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St. Francis Reservoir
San Francisquito Canyon

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Rays of sunlight penetrate storm clouds over the St. Francis Reservoir in 1927.

Post-disaster reissue of a real photo postcard by Andries Nielen of Cincinnati.

The original (1927) issuance bears the hand-written inscription, "Nielen Cin.O." (for Cincinnati, Ohio) / "53-27" ... which is how we know it's 1927. According to Cincinnati historian Don Prout (at CincinnatiViews.net):

Andries Nielen was a photographer who traveled the world in the 1920s taking photographs which he then made into postcards. He had a publishing company for many years in downtown Cincinnati at 221-223 W. 4th Street known as The A. Nielen Co. They were known as a publisher and importer of cheap and fast-selling ten-cent serial books. Nielen almost always typed little gems of wisdom on the back of his postcards. On the front it usually said Nielen Cin. O. followed by a number. The first part of the number was the negative number and the last part was the year taken.

No gems of wisdom on the back of this reissuance, just spaces for correspondence, addressee and postage. It's unused.

We don't know if Nielen himself was the reissuer; upon personal examination, it "feels" significantly later, perhaps 1960s or 1970s. In any event, the following typeset inscription was added:

View of Saint Francis Lake before the disaster of March 13, 1928, which wiped out 500 lives and caused a property loss of about $20,000,000.


Construction on the 600-foot-long, 185-foot-high St. Francis Dam started in August 1924. With a 12.5-billion-gallon capacity, the reservoir began to fill with water on March 1, 1926. It was completed two months later.

At 11:57:30 p.m. on March 12, 1928, the dam failed, sending a 180-foot-high wall of water crashing down San Francisquito Canyon. An estimated 411 people lay dead by the time the floodwaters reached the Pacific Ocean south of Ventura 5½ hours later.

It was the second-worst disaster in California history, after the great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, in terms of lives lost — and America's worst civil engineering failure of the 20th Century.


LW3184: 9600 dpi jpeg from RPPC as described, purchased 2018 by Leon Worden.
ST. FRANCIS DAM INTACT

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~1927

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~1927

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Footbridge Over Forebay

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1927

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1927

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Reservoir 1927

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~1928

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3/9/1928

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3/11/1928 (Last Photo)

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Initial AP Handout 3/13/1928

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