Pat Shingleton: "The First Prez, The First Message"
Last Monday, recognized "President's Day" and this Monday, February 22nd, will be the birth date of our first President in 1732. A review of weather related excerpts from his diary include an entry that he wasn’t a scientific weather observer, as was Thomas Jefferson. His weather interests mirrored his agricultural interests and in writing to his farm manager, William Pearce, on December 22, 1793, he recognized the importance of a thermometer at Mount Vernon. His diary also notes the weather difficulties that he experienced, including his seasick days during a stormy voyage to Barbados and the cruel winter at Valley Forge. An ill-advised horseback ride in a December storm possibly contributed to his death. His prized weather instrument was the weather vane, remaining in use atop the cupola at Mount Vernon. Finally, sources for weather information are numerous, not the case 138 years ago and on this date in 1871 when the first official U.S. Weather Forecast was issued. The “new” service was launched from the Signal Office under the auspices of the War Department. Excited about the new service, The New York Times posted for the first time in their headline: “Official Weather Predictions.” The means in which the Signal Office dispensed their first forecast included observer-sergeants positioned around the country. Housed in the War Department and structured under the Chief Signal Officer, the Division of Telegrams and Reports for the Benefit of Commerce was officially responsible for “the announcement by signal and telegraphing the approach and force of storms.”