Sunday, July 1, 2018

Paducah Postcards + Miamisburg Marker

One reader’s query leads to solving a Kentucky mystery; another reader invites viewing of a new historical marker on the 1913 flood in Ohio 

Out of the blue the morning of June 2, 2018, this email message arrived:

Ms. Bell. I stumbled upon your blog a couple of years back while trying to identify a group of flood postcards I have. I thought they were from Paducah, KY, but didn’t know the year. Turns out 
This scene during the 1913 flood is one of seven mystery postcards received from Mike Kunz. It is of downtown Paducah, Kentucky: specifically, Broadway seen from Second Street. The water flooding the city was deep enough for boats.
they were from 1913, and show some of the ‘Water Carnival’ in that city. I have collected and sold cards for years, never being aware of the importance of the 1913 flood. I have read all of your past blogs and have told a number of collectors and dealers at shows about the site. I have 
All seven postcards from Mike Kunz
correspond to scenes depicted in
this souvenir booklet, with a few
minor differences in the way images
were cropped.
gained much from this sight and I have enjoyed it’s educational value. To thank you for your efforts I would like you to have these Paducah cards. I would rather see them go where they would be appreciated than to someone for resale. I’m not trying to sell you something. If you want them, just send me an address, and will send them to you.

Keep up the good work. Mike Kunz, Petersburg, Tn.

South Third Street from Broadway in 
Paducah; at left is the Citizens Savings
 Bank and at right is First National Bank.
In this and other images, the faint vertical
marking that seems disembodied in the
sky is actually a streetlight hanging from
electrical wires.
The “water carnival” to which Mike Kunz referred was the appalling belittling of the horrific magnitude of the 1913 flood in Paducah, Kentucky, recounted in this blog’s September 2014 post “Spurning Disaster Aid.” 

At the time I wrote that post—indeed, until last month—I had never seen photos of the 1913 flood in Paducah as the city newspaper then did not publish images.

South Fourth Street from
Broadway. At left in the
foreground is the dry goods
business W. M. Rieke & Co.,
and in the background is
City Hall. At right in the
foreground is the Paducah
Banking Co.
Immediately, I wrote back to Mike, thanking him and accepting his generous offer. A few days later, seven black-and-white postcards arrived by mail. 

All of them showed flooded street scenes of a city with a few people in distant boats. The postcards were lithographed: they had a halftone screen dot pattern, suggesting they might have been printed for mass distribution or sale (as opposed to being real photographic prints made from a glass negative in an enlarger). None of them had been used; none had any printed caption; a few had cryptic handwritten identifying markings on the front (clearly on the original negative).
Broadway Avenue looking
east from Fourth Street.
The City National Bank
is at the left.

When I asked Mike what led him think they were of Paducah, he responded:

Trudy, the one card depicts the 3 Links Bldg, and I have had another view of that building that identifies it from Paducah. Also, the street names match some in Paducah. I have tried to find info on the store names visible on the images, but had no luck. You probably have access to better sources than I, so that might help. I have been able to pinpoint other locations that way. I think these cards were probably printed by a newspaper or local printer, but it unusual for them not to be identified as such. Please let me know what you come up with. Good luck with your search, Mike.  

Map of Paducah, KY, showing where
the seven postcard images were
photographed during the 1913 flood.
His guess triggered a memory of another blog post I wrote, “Grisly Souvenirs,” on the commemorative booklets—including booklets of postcards—published in many cities of local Great Easter 1913 flood and tornado devastation. The very first image in that post was of just such a booklet for Paducah, which at that time (November 2015) I had never seen and could not find online.

North Fourth Street from
Broadway Avenue.
Well, sometime in the intervening two-and-a-half years, images of the booklet’s interior pages made their way onto the internet. 

Broadway Avenue between
Fourth and Fifth Streets. The
author of the souvenir booklet
spins reality by noting that the
scene shows “johnboats of every
description in which the citizens
enjoyed the Water Carnival.”
Those pages definitively revealed that all seven postcards indeed were of the 1913 flood in Paducah depicted in the booklet, including identifications of the street locations. No name is given for the booklet’s author, but the photographs were credited to Paducah photographers Sacra & Cook.

Thank you, Mike Kunz! 

Fifth and Kentucky Avenue, showing the
Three Links Building.
This post reproduces all seven of the postcards he kindly gave to me, identifying their locations.

Miamisburg 1913 flood marker

Meantime, a couple of weeks earlier, on May 22, 2018, another reader emailed: 

Hard to believe it's been 5 years since we recognized the 1913 flood in Miamisburg.  If you are in the area on June 19, 10:00 am Riverfront Park, we are dedicating an Ohio Historical Marker. Would be nice if you could be there.  Carol O'Connell, Miamisburg Historical Society

When it turned out that the dedication was to be “merely a pause in the many activities” that day celebrating the bicentennial Miamisburg (southwest of Dayton), and that I live 200+ miles away diagonally across the state, Carol promised to send me a copy of the program after the event.

She was as good as her word, supplemented by photos of the historical marker by local photographer Jay Robinson. Jay’s images of the front and back of the marker are here; additional images he took of the entire unveiling of the marker are on Facebook.

When I asked Carol what her role had been in securing the historical marker, she replied:

I completed the application for the Ohio History Connection marker.  It's akin to writing a research paper.  It was my donation to Miamisburg's Bicentennial celebration. It was unveiled at the site that was inundated by the flood. The land is repurposed as Riverfront Park. The marker stands in front of the levee along the Great Miami River constructed by the Miami Conservancy District.
Historical images of Miamisburg during the 1913 flood appear on the city’s website.

Thank you, Carol and Jay!

Speaking of historical markers…

After hearing from Carol, I wondered what other historical markers might commemorate the 1913 flood. A quick Google search revealed that another one was installed a year ago (June 2017) by the Indian Lake Historical 
Society. It is in Russells Point, OH (Logan County) along the Great Miami River—only about 75 miles northeast of Miamisburg, in case someone wants to visit them both in a day. Both photographs of the Indian Lake marker were taken by Rev. Ronald Irick.

Installation of historical markers commemorating the widespread Great Easter 1913 tornadoes and flood 
in any state is the type of news I would love to feature in this research blog. Heck, I’d love simply to learn the locations and see images of long-existing historical markers that describe a landmark that existed until destroyed by the Great Easter tornadoes or flood, even if the disaster itself is not the main focus of the marker…

It’s always fun to hear from readers with queries, updates, images, leads to new information, or invitations to speak or to attend relevant events, so please contact me 

©2018 Trudy E. Bell

Next time: Desperate Medicine

Selected references
The 1913 flood is commemorated in some paintings in floodwall murals—see “Magnum Opus.” 

Bell, Trudy E., The Great Dayton Flood of 1913, Arcadia Publishing, 2008. Picture book of nearly 200 images of the flood in Dayton, rescue efforts, recovery, and the construction of the Miami Conservancy District dry dams for flood control, including several pictures of Cox. 
(Author’s shameless marketing plug: Copies are available directly from me for the cover price of $21.99 plus $4.00 shipping, complete with inscription of your choice; for details, e-mail me), or order from the publisher.