Snowbanks on Madison Avenue

Since the blizzard has been quite the topic of conversation lately, we thought it might be a good opportunity to take  a look back at New York’s legendary Blizzard of 1888.  On March 12, twenty-one inches of snow fell in just under twenty-four hours which was exacerbated by gusts upwards of sixty miles an hour.  The combination of snowfall and temperatures dropping to a few degrees above zero paralyzed the city for nearly two weeks.

As the pictures below demonstrate, one of the major problems caused was damage to overhead telegraph, electric and telephone wires.  Despite state legislation in 1884 that those wires should be moved underground, New York was slow to respond.  The calamity that ensued drove the point home and within a year, Mayor Hugh Grant finally ordered the wires  buried.

Snow-laden overhead wires, Downtown.
Downed wires and lampost in Greenwich Village


In the Society’s manuscript collections is a cache of letters sent by former sign-painter, Pvt. Salvatore Cillis of the 306th Field Artillery from Camp Upton, Long Island and France.  Written between 1917 and 1918, Cillis’ good-natured, humorous observations are complemented  by several pen and ink and watercolor sketches enlightening his former co-workers about camp life.  Shown here is one of his  festive and typically light-hearted letters.  He discusses the snowball fight depicted in his hand-drawn letterhead.

Pvt. Salvatore Cillis to Ms. D.M. Harris, December 28, 1917, Page 1
Pvt. Salvatore Cillis to Ms. D.M. Harris, December 28, 1917, Page 2

Most people do not associate Santa Claus with war, but in fact the connection goes back to Santa’s very beginnings.  Our popular image of Santa was created by cartoonist Thomas Nast during the Civil War.  Nast’s first Santa illustrations, published in the January 3, 1863 edition of Harper’s Weekly, featured Santa visiting dejected Union soldiers.


Although Santa’s image became ever more jolly after the end of the Civil War, his association with soldiers has proven to be as persistent as war itself, as is illustrated by these Christmas cards from our archives.


World War I


World War II


World War II

Creative: Tronvig Group