Searching for Coppini’s Victims of the 1900 Galveston Storm

Shelly: Today, September 8, marks the 116th anniversary of the 1900 Galveston Storm, the deadliest natural disaster in the history of the United States. Last year I spoke about the 1900 Storm at Houston area libraries in support of the Gulf Coast Reads program, highlighting the excellent novel, The Promise.

This summer I’ve spent time corresponding with John Bernardoni about the possible location of the 10-foot heroic statue Victims of the Galveston Flood created by Italian-American artist Pompeo Coppini.

In 1997 when I started work on Through a Night of Horrors: Voices from the 1900 Galveston Storm, I tried to discover what happened to Coppini’s magnificent statue, created in 1904, donated to the University of Texas in 1914, and not seen since 1920. When my research in Austin hit a brick wall, I resigned myself to the probability that the piece had been accidentally destroyed.

This May, John contacted me with a burning desire to uncover the truth, so I shared all my earlier research and photos, caught up in his fresh enthusiasm and excitement. Perhaps he has the local connections and perseverance to do what Coppini couldn’t in the last years of his life – find out what happened to the heroic piece. John’s received some publicity about his search from various news online as he spread the word about the search with the idea that someone, somewhere, knows something.

 Austin American-Statesman – The case of UT’s lost Pompeo Coppini statues

UT Exes Alcalde – The Great Coppini Caper: One UT alum’s search for 24 statues that mysteriously disappeared from campus.

KUTX 98.5 FM – Coppini’s Vanished UT Statuary with John Bernardoni
Galveston Daily News – Search is on for vanished sculpture of victims of 1900 hurricane.

I honestly believe that if the statue still exists on campus, our best hope will come if the UT President will commit to allowing John and his team systematically search the cavernous expanse of storage facilities (over 100 buildings) on the UT campus, primarily at the Pickle Research Center.

If you’d like to know more about Pompeo Coppini, please check out the Handbook of Texas,  the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts, or Texas Escapes.

For more information about the 1900 Storm, check out the Rosenberg Library Galveston & Texas History Center 1900 Storm online exhibit.

Also read John Edward Weems’ A Weekend in September or Through a Night of Horrors: Voices from the 1900 Galveston Storm. Last year I also reviewed Al Roker’s book The Storm of the Century.

A thriving neighborhood swept clean to the beach.
Bishops Palace and Sacred Heart Church at 14th and Broadway are visible in background.
Photo courtesy of the Rosenberg Library, Galveston TX


Shelly Henley Kelly