California Heat Waves, from the 1870s On!

Whew! As soon as I posted this a couple of weeks ago, we had a nice Autumn heat wave where temps got to 113 degrees — the highest on record since 1877, apparently. And now we’re hitting another heat wave, although yesterday it only got to 91.

It reminded me of an article, though, I found from 1876 in San Francisco about a “heat wave” they had that year that was — gasp! — 95 degrees!

I found the article when I was researching my historical short story, and it made me laugh — both because 95 degrees doesn’t seem like an unusual heat wave at all to me, and because of the way this newspaper article was written. Here are a few highlights:

That yesterday was a hot day there is no manner of doubt, and it is hardly probable that anyone in San Francisco with any regard for the truth will deny it. … Our solid businessmen, who were compelled to be upon the streets, disregarded ceremony altogether and unbottoned coats and vests, and many threw aside altogether their coats, preferring not to sacrifice comfort to appearances. Every man on the street showed conclusively the overpowering influence of the heat, and marched up and down the streets with a limp handkerchief in his hand, which was constantly brought into requisition, mopping the perspiration which streamed from every pore. …

Love the drama! — Businessmen disregarding ceremony and unbuttoning coats and vests! Good God!

I wish newspapers were still written in this hilarious, storytelling style. And then there’s the virtue called into question on a hot day:

Old topers found their capacity for liquors greatly augmented, and presented their rosy faces at the bars of their favorite indulging place twice as often as they ordinarily do. The moderate drinkers had their ranks reinforced by the crowds of THOSE WHO NEVER DRINK, But who suddenly discovered a great amount of virtue in lemonade and soda-cocktails.

I totally picture Mark Twain writing something like this (it was his newspaper-writing era). I liked this part, too:

Friend meeting friend upon the street, and stopping to exchange the news of the day would invariably say to the other, “Its terribly hot, aint it,” and was always certain of an affirmative answer.

So cute. If you want to read the whole thing, it’s here.

In the meantime, enjoy your October — whatever your weather!

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4 thoughts on “California Heat Waves, from the 1870s On!

  1. 113? Wow, I am hopeful for 70! I can’t believe they used to write the newspapers like that – it seems like so much double talk. I prefer to read it the way it is now – although it is funny!

  2. It’s finally cooler here after a brutal summer of high 90’s, low 100’s. I don’t recall a summer like this ever. But now the mornings are cool and the highs only about 80 and we are much relieved.

    I agree with you on the way newspaper articles used to be written. As part of my genealogy research, I often find myself reading old newspapers and I love the way they are written. So much more interesting to me than the news of today.
    Jersey Girl´s last blog post ..Youth is Wasted on the Young

  3. Debi — Well, the 113 was extremely unusual! Although we crack 100 at least once a year (usually in Aug and/or Sept), I’ve only ever seen it go up to about 106, and THAT was very unusual. But 113???? That’s Palm Springs weather! (Low desert) It was pretty amazing. Good thing it’s a dry heat — none of that humidity others suffer from.

    Jersey Girl — Yeah, I’ve heard you guys were in those high temps in the Virginia area. Ack. Well, at least we’re all headed into some cooler weather soon. …

    And thanks to both of you for your comments on the newspaper style back then. Debi, you are right — it does sound a tad long-winded (and judgmental), doesn’t it? But, like Jersey Girl, I find it sort of engaging. I’d probably get tired of it ALL the time, but … oh, you know what it is? …

    It’s the imagery!

    It’s the imagery I like: The writer paints us a picture of what it looked like that day, with the men holding their limp hankerchiefs and throwing off their jackets. I think that’s what’s missing in newspapers anymore — no images through words (prob because of photos). And maybe that’s why I can hear Mark Twain writing something like that — he used such great imagery in his fiction.

  4. Your right, you can definately paint the picture in your head and that is cool! It is more “book” style, like you mentioned. Now newspapers are all guts and glory!! Well, usually more guts!

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