The Urban History Seminar series feature a scholarly presentation followed by lively discussion. Andrew Hurley, a professor of history at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, presents “Death, Despondency, and Hysteria in the American City: The All But Forgotten Heat Wave of 1936.”

In the midst of the Great Depression, the United States experienced an environmental catastrophe of epic proportions, a seven-year drought lasting from to 1930 to 1936, that brought ruin to farm economies on the Great Plains and created the infamous Dust Bowl. Unusually dry weather also produced some of the hottest summers on record in the United States. Less remembered than the dust storms and drought, a succession of brutal heat waves disproportionately affected cities and towns, primarily in the American Midwest. The 1936 hot spell was the deadliest among them, claiming over 10,000 lives and severely disrupting vital urban functions.

In this presentation, Hurley will share his ongoing research about the 1936 summer heat wave and its impact on major Midwestern metropolises, including Chicago. The talk will demonstrate how early 20th-century urban development heightened the risks associated with hot weather and explore the strategies that citizens employed to navigate the superheated metropolis and its dangers.

The Zoom session will open at 6:45 p.m. with the program starting at 7:00 p.m. and concluding by 8:15 p.m. RSVP is required.

This session is free of charge; we would greatly appreciate a donation to the Museum in any amount. A Zoom link will be provided after registration.

The Urban History Seminars have been generously underwritten by the Chicago History Museum since 1983.

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