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1888 is a year referenced in the series. Events of the year include:
- March 11-14: The Great Blizzard of 1888, also known as "The White Hurricane", one of the most severe snowstorms ever to affect the states of New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Nucky's story Edit
In the pilot episode, "Boardwalk Empire", Nucky Thompson recalls the blizzard during a speech before the Atlantic City Women's Temperance League on January 15, 1920. He claims that his family was starving but his father, Ethan Thompson, was too drunk to provide for them. Nucky, who was just a child, went to the docks despite the chest-deep snowfall and searched for food until, finding nothing else, he killed three rats and used them to feed his loved ones. However, when confronted by Jimmy Darmody Nucky claims that the story is actually false. The validity of the story is therefore in doubt, but it is consistent with what is otherwise known about Nucky's childhood:
- Nucky was raised in poverty in a small house in the woods outside the city. ("Home")
- Ethan Thompson is a mean drunk in the modern day, as seen in "Home", and The Commodore describes Nucky as "the son of a drunken piney", implying that Ethan was already an alcoholic decades prior to the beginning of the series. ("A Return to Normalcy")
- Nucky tells Nate Honig that when he was a kid he never ate breakfast, since his family barely had any food. At that point Nucky had already decided to kill Honig at the end of their meeting, so he would gain nothing from lying to him. ("Resolution")
- Nucky also tells Billie Kent about growing up in poverty, and learning to cook at a young age to feed his mother, brother and sister. He nicknames his way of frying as much meat at once as "a hobo trick" and claims that he liked to watch his family eat more than eating himself ("Spaghetti and Coffee"). He declines to eat in the presence of Billie and later, of Esther Randolph ("Ging Gang Goolie").
- June Thompson talks in the same fashion about Nucky and Eli's childhood, describing Ethan as "a difficult man" and his wife Elenore as a frail woman. She claims that Nucky held the family together and that Eli "worships him" as a result. ("Sunday Best")
- Nucky is Irish-American and, while making a fortune on bootlegging, depises drunkenness - especially during Saint Patrick's Day, as seen in "Nights in Ballygran". Though a stretch, it's plausible that an alcoholic Irishman like Ethan would get more drunk in Saint Patrick's, and that Nucky came to dislike the holiday because Ethan was even more abusive or useless in that day. Coincidentally, Saint Patrick's Day is March 17: While the Great Blizzard of 1888 concluded in March 14, the snow (whose average dept in New Jersey was of 40 inches / 1.0 m) would still be high around the Thompson residence in that date.