The Year Was 1927

1927 Mississippi River Flood.bmpThe year was 1927 and a joyous crowd greeted Charles Lindbergh in France after he completed the first trans-Atlantic flight, covering 3,610 miles in thirty-three and a half hours. His reception when he arrived back in the U.S. aboard the “U.S.S. Memphis” was even greater where he was honored in Washington, D.C., and in New York—more than 4 million people lined a parade route to catch a glimpse of the aviator that had taken the world by storm.

Across the country, another pioneer was following his dream. Philo T. Farnsworth had an idea for an invention he called television and in January 1927 he applied for a patent. In September of 1927, he successfully broadcasted his first image over a chemistry flask that he used as his first picture tube and an industry was born that transformed the world.

Mexico had been struggling with the separation of church and state and in 1917 a series of laws were enacted that forbid worship outside of churches, restricted religious organizations’ rights to hold property, and deprived church officials of basic rights. At first the laws were only selectively applied, but with changes in the country’s leadership, the laws were enforced more stringently and sometimes brutally. Resistance started with several uprisings in 1926 and on 1 January a formal rebellion began with a proclamation by the rebel forces. The Cristeros War was set into motion and would continue until an agreement was reached in 1929.

Unusually heavy rains in the central U.S. that persisted from late 1926 through the spring of 1927 caused catastrophic flooding. The Mississippi River grew more than seventy miles wide in some places. The area affected was roughly the size of New England.

Up to that time, flood control had relied on a series of levees. As the need arose, levees were built higher. But they were no match for the flood of 1927. On 16 April, a 1,200-foot section of a levee failed flooding 175,000 acres. Five days later, a levee at Mounds Landing, near Greenville, Mississippi, burst open. The raging waters took the lives of African American work crews that were trying to shore up the levee. As Greenville, Mississippi, was inundated with ten feet of water, people were stranded on rooftops and refugees from surrounding areas, many African American, poured in. Conditions in refugee camps were horrible and abuses begin to surface in newspapers but little was done to alleviate the conditions.

All told, more than 700,000 were forced from their homes and 246 lives were lost. Property damage totaled 350 million dollars, or about 5 billion in today’s terms.

A December cold snap in Europe wreaked havoc in the weeks before Christmas. In London and Paris, rain falling on 21 December soon froze leaving a treacherous icy glaze on the streets. According to the Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) of 21 December 1927,

“Paris and the suburbs awoke this morning to find the streets and sidewalks covered with ice, and before long the four largest hospitals had 1,100 accident cases.”

The report from Russia read,

“Moscow today was gripped by a cold wave with [the] thermometer registering 25 degrees below zero, with reports from other parts of the country telling of unprecedentedly [sic] deep snows.

“The entire population of Tula was called to dig out six passenger and twenty-one freight trains stalled by snow in the Ukraine.”

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AWJ Editor’ Note: The image above is from the Mississippi River Flood of 1927. Search the Library of Congress Photo Collection for other views of the disaster.

5 thoughts on “The Year Was 1927

  1. I didn’t remember that, I was 4 years old and in OH. It was very interestin and scary!

  2. As I was born in 1927, this especially caught my eye. Thanks for allowing Printer Friendly Copy.

    As I grew up my Dad always told me there would be television. He said that in some parts of the country they already had television. He explained it to me as we listened to the radio together, that one day we would be able to see pictures of what we were now only hearing about.

    I never told any of my friends what he said and I sure didn’t want him to tell them. I knew that couldn’t be right and I did not want them to think there was something wrong with my Dad.

    He was truly a “man before his time”. I wish he had lived long enough to see television. He died in 1946 and we did not have access to home televisions in Eastern Kentucky at that time.

    Thanks for a Printer Friendly copy of this.

    Mary Pack Richmond

  3. I read this with much interest. I believe it was 1937, when the next bad flood occurred on the Mississippi as my brother was in the old peaetime Army and stationed at Ft. Crook, Nebraska, and his unit was put on alert to go to the flood area, then in 1993 was the next bad flood on the same river as well as the whole Midwest and my son, who was in the fulltime Missouri National Guard and assigned to the unit in Kirksville, was sent to NE Missouri and they filled sand bags and placed them ahead of the flood waters. Unfortunately, the water rolled over the tops of the sand bags as the water rose faster than they could get the bags filled and in place. The town of Cape Girardeau, Missouri has a unique set of flood gates and they closed their tall flood gates and barely escaped inundation in 1993.

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