Mississippi Retro Apparel

Left: Flood refugees on the levee in Greenville, Mississippi - Right: Flood refugees in Yazoo City on May 13, 1927

Mississippi Retro Apparel

Intersection of Washington Street and Shelby Street in downtown Greenville, Mississippi

The Flood of 1927

Mississippi Memories

Left: Refugees in Vicksburg, Mississippi - Right: People traveling in canoes near the railroad station in Cary, Missississippi

When the rains began they had relieved the region of the summer heat. Now they were frightening. People could do nothing but watch their crops drown and their rivers rise and, reminded of their own impotence and of the power of God and nature, pray.

The rain continued into October. The Neosho River in Kansas and six hundred miles to the east the Illinois River in southern Illinois reached their highest levels in history—an extraordinary occurrence in October, when rivers normally run low. Flooding in those states was the most disastrous ever. The Mississippi at Vicksburg had only broken thirty feet on the gauge six times in history. Each time, the following spring saw a great flood on the Mississippi itself. The river at Vicksburg had never broken thirty-one feet on the gauge in October. In October 1926 it broke forty feet.

Precipitation continued into the winter over the entire Mississippi Valley, which stretches from New York to the Rockies and drains thirty-one states and two Canadian provinces. The US Weather Bureau noted that the average reading through the last three months of 1926 on every single river gauge on each of the three greatest rivers of North America—the Ohio, the Missouri, and the Mississippi itself, draining nearly one million square miles and stretching the width of the continent—was the highest ever known. The Weather Bureau later stated, “There was needed neither a prophetic vision nor a vivid imagination to picture a great flood in the lower Mississippi River the following spring.”[1]

On Christmas Day 1926, both Nashville and Chattanooga—on two different rivers—flooded. On New Year’s Day 1927, the main river at Cairo, Illinois, broke flood stage, the earliest instance on record. In January Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Louisville flooded.

The saturated land throughout the Mississippi valley could absorb no more water, but water still came. In conjunction with the melting of a vast snowpack, virtually the entire Mississippi River system flooded in the spring of 1927, killing people from Virginia to Oklahoma.

But the greatest concern lay along the lower Mississippi, from Cairo, Illinois, to the Gulf, and tributaries feeding into that part of America. The Gulf of Mexico once reached north to present-day Cape Girardeau, Missouri, but the river system had deposited so much sediment into what geologists call the Mississippi Embayment that it had filled in the area between Cape Girardeau to the Gulf, nearly 35,000 square miles in seven states. That was the river’s natural flood plain. And there, on top of everything else, five separate rain storms struck, each one of which was greater than any single storm in the preceding ten years.

Throughout that region, only levees were in place to contain the energy of the river. The length of that levee line was well over 1,000 miles, and the great earthworks seemed an impregnable fortress, towering two and three stories above the flat delta land. It was not impregnable.

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In the latter part of August 1926, the sky darkened over much of the central United States and a heavy and persistent rain began to fall. Rain pelted first Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, and Oklahoma, then edged eastward into Iowa and Missouri, then into Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. Lightning seemed almost to crack open the sky, booming thunder made buildings quiver, and rain poured from the sky in sheets. When this storm passed, another followed, then another.

Though the rain fell in the dry season, it saturated the soil and filled the riverbeds, drowned crops, and ruined harvests. The rivers rose. On September 1, water poured over the banks of dozens of streams and flooded towns from Carroll, Iowa, to Peoria, Illinois, three hundred and fifty miles apart. On September 4, floods deluged much of Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, killing four people. The Mississippi River itself washed out bridges and railroads in the upper Midwest. Another storm followed. Flooding stretched from Terre Haute, Indiana, to southeastern Kansas. A separate storm in northwestern Iowa dumped fifteen inches of rain in three days, sending rivers exploding over their banks, drowning ten, inundating 50,000 acres including Sioux City, and causing millions of dollars in damage. As far west as Omaha rivers rose to threatening levels.

Mississippi Retro Apparel are wearable flashbacks from years gone by.

They are for the crowd that knew the bars, clubs, restaurants and music of the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's. They are reminders of the best of times spent with family and friends at the best places, those places, back then.

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Hattiesburg Retro Apparel

Downtown Greenville, Mississippi on April 30, 1927

In 1927 the Mississippi reclaimed three-quarters of its flood plain, devastating Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The statistics recounting the damage are staggering. At its widest, the river created a vast inland sea more than seventy-five miles across—one could travel the normally dry seventy miles from Vicksburg to Monroe, Louisiana, by boat. Not counting the flooding of parts of cities as large as Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, just along the lower river alone, the homes of more than 920,000 people were damaged. The nation’s population at the time was only 120 million. Roughly 1 percent—perhaps more—of the entire population of the country was flooded out of their homes. 330,000 were rescued by boat from rooftops, trees, levee crowns, and second stories.[2] Hundreds of thousands of homes and commercial buildings were destroyed. No one knows the death toll—the Red Cross claimed it was only 246 but the Weather Bureau said 500, while a professional disaster expert estimated the dead in Mississippi alone at 1,000.

But the biggest impact of the flood was less on individual communities that were inundated than on America itself. Far more than any other natural disaster, the 1927 Mississippi River flood altered the course of American history. It did this in four chief ways: it revised environmental management, propelled a dark horse to the presidency, altered the political landscape for African Americans, and expanded the role of government in crises.

The Flood of 1927