In my opinion, it is the single most breathtaking view of all Galveston postcards.   The above detail is part of a larger view made by commercial Galveston photographer John C. Trube, circa 1905.  The card, titled “In the Grade Raising District,” reveals not a single tree and nary a person.  Not a recognizable landmark is shown and the street intersection is unknown.  But it is unmistakable for Galveston, with all of the small shotgun houses and vernacular raised cottages that sit on the south side of the Island, between Broadway Boulevard and the beachfront.  Galveston is known for these high-raised cottages, although in this view the structures have been raised at least 6 feet higher-than-normal to allow for fill to be pumped beneath.  Is it evening?  Is it dawn?  The unseen pumps have stopped for a time, and the windless day has produced a mirror-finish to the water’s surface.  The reflections in the water seem as genuine as their counterparts.

Following the devastating hurricane of September 8, 1900 the city leaders developed a plan to reduce the affects of Gulf storms by first, constructing the seawall, and second by raising 500 city blocks to minimize the effects of flooding and storm surge.

According to their excellent pictorial history of the process, Galveston: A City on Stilts (Arcadia Publishing, 2008), authors Jody Wright-Gidley and Jennifer Marines note:

These unprecedented efforts required great community support and determination.  While the grade was raised beneath them, houses were perched on stilts and residents made their way through town on elevated boardwalks.  Galveston became a “city on stilts.”   [p.11]

At the right side of the view there runs one of the impossibly-narrow and rickety catwalks serving as a makeshift sidewalk.  On the utility pole at left, a white band  appears about 4-feet above the water’s surface.  This band marks the intended fill-line and shows just how much more pumping must be accomplished to reach the desired fill level!  The whole scene carries an immensely precarious and vulnerable weight to it.  This precariousness is illustrated in part by the carbon-arc streetlight’s flexible gas line that has dipped into the water beneath.  Obviously, the homeowners endured these insecurities for years, and with great patience.  Everything from file plugs to trolley lines had to be raised.  People crossed town on ferries while the work continued.  The pumping and filling project continued for the better part of a decade!

The whole card with its back is shown below.  Although used-postally in 1911, the card was stone-lithographed in Germany for the order of Galveston publisher, stationer and bookstore-owner Charles Daferner, circa 1908.

The great hurricane of September 8, 1900 is thought to have killed between 6,000 and 8,000 on Galveston Island, and untold hundreds more in the land beyond.  Today is the 111th anniversary of the disastrous 1900 Galveston hurricane.  It’s the storm that some claimed “wiped Galveston clean.”  Of course, that isn’t true, but it sure marked the turning-point when Galveston lost its title of Texas’ economic SUPER-PORT to the upstart known as Houston!

For the occasion, I thought it appropriate to feature 4 commemorative cards printed close on the storm’s heels.  Fledgling New York City publisher/printer Arthur Strauss, Inc.,  wasted absolutely no time in getting a few illustrated half-tone black/whites slipped into the distribution of his meager postcard stocks.  The 4 cards have fairly low serial numbers, indicating that Strauss had not been publishing cards too long:  The Galveston storm cards carry the numbers No. 141, No. 142, No. 143, and No. 144.)  The cards feature elaborate florid red-ink Private Mailing Card backs.

No. 141 introduces the viewer to Galveston, the once-proud and beautiful city as it appeared—just prior to the great storm.

 

The 3 remaining cards portray the high-drama that unfolded during the disaster—seen through an artist’s interpretation.  Nothing is known of the artist identified only by his/her name “Friederang” on card 142, and by the initials “MF” on cards 143 and 144.   Although apparently quite talented as an illustrator, it is not clear if M. Friederang’s career blossomed as a commercial success.  The images seem to be based upon the numerous sensational written accounts that flooded the national press immediately following the hurricane.

While it might be presumed that the cards were meant to be seen only by Yankees, at least one of the cards made it to market in Galveston.  Shown below, card #142 bears a Galveston postmark of March, 1901—just 6 months after the storm.  The recipient lived in Hoboken, New Jersey— just across the Hudson River from Manhattan.  How ironic it seems that this card would be printed in New York City, marketed for sale in Galveston, and posted back to the New York area!

The 1900 hurricane so captured the imagination of the country as “the greatest natural disaster to have ever hit the U.S.” that whole pavilions were devoted to the recollection of the disaster.

In 1904, this impressive pavilion stood at the St. Louis World’s Fair:

And in 1905 at Coney Island, New York, this one:

 

The following  2 cards represent the Coney Island exhibit’s massive atmospheric and animated diorama of Galveston before and after the storm:


40 years after the St. Louis World’s Fair, in 1944 MGM studios released the now-classic technicolor musical “Meet Me in St. Louis”.

In the film’s final scene, the Smith Family attends the Fair’s opening and finds itself gathered at the crowded edge of the Main Lagoon.  A great fan of all-things-macabre and one who enjoyed attention, youngest daughter “Tootie” tells of one of the lurid exhibits that she witnessed on the Fair’s midway.  “We saw the Galveston Flood.  Big waves came up and flooded the whole city.  When the water went back, it was muddy and horrible and full of dead bodies!”

 

 

Ah, but Tootie loved  high-drama as much as everyone else!

 


This blog focuses on my ever-expanding collection of ODD and unusual antique and vintage Galveston, Texas tourist postcards, dating from the 1890s to the 1990s.  My name is Richard E., a Galveston native and former Island resident…now making my life in Austin, Texas.   I became enamored with antique postcards when I was 13 and collected all manner of topics and subjects.  I soon discovered and purchased my first antique Galveston postcards, and began to collect them with the intent of better understanding my city.

 

Although I have never made an official count, I would say that–time and again–more than a thousand different types of Galveston postcards have crossed my path in the 30+ years since I began collecting.  With the emergence of Ebay in the late 1990s I began to find cards that I never dreamed existed:  tourist cards made, used and posted before the year 1900; and a series of cards that were published to sensationalize the 1900 Storm itself!  In due course, I will want to share with you the aforementioned cards and some that I feel are not just odd but unimaginably beautiful.