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Thaddeus Bartlett's house in Skinnerville, Williamsburg, Mass., after the 1874 Mill River Disaster
TitleThaddeus Bartlett's house in Skinnerville, Williamsburg, Mass., after the 1874 Mill River Disaster
Full Size Image
SubjectDisasters--United States; Disasters--Massachusetts--Skinnerville; Dam failures--Massachusetts; Bartlett, Thaddeus, 1807-1884
DescriptionStereographic view of the heavily flood-damaged home of Thaddeus Bartlett in Skinnerville after the Mill River Disaster On the morning of May 16, 1874 the huge earthen dam holding back a 100-acre water power reservoir three miles above Williamsburg on the East Branch of the Mill River failed catastrophically, causing vast destruction and the loss of 139 lives in the factory villages of Williamsburg, Skinnerville, Haydenville and Leeds. It was the worst disaster of its kind in North American history up to that time, and it made national news. The event was such a sensation that many thousands of gawkers and souenir-hunters descended on the ruined villages by the trainload, turning the misery of bereaved and destitute families into a tourist attraction and helping themselves to anything they could carry away. Photographers from all over New England arrived in the stricken valley to record the destruction in stereographs, then the primary medium for disseminating photographs to a national audience hungry for images. An estimated 500 different stereo images of the disaster's aftermath were shot by at least 14 different photographers, and most were very widely reproduced and distributed. The Meekins Library collection includes at least 84 different views, all mounted on heavy cards for use in handheld stereo viewers. This stereograph shows the Skinnerville home of farmer Thaddeus Bartlett (1807-1884), typical in its ruined condition of houses throughout the flooded valley that were fortunate enough not to be completely destroyed. The flood, so laden with tumbling, battering debris that some eyewitnesses reported seeing little or no water, simply smashed most of the buildings it encountered to matchsticks. This portion of the Bartlett house was swept several hundred feet from its foundation and left on slightly higher ground where the flood shallowed and became unable to float it any farther. In an era when houses were smaller and moving them was routine, this one was eventually repaired and set on a new foundation and is believed to be occupied today (2011), though not on its original site.
CreatorKnowlton Brothers Photographers, Northampton, Mass.
IdentifierMeekins Library - Local History - Historic Photographs Collection - Mill River Disaster 1874 - Stereographs
RelationPart of the Meekins Library, Williamsburg, Mass., Local History Historic Photographs Collection.
RightsPermission to publish the image must be obtained from the Meekins Library by writing to or Meekins Library, Williamsburg, Mass., must be credited as the original source of the item for all use.
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