for a hurricane, for what it’s worth.

I hope nobody minds my pulling up a chair. My family is from Galveston, so the 1900 storm is part of family lore.

hi eve. boy are the writing styles of 1900 and 2000 + different! the book is interesting and very readable. rather loose with the facts though. writers back then had quite the way with the english language.

for a more factual book on the1900 hurricane, i would go with “a weekend in september” it was written in 1957. the authour did numerous interviews with survivors and dug deep into the facts.

cornflakes, throw out a story or two.

i went to galveston in midmay of 2000 (i wasn’t gonna go during hurricane season, i read what happened.). mostly to get a visual of what i was reading about. i read the family stories that the galveston newspaper was putting together. they were fasinating. i would walk around town and spot the house that they found a horse on the second floor, that sort of thing. i couldn’t believe the size of the curbs there. some are so high they have a step or two in them!

Oh, here’s the Rosenberg Library’s storms site, for those who just look at the pictures.

Okay, rocking chair, but most are trivial or urban legend-ish.
Trivial-as a small child, my dad fell off a catwalk and was carried a distance by the mud they used to raise the island. After the storm, they built the seawall and raised the entire island by dredging Galveston Bay and depositing the tailings onshore (those old four foot high iron fences at Ashton Villa are really eight feet tall but half is underground.) They built catwalks to walk on when they were raising an area.

Cool factoid: Screwjacks were used to raise buildings to the new grade. With the larger buildings, they would dig under the building and place hundreds of these jacks in a grid with one worker at each jack. A worker outside had a drum. Everytime he beat the drum, the people under the building would give the jack a quarter turn.
Urban Legend-ish (warning: let that lunch settle before reading this)-After the storm, the women stayed in charge of the homes while the men went out to clean up and recover bodies (with 8,000-10,000 dead, they put them on ships and buried them at sea, but they had to cremate when the bodies washed back ashore.) Looting was common, and anyone found with a ringed finger in their pockets was shot. Also, I guess should mention that most homes in Galveston are built on piers which allows storm surges (and high tides before they raised the island) to wash underneath. Anyway, my mother’s father’s aunt was left in charge of the kids. She was reading to them when she heard a scratching noise in the kitchen. Giving the book to an older girl, she went into the kitchen and saw a pair of hands on the windowsill; someone was trying to climb into the house. The aunt grabbed a butchers knife, stabbed through a hand pinning the man to the window, closed the window and braced it. Then she went back to reading, leaving the looter for the men to take care of when they got home.
Speaking of the Texas City Disaster, I attended a funeral a few years back at the funeral home on the right just past where I-45 ends (or used to end, in the 5800 block or so.) Walking outside, my dad mentioned that the funeral home opened right before the disaster, paid off the bills with that day and seemed to be coasting ever since. According to him, it was a good day for the funeral homes, and glass companies too since “it broke every window in town.” I think I expressed suprise that Galveston was affected that much by something across the bay in Texas City. He countered by saying that car-sized chunks of concrete landed in Galveston.

I just asked my mom about the above story. She doesn’t remember chunks of concrete, but does recall that Broadway was shut down to let the ambulances have free run between Texas City and the University of Texas Medical Branch. Her father was working in the Galveston railyards when he heard the explosion. He climbed onto a boxcar to get a look, then a huge piece of metal flew pass and he decided that the top of a boxcar was “no place for his mother’s son.”
Carla was before my time, but my sister remembers seeing waves hit the seawall, the tops shearing off and flying to her window, three blocks away. Just before the eye went over, my brother went out to the garage to check on his dog. While walking to the garage he could reach forward and touch the ground. Then there was the time… okay, I’ll quit before I bore everyone.