Friday, February 8, 2013

Snowstorm media hype in 1831

After watching the television news and weather reports about winter storm Nemo, I heard the term "old fashioned storm" several times.  I also heard the words "historic".  It seems that even in 1831 the reporters had the same vocabulary to describe blizzards...

From the Farmer's Cabinet, Amherst, New Hampshire, Saturday 22 January 1831 (found via GenealogyBank):


Accounts from the towns on the seacoast repre-
sent the late snow storm equal in novelty and
depth of snow, to the "old fashioned snow storms".
In this vicinity, however, the snow was not unus-
sually deep, although much blown into heaps.
     Boston.  A most unprecedented fall of snow, for
this lattitude, took place on Saturday and Sunday
last.  It was accompanied by a violet North Eas-
terly gale, which hurled the snow into immense
dirifts.  The southern mail due on Sunday evening
had not arrived last night.  Yesterday many of the
inhabitants of the city were occupied in cleaning
the side walks, and leveling the snow in the mid-
dle of the streets, and sled, sleighs and horses were
employed in efforts to smoothe the surfast - Pat.
     The editor of the Centinel, who returned from a
journey to Vermont after the storm, says, "Within
the recollection of the oldest citizen, we do not be-
lieve that there has ever been experienced, a storm
that has blocked up the roads so much in so short a
time.  I seems not to have been felt much in
Maine towards the East. But south, north, and 
west, it has extended far and wide."  "For some
20 miles our houses were pioneers.  In many pla-
ces the roads were blocked up above the fence, and
utterly impassable by horses."
     The Southern Mail, (says the Boston Gazette)
due on Tuesday evening, arrived about half past 
five o'clock last evening, bring the New-York
papers of Monday morning, the Philadelphia pa-
pers of Saturday evening, but none South of Bal-
timore later than Thursday.  We learn from the
New-York papers that the storm did no subside in
that city until Sunday evening.  from eighteen 
inches to two feet of snow, fell, and was much
drifted.  The Daily Advertiser says:-
     "The easterly wind drove the tide in with such 
force that many of the wharves were overflowed,
and the cellars on the margins of the rivers were 
in many instances filled with water.  We have no
heard of any particular damage to the shipping by
the gale, but there is reason to fear that vessels up-
on the coast must have suffered, as the cold has 
been severe.
     "The Southern mail due on Saturday morning,
did not arrive until late in the afternoon- the Eas-
tern mail was also detained - Yesterday, neither
the Eastern or Southern Mail had arrived at sun-
down, and no papers were consequently received
but those from the North."
    Salem- We have experienced since Saturday 
morning, a genuine old fashioned Snow Storm-
there was no mistake in it- it was worthy of the
best days of our fathers.  It began to snow about
10 o'clock, A. M. on Saturday, and continued with-
out intermission and without material abatement,
until Sunday evening, accompanied with a violent
wind from the N. E. blocking up our streets with
huge snow drifts, many of them ten footers, and 
some estimated as high as twelve or fourteen feet
in altitude!  The tide rose to a great height, but
we have not learnt of any essential damage to our
wharves.  The travelling mus be much impeded, 
and any vessels in our bay or upon our coast, must
have been in terrible peril. - Register.
     New York.  The storm began about 12 or 1 
o'clock.  Snow continued to fall without intermis-
sion till near night on Sunday- the wind a great
part of the time blowing a gale from the northeast.
It fell eight or nine inches deep, but touch blown in-
to heaps.  Old residents in the city have remarked
that have not known so severe a snowstorm in 
15 years.  The mail were greatly retarded.
     The storm commenced at Philadelphia on Fri-
day evening, and w learn from the National Ga-
zette, was raging furiously on Saturday afternoon.
     At Albany, the snow fell without intermission
from 9 o'clock on Saturday morning until 2 yeser-
day, P.M.  It is an average depth of about 18 in-
ches, but so much drifted, being accompanied by a
high and cold north wind.  The southern and
western mails had not arrived when our paper was
put to press; and the possablity is that the roads
in every direction are nearly impassable.- Albany 

Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. A very timely read with all the snow you folks are getting in New England. I linked to this post in my Saturday Serendipity at The Prism.

    Stay warm, stay safe and enjoy the snow. I miss it here in Virginia!

  2. Snowstorms are so exciting! These accounts are a way of bragging: Look what we've put up with and conquered! I think it's the same way today. I notice, by the way, that the mail comes twice a day (like newspapers) and on Sunday. Congress just canceled Saturday mail delivery recently. Enjoyed reading this "hype." If not hyped, what would be the fun?