Old Photographs of Blizzards Show The Eternal Misery–And Majesty–of Winter - Atlas Obscura
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Old Photographs of Blizzards Show The Eternal Misery–And Majesty–of Winter

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A snowstorm in Boston, c. 1930, captured by news photographer Leslie Jones. (Photo: Courtesy of the Boston Public Library/Leslie Jones Collection)

On Valentine’s Day in 1940, Boston was hit with a colossal blizzard. The snow fell at over an inch per hour, amid gale force winds. Vast snowdrifts disabled the city’s transport network. Weathercasters had only predicted a mix of rain and snow, but as the storm descended, office workers had to fight their ways home in heels and wingtips.

Photographer Leslie Jones, who worked for the Boston Herald-Traveler from 1917 to 1956, captured much extreme weather during his 39 year tenure in Boston, including the Valentine’s Day storm. In New York, renowned photographer Alfred Steiglitz was just as committed to capturing winter storms: in 1892, he took his 4x5 plate film camera out into blizzard conditions to photograph his famous Winter–Fifth Avenue.

Similarly, photographers for the Bain News Service, one of the earliest photo agencies, ventured out into the blizzard of January, 1910 with unwieldy equipment to capture a snow plow pushing its way through a New York City street. As we approach what is traditionally the coldest time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, let us gaze upon century-old images of some of America’s most dramatic snowstorms.

Snow plow during storm, New York 1910

Snow plow during a New York blizzard, photographed by Bain News Service on January 15, 1910. (Photo: Library of Congress)

Police officer helps woman through blinding snow during a 1920 Boston blizzard. (Photo: Courtesy of the Boston Public Library/Leslie Jones Collection)

A windy winter’s day in Boston. (Photo: Courtesy of the Boston Public Library/Leslie Jones Collection)

Horse-drawn wagons on snowy street, NY snow storm 1920

Horse-drawn wagons on a snowy New York Street, January 1910. (Photo: Library of Congress)

Pedestrians struggle to keep their feet during Valentine’s Day snow storm in Boston. (Photo: Courtesy of the Boston Public Library/Leslie Jones Collection)

A snowstorm blankets Coos Bay, Oregon, in 1911. (Photo: Forest Service/flickr

A snowbound street in New York, February 1914. (Photo: Library of Congress)