Meteorology in the Victorian Era

When I first began researching details for my Baker City Brides series a few years ago, one particular historical fact I found piqued my interest.

In the 1890s, Baker City, Oregon, was home to a meteorological station.

For my soon-to-be released fifth installment in the sweet historical romance series, I decided to make the heroine’s father the newly-stationed meteorologist.

Which meant I had to dig up more detail about the station and why it was in Baker City of all places.

Weather, it seems, has always been important to the citizenry of the United States. As far back as the arrival of the first colonists, records of the weather were kept, noting the harshness of the New World.

Many of the Founding Fathers observed the weather with avid interest including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. During the early and mid 1800s, weather observation networks began to grow and expand across the United States.

Then the telegraph became operational in 1845 and visionaries saw the possibility of forecasting storms simply by telegraphing ahead what was coming.

Acc 000095, Box 27B, Folder Joseph Henry #11775

A man named Joseph Henry (sometimes referred to as the Father of Weather), Secretary of the new Smithsonian Institution, envisioned communication system opportunities that could extend across the North American continent. A plan was approved in 1848 for volunteer observers who could report the weather via telegraph and by the end of 1849, 150 volunteers were reporting weather observations to the Smithsonian regularly. By 1860, five hundred stations were daily furnishing weather reports.

President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law a resolution in February 1870 that established an agency for reporting the weather. Although the brief resolution was given little press at the time, the agency it created would affect the daily lives of most citizens through its forecast and warnings.

Through the resolution, weather stations would operate under the War Department’s Signal Service Corps. This organization, The Division of Telegrams and Reports for the Benefit of Commerce, laid the ground work for the National Weather Service we know today.

On November 1, 1870, the first synchronous meteorological reports were taken by observer/sergeants at twenty-four stations in the new agency and transmitted by telegraph to the central office in Washington, D.C.

The work of the new organization demanded men familiar with observations, theoretic, and practical meteorology. Commissioned officers detailed to Signal Service work were required to acquire meteorological knowledge by studying, consulting and learning from leading meteorologists of the time. For the education of the weather observers (enlisted men), a school of meteorology was added to the existing school of instruction in telegraphy and military signaling located at Fort Whipple (Fort Myer), Virginia.

The Signal Service’s field stations grew from twenty four to almost three hundred in 1878. Three times a day, each station telegraphed an observation to the home office including  observations about the barometric pressure, temperature, humidity, wind velocity, pressure of wind, clouds, and general state of the weather.

One such station existed in Boise, Idaho, but it closed just two days before Idaho became a state in July 1890 and moved to Baker City. The reasoning was that the area in Baker City was better for gathering weather information.

Then, in July 1891, the weather stations, telegraph lines, apparatus, and all the office equipment right down to every accounted-for pencil were transferred from the Signal to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s newly formed civilian Weather Bureau. The bureau created the basis of the weather service we know today.

Lightning and Lawmen (Baker City Brides Book 5) will release June 28.

Here’s a little excerpt:

At least the pleasant weather was one thing working in Baker City’s favor. In spite of the house’s disorderly status, she would greatly enjoy spring days in the area if today was any indication of what the future held. She pushed the cape from her shoulders, closed her eyes, and relaxed against the chair, enjoying the peaceful moments before her father returned.

“Maybe this place won’t be all bad,” she whispered, allowing her grip on her father’s bag to loosen.

“Baker City tends to grow on most folks, if you give it a chance,” a deep voice said, startling her from her musings.

Her eyes snapped open in surprise. Pride straightened her spine as her glance settled on a man standing a few yards away on the winter-browned grass on the other side of the porch railing.

Sunlight glinted off a shiny silver badge pinned to the front of a long duster. She studied the black western-style hat on his head, similar to those she’d seen cowboys sporting on the train. The lawman wore a tan flannel shirt topped with a dark vest and a neckerchief the color of crocuses. Dark blue denims encased muscled legs while dust covered the toes of his worn boots.

Slowly, her gaze glided from his boots back up to his face. A square jaw covered in a rakish growth of stubble, firm lips, and a straight nose proved to be a handsome combination. But it was the man’s eyes that captured her attention.


For a chance to win a $5 Amazon Gift Card, answer this question:

Are you a sunshine or rainy day kind of person? 

I’m definitely a sunshine kind of girl.

Shanna Hatfield
After spending her formative years on a farm in Eastern Oregon, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield turns her rural experiences into sweet historical and contemporary romances filled with sarcasm, humor, and hunky western heroes.
When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or covertly hiding decadent chocolate from the other occupants of her home, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.


  1. Very interesting post. Not something you really think about. While I do enjoy a nice sunny day, there is something about the rain hitting the roof that is soothing.

    1. A soft pitter-patter of rain can be very soothing! Thanks for dropping in today!

  2. I love rainy days. I love a good storm.

    1. Storms can be fun to watch. Thanks for stopping in today. Enjoy your June – and summer!

  3. Interesting post. I really enjoy listening to the rain on the roof during a storm.

    1. It makes a music all its own, doesn’t it? Thank you for stopping in today! Happy June to you!

  4. I definitely like sunshine better than rain. But when it’s too hot in the summer, I wish for rain.

    1. Hi Janine! A refreshing summer rain feels mighty good! Hope you have a fantastic summer season!

  5. Sunshine as I can spend all day outside just as long as its not in the 90’s.

    1. It’s easier to enjoy those sunny days when the temps aren’t too high. Hope you have some love weather this summer!

  6. What a wonderful history lesson. I’m intrigued by the weather. I’m a sunshine girl, but as dry as we are here in Southwest Kansas I want to be a rainy day girl.
    I can’t wait to read this new book.
    Have a great day Shanna.

    1. Thanks so much, my friend! I hope you get some rainy days there, too! Hugs!

  7. Sunshine girl I enjoy getting outside to do things. Rain makes the day gloomy and believe me we have had our share of rain these past few days.

    1. We’ve had rain here quite a bit lately, too. Here’s to gorgeous sunny days ahead! Happy June to you!

  8. Definitely rainy. I love a cool, soft-falling rainy day. It’s a perfect time for a blanket and a book. It also feels more peaceful and closer to God on days like that.

    1. That sounds quite lovely, Linda, and a good way to enjoy a rainy day! Thank you for stopping in today!

  9. Sunshine is soothing, uplifting and beautiful.

    1. Nothing quite like a sunny day and a summer sky to make you smile! 🙂 Wishing you lovely days ahead!

  10. I have always loved the sun. Makes me feel happy.

    1. Me, too! Thank you for stopping in today, Pearl! Best wishes for a fabulous summer!

  11. sunshine

    1. Thanks for stopping in today to comment!

  12. I enjoy both… love a lovely sunny day, but also love an overcast rainy day too.

    1. Hi Colleen, That’s fun you enjoy both. You can be happy in any type of weather, that way.
      Wishing you a beautiful month of June! Thanks for stopping in!

  13. I love Sunshine but occasionally I love a good ol Thunderstorm with the Loud House Shaking Thunder and Flashing Lightening

    1. And the thunder rolls… 🙂 Once in a while they are fun to have, as long as the lightning doesn’t start any fires!
      Thanks for stopping in today, sweet lady! <3

  14. Thank you for sharing your very interesting post.

    1. I actually love both but I lean more toward sunshine.

      1. Hi Melanie, It’s hard not to enjoy a beautiful, sunny day! 🙂
        Wishing you many beautiful, sunny days this summer!

  15. Avatar

    Tough question. Can I go with Summer rainy and all the other seasons sunny. I have MS so hot isn’t good for me. A rainy Texas summer would hopefully be a little cooler. It would have to rain a lot though or it would just be humid…

    1. I bet those hot days would be tough. Humid and high heat is not a fun combination for sure. Thanks for stopping in today, Stephanie! So appreciate it! Smiles to you!

  16. Shanna, I love the cover of your new book! And that title really sets it apart. Congrats.

    1. Oh, thank you so much, Linda! Hugs to you!

  17. Sunshine for me. But a gentle rain can be so soothing as well. Very interesting info.

  18. I love all kinds of weather. Sunshine is wonderful, but the wind, dark clouds, lightening and thunder of a good storm are fascinating when one is safe inside. We lived in Colorado Springs, CO on the Front Range. The summer weather was predictable – sunny mornings with thunderstorms building starting about 2 in the afternoon. The best of both worlds. It was fascinating watching the storms builder the mountains and over the plains. There were a few tornados or threats of them. Watching a column cloud swirl and pass over the house, never forming into a funnel but still being able to hear the hail churning in the cloud, the air seeming to be green, and the hair on your arms standing up.

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