Artifact Detective - January 2012

With the sheer volume of artifacts that have been acquired by the National Law Enforcement Museum—more than 15,000 to date—we can’t always devote as much time to researching individual objects as we would like. We are calling on you to help us uncover some of the stories behind our objects. We will post pictures and any information we have on specific objects in our collection on our website, on our blog, and in our newsletter. We would like you to tell us anything you may know about the item. All information is welcome; sources and citations are requested when possible.

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Print: “Policemen Rubbing Snow on Frozen Ears During the Storm of Monday,” 1888.  2006.287.36.  Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum, Washington, DC.
Click on photo to view larger image.

Print: “Policemen Rubbing Snow on Frozen Ears During the Storm of Monday,” Harper's Weekly, 1888.

What we know:

  • The illustration was published in March 1888 in Harper’s Weekly, a leading illustrated news magazine of the 19th century headquartered in New York City, which offered readers local and international news, fiction, essays, and humor.

  • It appeared on page 208 of Vol. 32, no. 1631.

  • The historic storm brought New York City around 25 inches of snow, 60 mph winds, killed 200 people, caused severe flooding (especially in Brooklyn) and cost $25 million in fire damages alone.

  • At the time, people believed that rubbing snow on frostbit ears and other body parts would revive them.  We know today that it actually worsens the symptoms.

  • A caption explains that this and another illustration are “Street Incidents of Last Week in New York.”

What we want to know:

  • Do you know anyone who survived the blizzard? What did he or she remember about it?

  • During weather emergencies in the 19th century, what were police called upon to do?

  • How many rescues were New York City police involved with during the blizzard?

  • How often did New Yorkers have to deal with blizzards in the 19th century?
  • How do modern officers help people dealing with snow and cold temperatures?


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