The year was 1888 and it came in with a roar. Following an unseasonably warm morning, on January 12th, a violent cold front brought with it a disastrous blizzard with raging winds and sub-zero temperatures that swept across the northern prairies of the Midwest. Caught in the storm, often referred to as the “Children’s Blizzard of 1888,” it has been estimated that between 250 and 500 people perished, many of them children on their way home from school.
And Mother Nature wasn’t finished. In March, another blizzard struck the eastern seaboard states. Known as the “Great White Hurricane,” the nor’easter dumped between forty and fifty inches of snow on the northeast region. Over 200 ships were sunk, and telegraph lines snapped, cutting off communication for cities like New York and Philadelphia for weeks. More than 400 people perished in the storm.
Over the ocean in London’s East End (England), fear spread as the police raced to discover who was committing a string of gruesome murders. Nearly 118 years later, the identity of “Jack the Ripper” remains unknown and the mystery has spawned books and movies that have horrified and mystified audiences worldwide.
Susan B. Anthony helped found the International Council of Women, an international coalition established to help secure women’s suffrage and rights in many areas.
Technological advances that year include a patent obtained by Thomas Edison for his “Kinetoscope” used for motion pictures.
George Eastman began the Eastman Kodak Company and introduced rolled photographic film. With the slogan “You press the button, we do the rest,” he led the way in an industry that has given family historians (and the rest of the world) glimpses into the lives of their ancestors and preserved memories for future generations.
An election year in the U.S., 1888 wound down with the election of Benjamin Harrison, who defeated the incumbent Grover Cleveland in a particularly tight election, with Cleveland winning the popular vote, but losing key states and the electoral vote.
About Juliana Smith
Juliana Szucs Smith has been working for Ancestry.com for more than 16 years. She began her family history journey trolling through microfilms with her mother at the age of 11. She has written many articles for online and print genealogical publications and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Juliana holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program, and is currently on the clock working towards certification from the Board for Certification of Genealogists.