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Path of the Cloud Demon through the city of St. Louis
February 13, 2008 12:32 PM   Subscribe

"Men were picked up and hurled against buildings, horses and carriages sent flying here and there, and falling wires full of deadly fluid added to the horror of the scene,"The St. Louis tornado of 1896, one of history's deadliest. Photos.

Here's a few more reports from the days following the disaster, as well as a short video concerning the next catastrophic tornado to visit St. Louis, just over thirty years later.
posted by Atreides (10 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Electricity, I guess. Unless they had hot and cold running poison back in the day?
posted by DU at 12:35 PM on February 13, 2008


They didn't get hot & cold running poison 'til aught-seven, as I recall.
posted by Mister_A at 12:37 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


It was all gods punishment for the wanton ways of their women folk. They showed ANKLE in public.

Anyway. Cool post.
posted by tkchrist at 12:50 PM on February 13, 2008


I suppose electricity can be considered a fluid. Maybe the wires were insulated with a fluid? PCBs? (unlikely).
posted by bz at 1:28 PM on February 13, 2008


I suppose electricity can be considered a fluid.

Yup. OED s.v. fluid:
2. One of several subtle, imponderable, all-pervading substances, whose existence has been assumed to account for the phenomena of heat, magnetism, and electricity.
1750 FRANKLIN Lett. Wks. 1840 V. 246 The particles of the electrical fluid. 1832 Nat. Philos., Magnetism iv. §152. 36 (Useful Knowl. Soc.) The supposition, that its phenomena are occasioned by the agency of two magnetic fluids, residing in the particles of iron.. They have been denominated respectively the Austral and Boreal fluids. 1881 MAXWELL Electr. & Magn. I. 39 In most expositions of this theory the two electricities are called ‘Fluids’.
Nice post!
posted by languagehat at 1:37 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


'fluid" is an old euphemism for electricity, probably an intentional pun on "current". Check out this 1891 article from the New York Times about execution by electric chair at Sing-Sing prison, wherein "fluid" is used to refer to electricity, so that the writer doesn't use the word "current" twice in the space of two sentences.

On preview, what languagehat said.
posted by LN at 1:37 PM on February 13, 2008


Wow. I've lived here all my life and I had no idea. Thanks.
posted by khaibit at 1:40 PM on February 13, 2008


It's kinda neat, if that's the word, to see buildings that I drive past weekly, still standing after much repair - St. John Nepomuk, Soulard Market, Peter and Paul, and some of the random buildings on Jefferson.

I always wondered why there were so few buildings on the north side of Choteau. Now I know.
posted by notsnot at 1:53 PM on February 13, 2008


'fluid" is an old euphemism for electricity, probably an intentional pun on "current".

No, you've got it backwards—"current" is so called because they thought it was a fluid. OED again (s.v. current):
7. a. Electr. The name given to the apparent transmission or ‘flow’ of electric force through a conducting body: introduced in connexion with the theory that electrical phenomena are due to a fluid (or fluids) which moves in actual ‘streams’; now the common term for the phenomenon, without reference to any theory.
1747 Gentl. Mag. XVII. 141 The frequent exciting such currents of ethereal fire in bed-chambers. 1752 FRANKLIN Let. Wks. 1887 II. 253 Perhaps the auroræ boreales are currents of this fluid in its own region, above our atmosphere. 1842 GROVE Corr. Phys. Forces 48 From the manner in which the peculiar force called electricity is seemingly transmitted through certain bodies.. the term current is commonly used to denote its apparent progress. [...]
posted by languagehat at 1:54 PM on February 13, 2008


Some of those photos of the Lafayette Square area are amazing. Today most of the homes in that area have been carefully restored. You'd never guess that the area had once been laid to waste.
posted by slogger at 2:41 PM on February 13, 2008


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