|Susie, OD and Harry Flemming, Jr.|
January 3, 1919
I love this picture, showing my grandmother and her siblings experiencing what must have been a rare event for the city - maybe it was the biggest snow they'd ever seen. I know it wasn't until I was an adult that Birmingham had that much snow, and that came with the Blizzard of '93.
A couple of months ago I was at the downtown library doing some genealogical research when I stumbled across an article in The Birmingham Age-Herald newspaper, from January 4, 1919, reporting a 6-inch snowfall in the city. Two photos included in the paper looked quite unique for our city and then it hit me - this must be the snowfall in my grandmother's photograph. I've transcribed the article below, to give you a little added flavor of what the day, and the world, was like on that Friday when this rediscovered photo was taken.
[from The Birmingham Age-Herald, Saturday, January 4, 1919]
WEATHER MAN LOST GRIP ON MERCURY;
DROPPED TO ELEVEN
Six Inches of Snow Covers Ground, Street Cars Are Halted, Jitneys Stopped and Fords Stalled
"Have a heart, Mr. Horton
this is not the north pole, but is supposed to be the sunny south.
You promised us 22 above and we prepared for that, but you turned a very unkind trick during Thursday night and we woke up yesterday morning feeling that we were living in a clime more suited to polar bears than human beings
You evidently lost your grip on the mercury and let it slip down to 11.
Please don't do it again.
Eleven above was the lowest official registration of the temperature, according to the local weather bureau, that point being reached at 3 o'clock yesterday morning, but the six inches of snow covered with a coating of ice, made it feel more like the bottom had dropped out of the thermometers. Yesterday was the coldest of the winter, but not the coldest ever recorded here. On January 13, 1917, zero was missed by one point, but the very coldest day in Birmingham since the government began keeping records here was February 14, 1899, when official thermometers registered 10 below.
|From The Birmingham Age-Herald|
January 4, 1919
CAR SERVICE HAMPERED
The snow and ice and cold put street cars out of commission, stopped jitneys, flivvers and other horseless vehicles, made late arrivals at places of business the rule, spoiled the good tempers of hundreds of persons, introduced many heads and faces to the slippery sidewalks, bursted water pipes, froze heating systems and played the mischief generally.
Street cars scheduled to leave the ends of their routes at 4 o'clock got away on time, but never reached the other end until hours afterwards. The greatest delay occurred between 6 and 8 o'clock, during which time many cars were hopelessly stuck along their lines. Hundreds of people walked from their homes to their places of business, tired and sore and not in a very good humor for business.
The few sleighs stored away from other snows in years past were brought out, dusted off and put into commission. There are very few of these, however in Birmingham, so the snow was a blessing to only a limited number of people.
SUN COMES OUT
The sun came out about 8 o'clock and for a time gave promise of soon melting the snow and ice, but it didn't stay out very long. The job apparently was too much for him, so he hid his face behind lowering and threatening clouds for the balance of the day, and by 1 o'clock the mercury started downward again. Weather Observer E. C. Horton stated during the afternoon that this morning would not be quite so cold as yesterday morning, about four degrees less cold, that's all he would promise.
About 11 o'clock the long, heavy icicles that had formed at the eaves of the Brown-Marx Building began to thaw out, and breaking loose, fell to the street with a resounding crash, startling hundreds of people in that vicinity and endangering lives, too. Employees of the building stretched ropes along the curbs while other employees went up on the roof and broke loose those that had not already fallen.
During the performance large crowds congregated on opposite corners and watched for developments. Fortunately no casualties were reported.
GOOD FOR FARMERS
It is an ill wind that blows no good is an old saying and old timers are pointing to the alleged fact that hard freezes are good for the farm lands, killing off destructive plant germs and insects, enriching the soil and making for better crops. That's a consolation, but not a cure for frost bites, frozen ears, bursted pipes, plumbers' bills and discomforts of homes built to protect against cool breezes of temperate zones.
The weather forecast for today is cold and fair, with indications of rising temperatures."