Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/349

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A COLONIAL WEATHER SERVICE.

bureaus, the taking of observations simultaneously. This, if established, removes the palm of priority from Le Verrier and France to our own country. True, no map was issued; but a century before either Le Verrier or the Signal Service, the principle which makes the map possible was thought out and tried with the best agencies at hand. Had the telegraph been in existence, there is no telling what these acute-minded colonists would have attempted.

Madison was by training and inclination a man of science, and no one can disparage Jefferson's activity as an observer. It was the practice of the latter to read his thermometer every day either at sunrise or at nine in the morning, and at sunset or four in the evening. Even the calls so frequently made upon him for active service elsewhere, while interrupting the Monticello records, did not prevent his taking observations as he journeyed. In his private expense account[1] we find records of temperature, rainfall, and weather jotted down with as much care and detail as expenditures. In some pages at the end of the book, the title-page of which reads, "The Philadelphia Newest Almanac for the Year of our Lord 1776, being Leap Year, . . . By Timothy Telescope, Esq." Jefferson has noted for the years 1776, 1777, and 1778 his personal expense items and detailed systematic records of temperature and rain. We turn the pages of this rare old diary slowly and there are some entries on which the eye lingers, while one wonders why these pages have not received the attention of historian and meteorologist.

On July 4, 1776, he jotted down among his expenses:

pd. Sparhawk for a thermometer £3 /15
pd. for 7 pair of women's gloves /27
gave in charity 1/6

And on July 8th the same year:

pd. Sparhawk for a barometer £4 /10
pd. 2 dinners at Smith's 18/6

Sparhawk, I surmise, was an instrument-maker, and the price paid for the thermometer indicates an instrument of high order. From intimations in various places one can almost believe that the purchase of this high-priced instrument was regarded by Jefferson as an act of self-indulgence. Whether it served to relieve the mental strain incident to the doings of that ever-memorable week, or whether he was simply eager to study the new acquisition, certain it is that the entries are more than usually frequent.


  1. These MSS, are in the possession of the family at Edge Hill, Va., to whom I am indebted for many kindnesses.