A 1906 dust storm beside the Flatiron Building

Ever notice that the area in front of the Flatiron Building—that triangular juncture where 23rd Street, Fifth Avenue, and Broadway meet, is kind of a windy spot?

John Sloan did. On a June day in 1906, he recorded this in his diary: “In the afternoon, walking on Fifth Avenue, we were on the edge of a beautiful wind storm, the air full of dust and a sort of panicky terror in all the living things in sight.”

This painting, “Dust Storm, Fifth Avenue,” is Sloan’s interpretation of that day. It “captures the mayhem of that afternoon, in which the Flatiron Building itself—the only skyscraper in a low-rise neighborhood—created the wind tunnel effect depicted by Sloan,” states the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the painting resides today.

The windy effect on 23rd Street was the subject of a 1901 film clip and then another from 1903, the latter placing the camera at the foot of the Flatiron and capturing hats and skirts blowing in the gusts.

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8 Responses to “A 1906 dust storm beside the Flatiron Building”

  1. Mykola (Mick) Dementiuk Says:

    Looks like the Atom Bomb going off.

  2. ksbeth Says:

    wow –

  3. Sally F Says:

    Love this!

  4. Punto Says:

    I believe that the wind at 23rd Street is the indirect source of the old-time phrase “23 skidoo”. Wikipedia says that one of the most commonly accepted derivations of 23 skidoo comes from the fact that the wedge shape of the Flatiron Building generated winds that would lift skirts to a level deemed immodest in those days. Men supposedly came to ogle this display so much that policemen posted in the area had to give them the 23 skidoo to keep them from congregating. There are other possible derivations, but I like this one the best and find it plausible.

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      I like this explanation too—I’m not sure if it’s right, but it’s a lot of fun and reflects the fashion and culture of the city at the time. Skirts could blow just a bit and a hint of ankle is revealed…

  5. David H Lippman Says:

    Never saw that painting, but that corner was the cause of the term “23 Skidoo,” because men would hang out there to watch the wind kick up women’s dresses, and they would get to see womens’ ankles and calves.

    Pretty racy for 1907…imagine what those guys would think about modern women’s clothing.

  6. Lady G. Says:

    Great painting! Wish we could’ve seen a clip of the actual dust storm. On the YT videos you posted both links for 1901 and 1903 are the same.

  7. The Weirdest Moment in the NY Gubernatorial Debate, Explained Says:

    […] the afternoon, walking on Fifth Avenue, we were on the edge of a beautiful wind storm, the air full of dust and a sort of panicky terror in all the living things in […]

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