Weather Watchers

“Never plant out till end of April.” George Macculloch wrote this remark several times in 1838 in his garden journal. He continued, “It never answers to plant pease till March,” so wrote the farmer with 26 acres of land who always demonstrated a spirit of experimentation. Armed with a thermometer, an almanac, and notes from nine previous years of farming in Morristown, NJ George Macculloch recorded another year of handwritten garden notes.

“The Citizen and Farmers Almanac” from 1819 compiled by David Young, Philom and printed in Morristown by Jacob Mann. From the collection of Macculloch Hall Historical Museum.

In 1838, he recorded thermometer readings for April 14th through 16th at 25° F. There was a snowstorm on April 13th. By April 30th, onions, leeks, parsnips, celery, potatoes, corn, carrots, beets, early crops of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and two early crops of peas were planted. One crop of early peas had to be replanted on April 17th. Yet another snowstorm came on April 24th, with a thermometer reading of 26° F, which probably frustrated George Macculloch but was not unexpected.

Collecting and sharing weather information was one of the first major “citizen scientist” projects in our nation’s history. Even before there was a National Weather Service, telegraph companies would allow weather reports to be transmitted for free, so towns and cities would know what weather was on the way. By the 1860s, weather reports were printed in newspapers. By the 1920s, reports were available on the radio and by the 1950s, evening weather reports were on television.

Resources:

Topic: Citizen Science
Age / Level: Primary, Elementary

Weather Watchers Photo Gallery


“The Citizen and Farmers Almanac” from 1819 compiled by David Young, Philom and printed in Morristown by Jacob Mann. From the collection of Macculloch Hall Historical Museum. 1789 thermometer belonging to Thomas Jefferson from William Jones. Photo by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc. on Monticello website.