Shortly after 5:00 P.M. On Wednesday, May 27, 1896, a Herculean tornado shattered the St. Louis Area. Within twenty minutes, 137 people had perished in St. Louis, with 118 dead across the river in East St. Louis. Along a ten-mile swath of devastation, the tornado destroyed 311 buildings, heavily damaged 7,200 others and caused significant harm to 1,300 more. Even today, that powerful cyclone of a century ago "remains the single deadliest incident to befall the St. Louis area," according to Tim O’Neil of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
who wrote the foreword for this historic reprint of a book originally published by the Cyclone Publishing Company.
Heavily illustrated by photographs of the damage, The Great Cyclone was compiled from stories in the city’s daily newspapers—the Globe-Democrat, the Post-Dispatch, and, most notably, the old St. Louis Republic. O’Neil points out that "the book’s compilers are not identified, but their glowing praise of the ‘superb descriptive composition’ in the Republic provides a good guess about where most of them worked."