One of the worst natural disasters in American history, the 1896 New York heat wave killed almost 1,500 people in ten oppressively hot days. The heat coincided with a pitched presidential contest between William McKinley and the upstart Democrat William Jennings Bryan, who arrived in New York City at the height of the catastrophe. As historian Edward P. Kohn shows, Bryan's hopes for the presidency began to flag amidst the abhorrent heat just as a bright young police commissioner named Theodore Roosevelt was scrambling to mitigate the dangerously high temperatures by hosing down streets and handing out ice to the poor. This presentation tells a vivid story that captures the birth of the progressive era and revives the forgotten disaster that almost destroyed a great American city.
Edward P. Kohn, Ph.D., a longtime educator, historian, author and expert on Theodore Roosevelt, is dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Norwich University. Kohn’s research has focused on the 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, which has resulted in three books and several articles and book chapters, including the book Hot Time in the Old Town: The Great Heatwave of 1896 and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt.