Hot Time in the Old Town

Edward Kohn discusses one of the worst natural disasters in American history—the 1896 New York heat wave, which killed almost 1,500 people in ten days. In Hot Time in the Old Town: The Great Heat Wave of 1896 and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt, he tells how the heat coincided with a heated presidential contest between William McKinley and Democrat William Jennings Bryan. Their hopes for the presidency began to fizzle in the heat just as a bright young police commissioner named Theodore Roosevelt was helping the city cope with the dangerously high temperatures by hosing down streets and handing out ice to the poor.