Several months back I got a smartphone. I really didn’t have much interest in one at the time, but since our company was planning to build a mobile version of one of our websites, it kind of made sense (as one of the developers) to have one. So now we’re developing the site, and it’s been pretty handy. In the meantime, I’ve added a few free apps to the phone, which have made the fact that it’s bulkier than its predecessor a little more bearable. One of the first apps I installed was one called “Latest Quakes” that allows me see when quakes occur anywhere in the world. And this year, we’ve had plenty of them to view.
Back in 1755, smartphones didn’t exist. Dumb phones didn’t exist, either. But earthquakes did, and they could certainly be felt, whether seismographs were around or not. And one of the largest quakes to hit the eastern seaboard occurred on November 18, 1755. The quake has been estimated to be something greater than 6.0. Now that doesn’t sound especially large in light of the quake that struck off Japan’s coast back in March, but apparently, the composition of the ground east of the Rockies means that earthquakes have a greater “punch per Richter number”.
This particular quake struck early in the morning off the coast of Massachusetts. It was in the general vicinity of Cape Ann, so it’s been named the Cape Ann Earthquake, but the shaking wasn’t limited to Cape Ann. It was felt as far south as South Carolina and well out into the Atlantic. Damage in eastern Massachusetts was pretty extensive. Since the Richter Scale didn’t exist back then, earthquakes were measured by the Chimneys-Knocked-Down Scale. Jay Feldman quotes the Boston Weekly News-Letter in When the Mississippi Ran Backwards (which, by the way, is a completely fascinating read) “The Convulsions were so extreme as to wreck the Houses in this Town to such a Degree that the Tops of many Chimnies…were thrown down…”. Fences were reported knocked down and there was some soil liquifaction as well.
Many citizens pointed ominously to the sky and fingered the Hand of God as the cause of the quake, citing punishment for evil deeds and immoral behavior. This led to something of a religious revival, as preachers took the opportunity to remind their congregations of the Almighty’s Powerful right hand. It also led to a lot of employment opportunities for guys that knew something about brickwork.
Recommended Reading: When the Mississippi Ran Backwards: Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes – A super-intriguing tale. A little murder. A little earthquake. A Cape Ann mention. I think you’ll like it.