Th Grade Florida History

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Local History

11th Grade Florida History

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1926 Miami: The Blow That Broke The Boom

Essential Question

How did the Hurricane of 1926 effect the economy of the city of Miami?

1926 Miami: The Blow That Broke The Boom

Florida literacy Standards Alignment:

LAFS.1112.RH.1.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among key details and ideas.
NGSSS -Social Science Standards Alignment:
SS.912.A.1.4: Analyze how images, symbols, objects, cartoons, graphs, charts, maps, and artwork may be used to interpret the significance of time periods and events from the past.

SS.912.A.3.10: Review different economic and philosophic ideologies.

Please note:  The reading(s) associated with this lesson is for both teacher content knowledge and student content knowledge development.  Teachers are encouraged to use the readings in their entirety and/or select portions of the reading to best fit the needs and reading levels of their particular students.  It is highly suggested that teachers review the reading(s) thoroughly and adapt the reading(s) and plan instruction using appropriate instructional strategies in order to maximize student understanding according to their particular students’ abilities. 

Topic: 1926 Miami: The Blow That Broke The Boom

Essential Question
How did the Hurricane of 1926 effect the economy of the city of Miami?
Learning Goals
With the events of the hurricane of 1926, students will understand how the hurricane effected the economy of Miami and the impact that it would have on the future of the city.
Students will learn how the hurricane of 1926 caused mass destruction in Miami, Fl., following the collapse of a huge real-estate boom during the mid-to-late 1920’s.
Background information:
The 1926 Miami hurricane (also known as the Great Miami hurricane) devastated the Greater Miami area and caused extensive damage in the Bahamas and Gulf Coast in September 1926, accruing a US$78.58 million damage toll that remains the costliest in U.S. history when adjusted using inflation, population, and wealth normalization, yielding a cost of nearly US$165 billion. As a result of the destruction in Florida, the hurricane represented an early start to the Great Depression in the aftermath of the state's 1920s land boom.

  • Pens/Pencils

  • Photo of the aftermath of hurricane 1926, along with the questions for students to respond.

  • Hurricane of 1926 article

  • Hurricane of 1926 Reading notes worksheet (or teachers can choose to project the questions on the smart board/promethean board)

Activity Sequence


  1. Students will analyze a photo exhibiting the aftermath of the hurricane of 1926.

  2. Students will then answer the questions related to the photo.

  3. Introduce the background information of the hurricane of 1926 and explain the effect that this hurricane had on the economy of Miami and how it affected the social aspect of Miami.

Activity (10 minutes)

  • Students will read the “Hurricane of 1926” article from PBS

  • Students will respond to the questions on the “Hurricane of 1926” reading notes worksheet, based on the article.

  • Student will write a brief summary explaining something they have learned about the hurricane of 1926.

Closure (2 minutes)

  1. Based on what we have read and learned, what economic problems were Miamians facing before the destruction the hurricane of 1926?

  2. How did the hurricane of 1926 cause further economic damage to the city’s economy?

References for links, if applicable

Photo curtesy of-

The Hurricane of 1926 - “

The Hurricane of 1926

In 1921 a newspaper ad inviting tourists and investors to Miami Beach read: "…practically no danger from summer storms." If the claim wasn't reasonable, it was at least understandable. The last major hurricane had hit Florida in 1910, "when the population of Miami Beach could be counted on one, maybe two hands."

By 1920, the population of Miami had swelled to nearly 30,000, a 440 percent increase over the previous decade. The explosion continued throughout the '20s. On September 15, 1926, the National Weather Bureau issued warnings of three large tropical storms building in the Caribbean. The warnings fell not on deaf, but uncomprehending ears.

The "Big Blow" was the second hurricane to hit South Florida that season. In July 1926 a small hurricane produced heavy rain and slight wind damage. A longtime resident schooled in hurricanes' potential danger considered July's storm good practice for inexperienced Miamians. "We have had a beautiful time with a hurricane apparently made to order for me," he said, "blowing with just enough energy to put the fear of the Lord into the scoffers, and very possibly make them see the light."

Instead, the minimal storm engendered complacency among residents. On September 17, Miamians reluctantly heeded the Weather Bureau's hurricane warnings. Some people erected makeshift barriers, but Miami Beach was largely left to fend for itself.

The city did not fare so well. The storm crashed into Miami Beach at about 2:00 a.m. on September 18. Florida author Marjory Stoneman Douglas wrote: "Miami Beach was isolated in a sea of raving white water."

Finally the storm ceased. Miamians who had boarded up their windows and doors unboarded them and stepped outside to assess the damage. Misinterpreting the calm, they didn't realize they were stepping into the eye of the storm. Most casualties succumbed after the lull. During the hurricane's second half, winds reached a terrifying 128 miles per hour, and rain drowned people who didn't reach shelter in time.

Structural damage was stupefying. Utility poles hurtled through the air. Roofs were torn from buildings. Electricity and water were cut off. Even the beach seemed to shift; Collins Avenue was covered in sand, as were lobbies of prestigious oceanfront hotels. 

At the time, Miami's hurricane was considered the country's greatest natural disaster since the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. Today the Category 4 storm ranks among 20th-century U.S. hurricanes as the 12th strongest and 12th deadliest. After adjustment for 1996 construction costs, the storm is the U.S.'s 20th most costly, with an estimated $1.5 billion in property damage.

Damage control for the Big Blow was almost as extensive as the damage itself. "Any attempt to whistle off the damage of the storm while closing both eyes to the declining real estate values was pathetic," one historian wrote. "But Miamians are pretty good whistlers." With land sales already down from the year before, Miami promoters scurried to quash devastating news reports. A makeshift radio station was erected to broadcast the news that "Miami was down but not 'wiped out,'" as national headlines had proclaimed.

Pithy statements could not change the numbers: 113 dead, drowned or crushed by debris (the total reached 243 by the time the storm struck Pensacola and Mobile); 854 hospitalized; 2,000 homes destroyed and 3,000 damaged. Estimates of residents made homeless ranged from 25,000 to 47,000.

If promoters were frustrated by this "bad publicity," Red Cross workers were equally frustrated by the promoters. In their efforts to salvage the waning real estate industry, promoters initially hindered the Red Cross' efforts to raise relief funds. Ultimately donations poured in. Publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst equipped a special train with doctors, nurses and water-treating units, which arrived once the mangled railroad tracks were repaired. 

Those with a bent toward hellfire "interpreted the hurricane disaster as divine punishment for the extravagant prosperity Florida had enjoyed." While Miami Beach was able to rebuild structurally in a few months (though a smaller hurricane in October 1926 temporarily set back progress), financially it would take years. In 1927 tourism was down, and land buyers were defaulting on their payments with increased frequency. The resurgence in tourism and land sales that Miami Beach enjoyed in 1928 and '29 would be short-lived. Another disaster -- the Stock Market crash -- was on its way. hurricane

1926 Miami: The Blow That Broke The Boom-Photo Analysis

1926: cleaning up

Complete the following questions based on the photo:

  1. Based on the photo, how would you describe the physical setting of Miami during the 1920’s?

  2. Why do you think this image was made? What is the photographer trying to depict in this photo?

  3. Who do you think was the audience for this image?

  4. What is the mood of this photo? Explain your answer.

  5. Based on what you have observed above, list three things you might infer from this photograph.

  6. What questions does this photograph raise in your mind?

  7. Based on the title of this photo, what do you think the author means by “The Blow That Broke the Boom”?

Hurricane of 1926: Reading Notes

Directions: Read your assigned hurricane passage carefully, then answer the following questions to the best of your ability.

  1. Name/date of hurricane (remember, what was important about 1953?):____________________________________

  2. Origins of hurricane:___________________________________________________________________________

  3. Caribbean islands affected:______________________________________________________________________

  4. What part(s) of Florida was/were struck? What were the maximum windspeeds? What Category was the storm when it hit? _______________________________________________________________________________________

  5. Number of people dead? Injured? _________________________________________________________________

  6. Number of buildings/homes destroyed? Damaged?___________________________________________________

  7. Other damages involved?_______________________________________________________________________

  8. What was the estimated value of the property damage?________________________________________________

  9. In just 2-4 sentences, relate a particularly interesting experience or tale from the hurricane (you maychoose two if you like):___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


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