P-87 1943 Flood Photograph Album by Western Cartridge Company | UMSL
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P-87 1943 Flood Photograph Album by Western Cartridge Company

ABSTRACT: This annotated photograph album, made by Western Cartridge Company, provides a first-had account of the destruction wreaked by the 1943 Mississippi River Flood in Alton, Illinois.

SCOPE: The photographs and captions provide a comprehensive view of the flood’s effects on the city of Alton, including before and after views, and on the Western Cartridge Company. The photographs depict the Alton business district, downtown Alton at West Broadway, the State Street fish market, the interurban railway station, views along the wood river, and industrial Alton near the pump station. A few photographs detail the failure of the Mississippi River levee at Alton, which reportedly came close to endangering the pump station and water intake of the Western Cartridge Company. The last two pages of the album are taken from the June 4, 1943 issue of The Altonian newspaper and picture other scenes of the flood around Alton.

EXTENT: One photograph album, 54 black and white 8x10 photographs with captions printed on Western Cartridge Company letterhead and a two-page typed introduction.

HISTORY: The 1943 Mississippi River Flood was the worst on the river in a century. According to the introductory text in the album, the flash floods of May 6-18 fell "over the watersheds of the Illinois, Sangamon, Missouri, Osage, Kansas, and Platte Rivers, as well as the Middle Mississippi. Each of these streams reached flood stage, and the combined flood waters poured into the Mississippi above the plant site of Western Cartridge Company, the Missouri short-cutting its normal channel to cut across the St. Charles Bottoms and into Lake Alton."

The Western Cartridge Company is a firearms and ammunitions manufacturer still headquartered in East Alton, and now a subsidiary of the Olin Corporation. At the time of the 1943 Mississippi Flood, in the middle of WWII, the company held almost nine million in defense contracts. The company had earlier come under fire from unions and government authorities, the latter for the company's refusal to hire African American workers, even during the war effort.

ACCESS: This collection can be viewed on-site in the Rare Book and Manuscripts Reading Room. Some of the material may be photocopied, digitally scanned or photographed, subject to condition and other access restrictions. Information on conducting research with the archival collections of the Library, including current building hours and reading room policies, can be found on our Research page. The St. Louis Mercantile Library is located on levels one and two of the Thomas Jefferson Library building on the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ north campus.

Preferred Citation note: The preferred citation for this collection is "From the collections of the Herman T. Pott National Inland Waterways Library at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.”