From the Darkside

Ocean City: The Great Hurricane of 1933

We are proud to announce that MdHS has been awarded a federally funded grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation to get our Ocean City Hurricane of 1933 film preserved! MdHS received 1 of the 35 grants awarded this year by NFPF which ensures that this incredible footage will be available to future generations. Besides being very expensive to preserve, motion picture film also degrades quickly due to its organic properties. Please visit NFPF’s website to learn more about the important task they are faced with and how you can help. This material could not have been saved without the public’s support.

The entire footage will be available for our researchers and patrons later this year after it has been cleaned, duplicated, rehoused and digitized by Colorlab in Rockville, Md. This week we have decided to reblog our post from last summer which was greeted with and overwhelmingly enthusiastic response. 

Two weeks ago, literally minutes before we published our Ocean City post, we made a serendipitous find. While working on an unrelated patron request we stumbled across a film entitled Ocean City Hurricane, 1933  in our rich a/v collection. Not only does this film contain great before and after footage of the storm, it also captures the creation of the inlet which ended up defining modern day Ocean City, only hours after it tore from the bay across the island. If you pay close attention you can see some of the very same structures captured in the Bodine photographs here, here and here we featured two weeks ago.

Since the film discovery came late, we didn’t have enough time to digitize it and add it to the previous post. This week it gets our full attention. The chilling footage captures the destruction and offers a view of the city most living Marylanders have never seen.

We initially suspected the footage was somehow affiliated with Stark Films, a bygone local production house. The addition of title cards to the homemade footage suggested a professional touch and, since MdHS holds a number of the company’s reels, it seemed a reasonable guess. We have since learned from newly found provenance records that the film was shot by S. Watts Smyth of St. Louis, Missouri, who may have had editing experience or at least access to a production house.

According to Bunny Connell, daughter of S. Watts Smyth, the family “spent each summer in Ocean City from 1926-’33.” Until 1933, the family made the more than 900-mile journey by train from St. Louis. However that August, they made the 15-hour drive in their new Cadillac LaSalle. This was the Smyth’s last summer spent in Ocean City before moving to Wyoming. Connell entrusted the film to MdHS in 1987.

This clip has been edited down to two minutes from the 11-minute original. To view the complete film or for more information about using or licensing it, please contact  [email protected]

If you’d like to read some background about the storm check out the references in our previous post or read the following article from the Baltimore Sun. You can also read about a similarly destructive storm that hit Ocean City in 1962 that had it’s own historic repercussions for the vacation town.  Enjoy! (Eben Dennis and Joe Tropea)


31 Responses to “Ocean City: The Great Hurricane of 1933”

  1. Amazing. Breathtaking. and to be able to see this in motion. Thank you!!!

    Posted by Melissa Phillips | 11. Jul, 2013, 3:30 pm
  2. WOW when I see my wonderful O.C. back in the early days , it breaks my heart to know our fellow Marylanders have suffered many Storms…God Bless our OC and hopefully we will never never see this again…..I remember when the storm of the 60′s ran rampage threw all of the coast and 49th ST was hit soooo hard, broke my heart…Stay safe you sweet people of mine. Forever a MD……Donna

    Posted by Donna Casson Eichor | 11. Jul, 2013, 8:52 pm
  3. thank you for this. amazing.

    Posted by Billie Jo Burbage | 12. Jul, 2013, 4:51 am
  4. I had no idea this video ever existed. Thank you to the Historical society for preserving it. And Thank you to whomever donated it to the Historical Society

    Posted by Reese Cropper, III | 12. Jul, 2013, 1:36 pm
    • Amen to that. All the stories I heard from my grandparents of the storm and how much the shore has receded are verified by this film. I believed them but was a child couldn’t understand the full effect of it. WOW.

      Posted by Nancy White | 02. Sep, 2014, 7:45 pm
  5. Heard the ‘stories’ of this mighty Storm that carved the inlet and forever shaped the ‘island town’ but nothing like seeing to comprehend! May OC ‘weather’all the storms to come as well….Thanks For This Gift of Filming

    Posted by Marianne Leizure | 12. Jul, 2013, 6:25 pm
  6. My mother grew up in Ocean City and was there during the hurricane. She watched the inlet cut (until Mr. Dan Trimper told her to go home!) I showed her the video tonight and she was so thrilled! Thank you for this treasure.

    Posted by Sarah Phillips Hooper | 12. Jul, 2013, 9:47 pm
  7. This is such an incredible record of how OC came to be as it is today. Thank you for sharing this treasure.

    Posted by Cathy Gunther Williams | 16. Jul, 2013, 12:15 pm
  8. My great father was the chief / city Engr. Robert Allen told me many stories about their struggles with his great friend Trimper. How the train and bridge fell into the ocean

    Posted by Richard Watson | 19. Jul, 2013, 7:45 am
  9. Love OC. I have been summering there for over 50 years. My father had the foresight to build us a house and my family still has it. I love reading and now seeing the history of this wonderful resort. Thank you for preserving it!

    Posted by Janet Ward | 20. Aug, 2013, 9:31 am
  10. What a terrific video; OC will always have a special place in my heart. It was our vacation spot every year when I was growing up. I used to cry when our week ended and we had to head back to Baltimore. I love the old photos and the memories they bring back to me.

    Posted by Jeanie | 23. Aug, 2013, 8:12 am
  11. This is a wonderful treat to find. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    Posted by Lisa Hayes Dunlap | 25. Aug, 2013, 8:02 pm
  12. I came across an old letter from a friend of my grandfather..letter is to my grandfather…this person was on a ship (s/s D.J.MORAN)(may have been radio operator)..ship was 3 miles east of diamond shoals lightship on july 11,1933 approx. 100 miles away from storm center,,,ship then ported in Baltimore,,anyone have info of ship or ships logs for this date??,,,,,thanks..

    Posted by michael kubes | 26. Oct, 2013, 5:16 pm
  13. My mother, Louise Spencer, often told us about this storm many times. She was 14 years old and saw her home washed away.
    I was fortunate to be able to visit Ocean City many times as a youngster.

    Sam Falzone

    Posted by Sam Falzone | 03. Nov, 2013, 6:57 am
  14. I remember my grandmother talking about this when I was a kid. She also had lots of pics of the damage.

    Posted by R. Chandler | 03. Dec, 2013, 11:43 am
  15. this is so cool my family stay at the oceanic every year at the inlet and it is so cool to see this footage, my grandmother had a place there in the 30′s and 40′s and remember her telling us about it. i also remember her saying if you rented a place it cost you .25 to use the stove would you believe that

    Posted by anna see | 03. Dec, 2013, 6:01 pm
  16. This is such a great historical find for everyone who loves Ocean City and I do very much!! Thanks to all involved in this great find and for sharing with us all!!!

    Posted by Anita L.(Ekstrom) Keats | 09. Apr, 2014, 5:32 pm
  17. It is inevitable that it will happen again. Ocean City is devastation waiting to happen, and it will be far worse than anything seen in 1933 or 1962 simply because of the amount of construction that has taken place since those two devastating storms. You can only dodge a bullet so many times before one finally gets you.

    Posted by Kim Taylor | 24. Jul, 2014, 5:12 pm
  18. great footage, please keep us posted on the restoration work. did they name storms back then?

    Posted by Lillie | 24. Jul, 2014, 6:52 pm
  19. I am having my 90th birthday this week. I well remember the storm; I was 9 years old, and we lived an hour or so away from Ocean City, in Pocomoke, Md., so came often to Ocean City back then, and have through the years; having our own place for over 13 years there.

    Posted by Vivian Godwin Ross | 23. Aug, 2014, 3:57 pm
  20. I bet I remember you, Reese…my mother was Lois Jane Lynch! She was 5 when this happened!

    Posted by Sarah Ellis | 24. Aug, 2014, 7:04 am
  21. I was the person in charge of the rebuilding of the coast line after the 62 storm. My study and damage line is filed with the O.C. Museum records. My total evolvement can be found in the County Comissioners of Worcester County.
    I had been hired as the first director of planning and zoning, but the County placed me in the position of Acting County Engineer. Mayor Hugh Cropper asked that I also include Ocean City in my actions as Ocean City only existed to the center of forty first street; the rest of the Now City was in the County. Much of my evolvement is in my book of ” rememberences ” that I wrote for my daughters.

    Posted by C. Kenneth Carter | 30. Aug, 2014, 8:16 am
  22. I can not believe this is the first time I saw this. Thanks for sharing .

    Posted by Carroll Brasure | 31. Aug, 2014, 2:54 pm
  23. Thank you so much for sharing this treasure. We have many photos and memorabilia from OC when it was established. Only 12 families. One was my great great grandparents. Our family names were Snow and White. Loved going there. Hated the hot drive back before A/C came along. It is so big now. I don’t know anybody there now.

    Posted by Nancy White | 02. Sep, 2014, 7:38 pm


  1. [...] is some incredible video footage, courtesy the Maryland Historical Society, showing the inlet being [...]

  2. [...] repercussions of the ’62 storm are still evident today. Like the 1933 hurricane, which refashioned Ocean City into a major Atlantic fishing port, the storm that hit in 1962 had [...]

Reply to Reese Cropper, III


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