“Waistcoats are left at home, braces are supplanted by belts” the 1901 US Heat-Wave

In July 1901 a heat-wave hit the eastern United States. 9,500 people are said to have died from heat related causes. 724 of the fatalities in the city of New York.

The news spread around the world and local paper The Orkney Herald and Advertiser carried a report which issued advice on what to wear in hot weather.

‘It is moist heat that has made New York so unbearable in spite of all the ingenuity and resource of the citizens….what helps one most to weather a heat-wave in New York is the general relaxation of the etiquette, especially in matters of dress. At the seaside men and women wear bathing costumes and lounge about on the beach eight hours out of 12. New York is not quite so pastoral, as all that, but what it does it can.

Waistcoats are left at home, braces are supplanted by belts, flannels take the place of cloth, and the thinnest cotton or silk shirts drive out the starch monstrosities that Londoners dare not outgrow. No one remarks on it if a man carries his coat over his arm in Broadway. A man with a frock coat and silk hat on would be nobbed [to be disapproved of] as not only hot in himself, but the cause of heat in others.

In the tenement house districts the children wear a shirt or nothing at all, and the corporation water carts go round and sprinkle them, and charitable societies distribute free ice. At night they sleep, and if they do sleep – for New York is given up to mosquitoes on the roofs. ‘

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