The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003

Book Reviews

cultural geographic history of the unique Texas Gulf Coast, as well as how they
are intertwined. Academic geographers and historians will likely find this book
to be a bit elementary; however, it is an excellent starting point for additional
discovery and inquiry.
Western Michigan Unzversity, Kalamazoo LISA M. DECHANO
Through a Night of Horrors: Voices From the I9oo Galveston Storm. Edited by Casey
Edward Greene and Shelly Henley Kelly. (College Station: Texas A&M Univer-
sity Press, 2000. Pp. xi+2o6. Photographs, maps, bibliography, index. ISBN o-
8909-6961-2. $15.95, paper.)
In recent years, social, urban, and environmental historians have begun to re-
examine natural disasters as phenomena worthy of scholarly inquiry. Much of
this new historical work focuses not solely on a particular calamity, but on the
ways in which, to quote environmental historian Ted Steinberg, "human, social
and economic forces" were central participants in the creation of a "natural" dis-
aster (Steinberg, Acts of God: The Unnatural Hzstory of Natural Disaster in America.
Oxford University Press, 2000, p. xix). This collection of oral histories, letters,
and memoirs of survivors of the hurricane and flood that came ashore at Galve-
ston Island one Saturday in September 1900 is very much in the vein of this im-
portant new scholarship.
Greene and Kelly, the editors of this volume, are archivists at Galveston's
Rosenberg Library, which houses an extensive collection of documents from sur-
vivors of the 1900 calamity. The editors sought to provide a work in which "ordi-
nary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances" sought to explain
"firsthand the ways in which people respond collectively to cataclysms" (p. 7).
The result is a fascinating set of documents that tell us as much about turn-of-
the-century Galveston society as they do about the storm itself.
These survivors' accounts testify to the horrifying events of that weekend-es-
pecially the terror that gripped virtually all Galveston residents as they struggled
to survive fierce winds, torrential rains, flying debris, and monstrous tides that
wrecked the city. Much of the city was indeed destroyed that September week-
end; abundant maps and photographs visually demonstrate the extent of devas-
tation. Estimates of casualities vary: between 6,ooo and 0o,ooo people died.
Thousands more were injured. Descriptions of death and dying, of the horror of
dead bodies left strewn about the land and floating on the bay pervade survivors'
accounts. After the storm, residents and city officials were confounded by the
problem of disposal of the dead; the military resorted to on-the-spot mass crema-
tions after other measures failed. Of the mass funeral pyres that burned for days
following the storm, wrote survivor Thomas Monagan, "it seemed too awful in a
civilized country" (p. 104).
As disturbing and harrowing as these accounts are, what makes them signifi-
cant are the many ways in which survivors implicitly comment on the economic,
social, and political factors that came into play in the creation of the disaster and
the city's response to it. In 1900, Galveston was a rapidly growing city of more

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed August 28, 2014.