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HIS301: Historical Writing: Love Canal

Navigating the University Archives for students in HIS301
Last Updated: Jan 8, 2024 4:09 PM

Love Canal - An Introduction

Love Canal is a neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York, infamous for a hazardous waste disaster. Named after 1890s entrepreneur, William T. Love, Love Canal was purchased by Hooker Chemical and Plastics Corporation in 1942. Between 1942 and 1953 Hooker Chemical disposed of about 22,000 tons of mixed chemical wastes into the Love Canal area. In 1953, Hooker Chemical sold the land to the Niagara Falls School Board for $1.00. In 1955, the 99th Street Elementary School was constructed on Love Canal property, and the area quickly became a blue collar, suburban neighborhood to hundreds of unsuspecting families.

In 1976, the Niagara Gazette reported that toxic materials were seeping into residents' basements, and there was a rise in reports of illnesses and injuries to human, animal, and plant life. In 1978, the New York Department of Health Commissioner declared Love Canal to be a health emergency. With approval of emergency funds by President Jimmy Carter, New York State (eventually) evacuated 238 families, and was responsible for remediating the site. During this time, homeowner Lois Gibbs, Dr. Beverly Paigen, and Sister Margeen Hoffmann rose to prominence as advocates for Love Canal residents, fighting for information on the health impact, and fighting for evacuation.

See the Niagara Gazette Love Canal Chronology and Love Canal Background Information.


Children carrying protest signs, 1978. #NYSDOH7, Love Canal Images

Abandoned homes with "Dead End" sign in the foreground, 1982. MS100.547, Love Canal Images

Young girl wearing "Dioxin kills" sign, 1979. #MS100.121, Love Canal Images

Protest sign reads "Disaster Area: City Failed Us" on abandoned Love Canal home, 1978. #MS100.50, Love Canal Images

Father and child with sign 'I want to live' at Love Canal protest, 1978. #MS65.T1-45, Love Canal Images

Protest march by Love Canal families, 1978. #NYSDOH12, Love Canal Images

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