Digital Commonwealth

Lawrence, Mass. Cyclone July 26, 1890 Photograph Collection

Lawrence Public Library

The Lawrence tornado, called the “Great Cyclone,” struck South Lawrence at 9:10 to 9:15 AM on Saturday, July 26, 1890. It took about two minutes to pass through any point. Damages were estimated at about $60,000. Eight people were killed and 65 were injured.

That July morning was oppressively hot. Shortly after 9:00 AM a furious rainstorm hit. When the rain ceased, the tornado approached, touching down at the Cricket Club grounds. It skipped some areas taking off only shingles from houses. Other structures were not so lucky. A portion of St. Patrick’s Church was lifted off its walls. The superstructure of the Boston & Maine Railroad Bridge was mangled. Houses were picked up and dropped in the middle of Springfield Street and trees were uprooted and leveled in South Union Park. The tornado traveled down Portland Street until it spent itself at the juncture of the Shawsheen and Merrimack Rivers.

Relief efforts began immediately. Mayor, Dr. John W. Crawford, and the heads of the city departments galvanized the community to extricate the dead and wounded and begin the cleanup. Monday evening a mass meeting was held at City Hall where messages of sympathy from other cities were read and offers of aid were presented. Various committees were formed to oversee the needs of the city. Contributions to the relief fund topped at $37, 560.65. Lawrence donated $27,249.35; Boston, $6,855; Lowell, $2090.30; Haverhill, $1,059; Salem $218; Manchester, NH, $66; and Worcester, $25.

The photographs in this collection were within the Lawrence Public Library’s photograph collection. They were clearly labeled and in many cases had been part of a scrapbook. Some were the gift of Norman T. Allen, Woods Hole, MA, July 1960 and others were the gift of George H. Farrell, 58 Thorndike St., Lawrence, MA. A few are not mounted. The mounted photographs are either 8 x 10 prints or cabinet cards designed for sale to the public. Often there is printing on the face of the card or mount. The smaller cards have a description of the event pasted on the back.

One cabinet photo shows the house of Deacon W. F. Cutler before the storm and after the storm. There are three girls in the front of the house. The girls on the left lived upstairs. Helen Butler, the girl in the center, was on the bridge during the storm and was killed. Flossie, the girl on the right, was hurt during the cyclone. The same house is shown after the cyclone in photo number 2001.5.38.

Some of the mounted photos were produced by WP Finnessy, Danvers, Mass. Number 2001.5.20 was taken by George H. Leck, a local photographer. Many of the large mounted photos were produced by A. W. Anderson, Haverhill, Mass.

Locations in this Collection: