The Great Dayton Flood of 1913

Geo[rge] Ring / Kling Litho, BIRDS-EYE VIEW OF THE BUSINESS SECTION OF DAYTON, OHIO. SKETCHED MARCH 26, 1913. LOOKING EAST FROM WILLIAMS ST. Now Being Rebuilt with Greater Rapidity and Vigor Than Any Other Calamity in the History of the World. Dayton, 1913.
Chromolithograph, 19”h x 25 7/8””w plus title and margins.

A striking and extremely rare 1913 chromolithographic view of the Great Dayton Flood during which water and fire laid waste to much of downtown Dayton, Ohio.

The worst natural disaster in Ohio history, the Great Dayton Flood was caused by a series of heavy rainstorms in March 1913. After several days of rain, on March 25th Dayton’s levees were overwhelmed or failed outright, and the Great Miami River flooded downtown (A map of the flooding may be seen here.) A gas main explosion and several gas fires added to the devastation, as the flooding greatly hindered firefighting efforts. By the time the waters receded, more than 300 lives were lost and some 20,000 homes destroyed, with property damage estimated at a staggering $100 million in 1913 dollars.

This striking chromolithograph depicts the downtown Dayton both inundated with water and in flames, as seen looking east from just across the Great Miami River. It was drawn by one George Ring and copyrighted in 1913, the very year of the flood. Whether Ring sketched the catastrophe as it was happening, from the relative safety of a viewpoint well above Williams Street, I cannot say. However the amount and variety of nightmarish detail—flames towering over the city, carriages and streetcars trapped on flooded bridges, small buildings actually floating downriver—certainly suggests that Ring observed the events depicted, even if perhaps he drew later from memory.

Not in OCLC, though the Library of Congress holds an impression with a somewhat different coloring scheme. Though the cataloging is a bit vague, it appears that one or two more are held in the Flood of 1913 Collection at the Dayton Metro Library.


Toned overall, some vertical creasing, two long horizontal tears, with other wear largely confined to margins.