The Snow Hurricane of 1804

Anonymous, VIOLENT STORM. Boston, October 15, 1804. Boston, [late October] 1804.
Broadside, image ca 14 ½"h x 8 1/8"w on an 18 7/8"h x 11"w sheet, untrimmed. Headline, surmounting four quadrants of prose and verse separated by heavy rules, the whole surrounded by a black mourning border and 38 cuts of coffins.

An unrecorded variant of an extremely rare broadside recounting the remarkable snow hurricane of 1804.

The 1804 storm raged in Boston from Tuesday, October 9-Thursday, October 11, and observers were shocked by both its high winds and early-season snow:

“The 1804 Snow hurricane was the first tropical cyclone in recorded history known to produce snowfall. An unusual late-season storm in 1804, it yielded vast amounts of snow, rain, and powerful winds across the northeastern United States. [After passing the Virginia Capes,] the hurricane’s abundant moisture clashed with an influx of cold Canadian air, leading to the deepening of the resulting pressure gradient and provoking inland intensification. While situated over Massachusetts, it attained its peak intensity of 110 mph (175 km/h), undergoing an extratropical transition. Even as it drifted towards the Canadian Maritimes, consequently gradually weakening, precipitation persisted for another two days before the snowstorm finally subsided on 11 October.
“Due to its unusual nature, both heavy snowfall and strong winds caused a swath of devastation stretching from the Mid-Atlantic states to northern New England.” (Wikipedia)

Damage throughout coastal New England was extreme, with dozens, possibly hundreds of lives lost in Massachusetts alone. The 1804 storm has been compared in intensity to the famous “Halloween Storm” of 2011, while its devastating track resembled that of Hurricane Sandy.

This broadside was issued within days of the storm, on or just after Thursday, October 18. The image consists of the head line “Violent Storm,” two columns of prose enumerating dozens of casualties and extensive damage in coastal Massachusetts, and a poem in 15 stanzas describing the hurricane’s physical and psychic toll. The whole is surrounded by a heavy mourning border and 38 cuts of coffins. The tonal contrast between the prose and verse is striking, with the former rigorously secular and the latter interpreting the storm as an expression of the divine will.

The broadside is unrecorded, though it strongly resembles another of the same title listed by Shaw & Shoemaker (#7664) and known in examples at the American Antiquarian Society, Brown, Harvard and the Massachusetts Historical Society (See also OCLC #83761544 and 31994483.) That version is printed from a different setting of type, with minor differences of spelling, punctuation, line breaks &c; lacks the final prose paragraph dated “Oct. 18” present in our broadside; reads “enjoy” instead of “possess” in the first line of verse; reorders the stanzas in the second column of verse; and includes a cut of a church with a falling steeple but lacks the coffins to the left and right of the mourning border. The AAS appears to hold another variant, bearing the steeple cut and coffins at both the head and sides. Confusingly, both variants held by the AAS are catalogued as Shaw & Shoemaker #7664.

This variant not recorded in Shaw & Shoemaker or OCLC.


Toned, moderate water staining, fold separations on verso expertly mended, and chips to upper-right and lower-left corners