East Coast Earthquake, Aug 1884


Felt Over a Large Region – A Vibratory Motion from Washington to Maine

Last Sunday afternoon there was an earthquake shock in this country, which was felt as far south as Washington and as far north a Maine, and in the intervening territory. In Baltimore the sensation was as a wavy tremor. It was not near as pronounced as elsewhere, but was sufficient, in a number of cases, to arouse people form their afternoon naps, crack plaster, slam doors and toss furniture about. From other parts of Maryland there are reports of similar character. No one was hurt but the shock occasioned considerable excitement.

New York and vicinity were shocked at the same time by an earthquake of much greater severity. Its duration was about ten seconds. The telegraph manager at Coney Island promptly asked for particulars of the “explosion,” supposing that some oil refinery, powder mill or dynamite factory had blown up. A few minutes later, however, the fact became known there that the whole island had been thoroughly shaken by the vibrations, and that the guests and visitors were very greatly alarmed, the fright in some cases amounting to panic. As a rule people remained in front of their houses for many minutes, apparently trying to gat at some solution of the fears and watching the faces and manner of others. Women and children as they regained some degree of confidence returned to their houses. Men assembled in groups in the streets discussing the occurrence which had so startled them. The faces of men and women, however, wore a troubled expression and bespoke a dread that perhaps the danger was not yet over. The effect of the jar was much more perceptible in houses of light structure, in many instances it being reported that a clearly defined movement was felt, and the dishes in pantries were shaken form the shelves. In Central Park the shock was more severe, it is said, than in the surrounding region. There were large crowds in the mall, who were at once thrown into a state of violent excitement by the shaking and strong rumbling in the ground, which was distinctly heard. The animals in the menagerie were evidently frightened by the shock, and many of them were seen to tremble as if in fear, while they remained perfectly still for some time after it occurred.

The policemen on the Brooklyn bridge report that the shock was distinctly felt there, and the great towers at either end oscillated visibly, while the bridge itself rocked as if struck by a hurricane. The shock was felt generally along the river fronts, and the piers were shaken as if by a heavily loaded truck passing over them. At the iron steamboat pier, which is built of solid masonry, the motion was so violent that the ticket-takers rushed from their offices to ascertain the cause of the commotion.

The late afternoon boats brought back crowds from Coney Island, where it was said that the shock was much more violent that in the city. The piazzas and dining-rooms at the Manhattan and Brighton Beach were well filled when a rumbling noise was hear, followed by a rocking of the ground, which made window panes rattle and shock dishes and wine glasses from the tables. There was a general rush for the open air, and great excitement prevailed. There was a general rush toward the main entrance, the people being under the impression that the structure was giving way.