It may be difficult to imagine Charleston, city of palms and stifling humidity, beneath inches of white, stuck to every available surface in a seven-degree freeze. But in the last year of the 19th century, from February 6 to 14, the Lowcountry resembled this idyllic snowy scene, having been hit by the “Great Blizzard of 1899.” Also referred to as the “Great Arctic Outbreak,” this record-smashing cold wave affected the entire country, first hitting the western third in late January before reaching the southeastern states. While the effects of the storm were devastating in many areas—more than 100 people were estimated to have lost their lives, orchards of young trees in Georgia were killed outright, and ice in the Mississippi River halted barge traffic—it was reported by The News and Courier that Charlestonians reveled in the once-in-a-lifetime winter wonderland. “Men, women, and children gave themselves up to the joys of snowballing yesterday,” reads the 1899 article. In this photograph, a bundled-up wanderer ventures to the High Battery promenade to experience it for himself. View this image and more in-person at The Charleston Museum’s exhibit, “Snow Days in Charleston,” on display through April 2.
Photograph by Sabina E. Wells, Courtesy of The Charleston Museum