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.


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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.

35 thoughts on “Meteorology in the Victorian Era”

  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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    • 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!

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

    • 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

  6. 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…

    • 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!

  7. 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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