History of Meteorological Observation at Williams

Throughout the early part of the 19 th century, weather observation stations were set up all over the country to take part in the recording of meteorological data. Soon, the Smithsonian Institute decided it would be useful to use these observations from all around the country to predict the weather. The growth of telegraph stations allowed weather station volunteers to send their data to other stations to forecast the weather. By the 1860's, these weather forecasts were printed in the Washington Evening Star. The Signal Service Corps was organized under the Department of War in 1860, and in 1870, the first synchronous meteorological reports were taken by observer-sergeants at 24 stations in the new agency. A new school began to train men on telegraphy, military signaling, electricity, and meteorology. The signal service remained under the auspices of the War Department until 1891 when it was transferred to the control of the Department of Agriculture and the military people who had been in charge of the observations were honorably discharged.

Members of the Williams community had been recording meteorological observations since 1816, when Professors Dewey and Kellogg began to write down their notes on the weather in journals. They made the observations at 7 am, 2 pm, and 9 am daily. According to the frontispiece of the 1816 journal, this nascent process of observation began in accordance with a Professor Hall of Middlebury College and continued throughout the 19 th century. Towards the mid-point of the century, students and professors made the observations from the 'old observatory', most likely the Hopkins Memorial Observatory. The War Department and the Department of Agriculture provided the weather station with journals and forms for the daily observations. The process of meteorological observation continued until 1945 when the U.S. entrance into World War II meant the replacement of men at weather stations with women. According to the National Weather Service, in 1945, many of the offices of the Weather Bureau were composed almost entirely of women.

Williams College Observatory Meteorological Records, 1816-1945

Historical Note
Scope and Content Note
Contents List