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Pittsburgh's Flood of 1936

Deluge of "America's Steel Capital" Recorded in 
Family Photo Albums and Covered Coast to Coast

Thanks to an especially frigid winter which froze Pittsburgh's three rivers, and then unusually warm spring thaws which melted the thick ice, the "Steel City" was inundated with deep flood waters in March 1936. The damage impacted hundreds of our Minerd-Minard-Miner-Minor cousins in the city and the surrounding eight-county region at the time, and thousands of cousins nationwide learned of the deluge through news coverage.

Seen at left, an old family snapshot shows Monalea (Ullom) Miner and her sons Dean (left) and Wayne in the middle of the frozen Ohio River, near their home in Aliquippa, Beaver County, PA, a week or two before the ice melted. On the back of the photo, Monalea wrote: "This was taken out on the river two weeks ago. It was solid clear across and heaped up cubes taller than I am. We were probably a third of the way across when this was taken." 

Cousin Corwin D. Tilbury, a former Pittsburgh City Councilman residing in the Oakmont section of Pittsburgh, wrote about the flood's effects to his cousin John Reuben Minerd in Indiana.

The staggering news was covered by newspapers coast to coast. Below are archival photographs acquired by the Minerd- Minard- Miner- Minor Archives in 2006. They show stark images captured by photographers from the International News Photos agency. These haunting pictures then were distributed to subscribing newspapers nationwide, among them William Randolph Hearst's San Francisco Examiner.

Most of the historic images have editor's notes and crop marks as they were used in the original production of this prestigious newspaper which was the flagship of Hearst's media empire. Many of the images below have the Examiner date stamp on the reverse, and a clipping of the original article in which the photograph was used.

International News Photos cutline: This picture gives a graphic idea of the height to which the flood waters on the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers rose during the Pittsburgh deluge. This triple line of freight cars was almost... [remaining text obscured]. San Francisco Examiner caption: "Three lines of boxcars left forgotten in middle of swirling flood waters. Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers join forces and pour deluge into heart of America's steel capital."

International News Photos cutline: 3.18.36 - General air view, showing the triangle piece of land between the Allegheney (sic) and Monongahela Rivers where they join to make the Mighty Ohio River. On this strip of land is the downtown business district of Pittsburgh, which has been flooded. The water, which rose to more than three feet, did millions of dollars damage. San Francisco Examiner caption: "Downtown business district of Pittsburgh heavily damaged. These two streams join and become the mighty Ohio River."

International News Photos cutline: 3-19-36 - An air view, showing when fire added its peril to flood, when the conflagration swept the Waverly Oil Works of Pittsburgh, sending vast clouds of oil smoke billowing across the flooded district. San Francisco Examiner caption: "Oil tanks burning amid Pittsburgh flood. Stricken city now lacks water to fight fires such as this."

International News Photos cutline: 3.18.36 - One of the great steel mills on the bank of the Allegheny River which has been closed down because of the flood. At noon today the waters of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers had risen to forty two feet, which is twenty five feet above the flood level. Electric power plants were put out of commission and water stood five foot deep in the streets of the business district. There were no reports of any deaths but hundreds of persons are marooned in downtown business district.

International News Photos cutline: 3.19.36 - The flood waters rising almost to the marquee of the Joseph Horne Company department store, one of the finest in Pittsburgh. The loss to this store alone caused by the flood is said to be $1,000,000. San Francisco Examiner caption: "Pittsburgh's 'Golden Triangle' business district under water. The Joseph Horne Department Store, flooded almost to the marquee. Damage to this store was estimated $1,000,000 damage."

International News Photos cutline: 2.29.36 - Spring thaws after one of the worst winters in many years caused the Allegheny to overflow its banks and flood a large riverfront area of Pittsburgh, Pa. Two policemen are pictured patrolling their beats in row boats, keeping a keen lookout for any persons who might be stranded by the encroaching waters. Despite the serious aspect of the flood, it is said to be only a small sample of more dangerous ones to come. Along the Allegheny, the Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri and Red Rivers, warnings have been broadcast urging residents to flee to higher ground. San Francisco Examiner caption: "Officers on lookout for stranded persons. Scene during minor flood last month in Pittsburgh."

International News Photos cutline: 3.19.36 - This scene on Pennsylvania Ave. in Pittsburgh shows how high the water rose in the streets in downtown business district. Many millions of dollars property damage has been [text obscured]. San Francisco Examiner caption: "When water raced through Pittsburgh streets. Flood reaches almost to roofs of these stalled street cars."

Any reproduction of these images without the expressed written consent of Minerd.com publisher Mark A. Miner is strictly prohibited.

This page copyright 2006 Mark A. Miner. Minerd.com expresses its appreciation to Merchandise Brokers of Cape Cod (MBoCC) for facilitating the acquisition of the San Francisco Examiner photograph archive.