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Devastation in Galveston (1900) | The Nation

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Devastation in Galveston (1900)

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This Week: September 13, 1900

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“We are in the classic fog of war,” says Stephen Cohen.

Not the least among the ulterior results of the destructive Texas storm are those which bear on the cotton industry. The flood, which not only wrecked most of the Galveston storehouses, but practically laid waste a good part of the arms of southern Texas, came at a most inopportune moment for the trade. The Manchester spinners had just made their agreement to hold off from buying until the new American cotton crop should be moving in quantity to market. The movement has begun later this summer than in many years. Last month's receipts of cotton at Galveston from the interior farms were less than one-fifth the receipts of August, 1899. The same conditions prevailing at nearly all other American parts, and warehouse supplies of cotton, here and abroad, having fallen to abnormally low figures, a very unusual opportunity was presented for speculators to engage in forestalling operations. This movement, checked by the decision of the English spinners, received most unexpected aid in the news from Texas.

That State produces ordinarily more than one-fourth of the entire American cotton crop, and the new crop of the region was at its most critical stage when the storm of Saturday swept over it. There were 7,600 bales of cotton in the Galveston warehouses at last week's close, and 5,000 bales on shipboard in the harbor. Considering that the arrival of Texas cotton in market had been reckoned upon as the first means of breaking the speculative deadlock, the dismay into which the cotton-consuming community has been thrown by the Galveston news is not hard to understand. The best to be hoped for is that the area of damage to the crop will turn out to be less extensive than early estimates have indicated. Meantime we are glad to learn that New York cotton-market interests are taking ground against further operations in the direction of cornering the American supply.

This Week: September 20, 1900

Galveston was a city of some 40,000 inhabitants built on an island something like the sand spits that skirt the Great South Bay of Long Island. The land on which it is situated is from five to ten feet above tide level. It is exposed to the full force of the winds and waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Being near the mainland, it is liable to be submerged whenever a wind of great strength and duration banks up the waters against the coast. The city had been assailed by such dangers before, and it was supposed that the worst that could happen by reason of its exposed situation had already happened. This, it seems, was an erroneous conclusion. The storm of September 8 proved to be a West India hurricane of the most appalling description.

The force of the wind appears to have been greater than that which devastated Puerto Rico last year. It swept the waters of the Gulf westward and piled them up against the coast. It submerged the foundations of the city to the depth of ten feet in many places. It filled all the wells and cisterns with salt water, and saturated the ground itself with salt. The wind blew down houses and filled the air with their debris, killing and wounding men, women, and children who had escaped drowning. It is impossible to picture the calamity in its awful dimensions. It is needless to say that a great part of the means and implements by which the inhabitants gained their bread have been swept away. The warehouses, the shipping, the churches, schools, and hospitals, the goods, the animals, the railroads (in part), the clothing and utensils are gone, and must be replaced. What had been accumulated by the toil and foresight of half a century for man's comfort and necessities has been engulfed by the waters or shattered by the winds.

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