1911 Heatwave

A good deal of very hot weather across much of the United States during July 2020 but your ancestors had their share of major heat waves. It is good to check if you had relatives in the areas hit with such major heat waves to see if they were affected.

One major heatwave was in July of 1911 along the east coast with temperatures in 90s for several days which killed 211 residents in New York City alone. In Philadelphia, 158 people died. This severe heatwave started began on July 4, 1911 and didn’t end until July 15th and covered the northeastern region of America, states from Pennsylvania to Maine.

In the city of Boston, they set a record of 104 degrees which still stands today. That is not the heat index but the actual temperature. In some cases, it was not just the heat that killed people but some died from drowning in bodies of water they attempted to swim in but couldn’t.

Businesses had to close and even suspended was the mail service. It was too hot at night to sleep indoors (plus no air-conditioning yet and few of any electric fans), so many slept on the tops of roofs, on porches, or in a park.

A strange occurrence was the melting and bending of railroad lines. Even animals such as horses died in record numbers. Overall, it was estimated 2,000 died due to the 1911 heatwave.

The only event that broke the heatwave was a severe thunderstorm that crossed the region. Even that storm killed five people. Temperatures afterward returned to more normal levels for July and August.

A few years earlier, there had been the heatwave in the same region in 1896. In the major cities of NYC, Newark, Boston and Chicago some 1,500 died in August.

So with these two time periods, see where your ancestors lived and may be affected by these weather occurrences.

Photos: Blocks of ice; heat waved affected work and sleeping in parks.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Hot Summers

Victorian Ladies in the Summer

Ancestral Weather

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