The heat wave subsided slightly on New York Friday afternoon, with thunderstorms and rain bringing in cool(ish) air. As temperatures rose upwards of 98 degrees Wednesday and Thursday, New Yorkers flocked to the beach, busted open fire hydrants, and cranked up the AC (causing a brownout).

There was a time, however, before air conditioning, when heat waves were much, much worse. One such heat wave, in 1911, claimed 211 lives, and caused bouts of insanity. The Bowery Boys describe:

There was little escape from the scorching temperatures among the cramped tenements. New York's beaches offered some respite, but you had to cram into a sweltering train cabin to get there. Rudimentary air conditioning had only been invented a few years before and was hardly widespread.

The pictures below are taken from the New York City Municipal Photo Archives (which has over 800,000 images available online) and show New Yorkers escaping to the beach and to city pools, a decade or two after the fateful 1911 heat wave, when the city was slightly more adept at battling the heat.

Take a look at the original McCarren Park Pool, swimmers next to an abandoned boat in the Harlem River, and some Coney Island life guards:


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