Brown University Library Special Collections

Brown University and the Hurricane of 1938

Posted by Jennifer Betts on April 4, 2009

On September 21, 1938, a category 3 hurricane slammed into Long Island. Continuing northward through Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, the Great Hurricane of 1938 caused 682 deaths and $306 million of damages ($4.7 billion in today’s dollars).
Rhode Island was one of the hardest hit and Brown University was no exception. The Hurricane felled trees throughout campus. Major flooding in downtown Providence obliterated the writing on the University’s original charter, which was being stored in the bank vault of the Rhode Island Hospital Trust Company. And the statue of Caesar Augustus lost its right arm.

Felled trees in front of Manning Hall

Felled trees line the path on the front campus. Hope College and Manning Hall are in the background.

Students clearing fallen trees

Students help clean campus after the Hurricane. Carrie Tower and Robinson Hall are in the background.

Destroyed trees in front of the Van Wickle gates

The Hurricane toppled a tree right near Van Wickle Gates. The John Hay Library is in the background.

Students clearing trees near Carrie Tower

Students help clear trees near Carrie Tower.

Memo sent out to faculty and staff in the aftermath of the hurricane

Vice-President James P. Adams sends a memorandum to faculty and staff warning them about using fire as a substitute for light and telling them to go home before dark until further notice.

Letter explaining the loss of the University charter

Memo sent to President Henry Merritt Wriston in 1944 describing the loss of the University’s original charter during the hurricane and efforts to restore the “obliterated” text.

List of storm damages at Brown

List of damages incurred at Brown by the Hurricane of 1938.