Notes and Documents
September 8, 1900:
An Account by a Mother to Her Daughters
Edited by W. MAURY DARST*
Amid the confusion following the destructive hurricane of Sep-
tember 8, 1900oo, Mrs. John Focke, wife of a prominent Galveston
cotton factor, took time to write to two of her daughters who were
away for the summer in Germany. Profoundly moved by the disaster
which had struck her city, Mrs. Focke intermingled personal accounts
with reports that she heard from her husband and friends. Her two
letters contained information that the two young ladies would want
to know concerning the safety of their family and friends.
Six thousand persons died in the storm's fury. Property loss was
estimated at $25,000,000. Water, electrical, and gas facilities were
destroyed, and the city's transportation services were heavily dam-
aged. A fourteen-foot tide, accompanied by winds up to 1i 20 miles
per hour, swept across the island. In its path more than 2,600 structures
Accurate and sensational accounts both followed the disaster. Books
were published.' A newsreel photographer came to Galveston to
record on film the destruction of the fourth largest city in Texas."
Mrs. Focke was aware that her letters would reach her daughters
*W. Maury Darst teaches history at Galveston Community College.
'Clarence Ousley (ed.), Galveston in zgoo (Atlanta, 1goo), 17, 23, 26, 3o.
2Helpful magazine articles are Edwin Muller, "The Galveston Flood," North American
Review, CCXLVI (Winter, 1938), 331-340; Walter Stevens, "The Story of the Galveston
Disaster," Munsey's Magazine, XXIV (December, 1900), 334-352; John Thomason, Jr.,
"Catastrophe in Galveston," American Mercury, XLV (October, 1938), 228-233. Some
slightly sensational books are John Coulter, The Complete Story of the Galveston Horror
(Chicago, 1900); Murat Halstead, Galveston: The Horrors of a Stricken City (Chicago,
1900oo); and Paul Lester, The Great Galveston Disaster (Galveston, 1900oo). The most ac-
curate of the books published following the storm is Ousley's Galveston in goo.
Another reliable work is John Edward Weems, A Weekend in September (New York,
1957). An informative newspaper article appears in the Houston Daily Post, September
'Reference is to Albert E. Smith of the Vitagraph Company, Hollywood, California.
Smith later wrote a book, Two Reels and a Crank (Garden City, New York, 1952), in
which he included a chapter on the Galveston storm.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 73, July 1969 - April, 1970. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117147/. Accessed December 9, 2013.