Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

We're used to photos and video footage of disasters almost as soon as they happen, but the relative permanence of these disaster photographs forces us to truly reflect on the destruction and tragedy that once occurred, even though it all happened decades ago.

Top image from after the Great Boston Fire.

The Great Boston Fire of 1872

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

(via Boston Public Library and Wikimedia Commons)

The Children's Blizzard (also known as Schoolhouse or School Children's Blizzard), January 12-13, 1888

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920

The day started out warm, but a blizzard came out of nowhere and met a cold front, causing the temperature to sink to -20º F (-28º C) and creating a deadly snowstorm. 235 people were killed, most of them schoolchildren.

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

A few weeks later, one of the most severe recorded blizzards in the history of the USA occurred.

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920

Snowfalls of 20–60 inches (51–150 cm) fell in parts of New Jersey, New York,Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and sustained winds of more than 45 miles per hour (72 km/h) produced snowdrifts in excess of 50 feet (15 m). Railroads were shut down and people were confined to their houses for up to a week. – according to Wikipedia.

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920

(via AAA Heating and Wikimedia Commons – 1, 2)

The failure of the South Fork Dam on Lake Conemaugh, near South Fork, Pennsylvania, May 31, 1889

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

After the catastrophic failure of the South Fork Dam on May 31, 1889, 20 million tons (18.2 billion litres or 4.8 billion US gallons) of water were unleashed and caused the Johnstown Flood that killed 2,209 people. You can see more of the worst architectural disasters in history here.

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

By the way, a previous owner of the dam removed and sold the three cast iron discharge pipes that enabled a controlled release of water.

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

(via New York Public Library, Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons 1 - 2)

The 8.5 magnitude Meiji-Sanriku Earthquake, Iwate Prefecture, Honshu, Japan, June 15, 1896

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

The earthquake and the resulting two tsunamis destroyed 9,000 homes and killed 22,000 people. One wave reached a record height of 125 ft (38.2 m). This record was broken only two years ago, with a a wave that was just three feet higher.

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

(via Wikimedia Commons)

The Great Blizzard of 1899 in the southern United States with sub-zero Fahrenheit temperatures (even in Florida), 12-14 February 1899

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

(via Charles Warren)

A wedding party was assembled in this house when the Akhalkalaki Earthquake rocked Baku, Azerbaijan in 1900. The only survivor, the groom is pictured here.

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The ruins and smoke after the San Francisco Earthquake, May 1906

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

The Agassiz Statue

(Photo by Arnold Genthe/Getty Images, Hulton Archive, Wikimedia Commons, USGS and Center of Legislative Archives)

After the earthquake in Messina, Italy, December 1908. This was the deadliest natural disaster in the history of Europe and took about 123,000 lives in Sicily and Calabria.

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Survivors save their last few personal belongings from the ruins.

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images and Wikimedia Commons)

Pedestrians traverse a foot bridge erected during flooding of the Seine or go home by boat, January 1910

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Great Storm of 1913 (or the Big Blow or Freshwater Fury), November 6-11, 1913

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920S

The extratropical cyclone killed more than 250 people, destroyed 19 ships and stranded 19 more.

Tragic Photographs of Disasters that Occurred Before 1920

(via Wikimedia Commons)