Aurora Borealis"-From twilight until ten o'clock last night
the whole heavens were lighted by the aurora borealis, more brilliant
and beautiful than had been witnessed for years before
light streaks shot upwards from the horizon and varied in width
and length, and changed as long as the phenomenon was visible. It
was a grand sight, and was witnessed by thousands of persons, many
of whom never saw the like before. [The
Baltimore Sun, , 1859, p.1 ]
A brilliant display of Northern lights was witnessed from 8 o'clock
to half-past 9 last night. The glare in the northern sky, previous
to defining itself into the well-known features of the Aurora Borealis
was sufficiently vivid to call out some of the fire companies. [The
Evening Star (Washington DC]
City' Change of Weather '
Towards half past eight o'clock a
singular phenomenon took place. The horizon from north to north
east became of a deep crimson hue, which expanding slowly, made
the sky appear as if lighted by a Bengal fire
At first it was
supposed that some great conflagration had taken place on the outskirts
of the city, but it was soon recognized that no natural firs could
produce this particular hue
Crowds of people gathered at the
street corners, admiring and commenting upon the singular spectacle.
Many took it to be the sign of some great disaster or important
event, siting numerous instances when such warnings have been given.
Several old women were nearly frightened to death, thinking it announced
the end of the world, and immediately took to saying their prayers.
A fat old citizen tremblingly stated that this was the avant courier
of a dreadful epidemic like cholera of 1833, whilst a French gentleman
pooh-poohed, and gravely assured us that this was the well known
sign of a revolution in Paris, requesting us to make a note of the
Orleans Daily Picayune, p.5]
Borealis" - Early this morning, between twelve and one, a most
brilliant display of the above phenomenon was observed extending
from the western hemisphere to the north-west, north and north-east,
and reaching to the zenith. The appearance in the west was that
of a large fire, but in the north and north-east it was of a violet
colour, and with great brilliancy. This beautiful display lasted
for about an hour, and then gradually died away, leaving a serene
and unclouded autumnal sky. [The London Daily
News. P. 2, ]
"Aurora Borealis" - For the first time in several years
we had last night a grand exhibition of the 'Northern Lights'. The
first appearance was at five minutes past nine o'clock as told by
the fire watchman on the roof of the City Hall. The greatest illumination
was at about twenty minutes before ten o'clock, when the light was
so brilliant that it shone on Telegraph Hill and the upper story
and cupola of Wright's building like the reflection of an extensive
conflagration. The light, or rather columns of light, were of a
deep red hue, and at one time extended from the horizon almost to
the zenith. It was a magnificent sight - quite superior to the Chinese
fire exhibitions in the theater.[[San
Francisco Daily National p. 2]
Matters', The aurora borealis gave on Sunday night one of the most
brilliant exhibitions ever observed in this latitude by the oldest
inhabitants. The display commenced at soon after eight o'clock in
the evening, and continued..till daylight
.Altogether it was
an unusually interesting specimin of a phenomenon as yet imperfectly
understood. It left us a pleasant and bracing northwest wind and
ushered in a beautiful day. [Washington Daily
National Intelligencer, p.1]
Effect of the Uarora Borealis on the Telegraph Wires. New York.
August 29, The Superintendent of the Canadian Telegraph Company's
line telegraphs as follows in relation to the effect of the Aurora
Borealis last night: '
so completely were the wires under the
influence of the Aurora Borealis, that it was found utterly impossible
to communicate between the telegraph stations, and the line had
to be closed.' The same difficulty prevailed as far South as Washington.
[Chicago Tribune, p.4]
Borealis. Yesterday morning a most brilliant display of aurora borealis
was visible from soon after twelve o'clock until daylight. Vivid
streams of light shot up from the horizon in the north, extending
from east and west, which were at times red, and presented the appearance
of the reflection from a large fire. The atmosphere was so strongly
illuminated that it appeared as if the moon were shining, and rays
of light, resembling the rays from the sun as reflected upwards
from the back of a cloud, continued to be brilliantly visible during
the whole time. The sky was remarkable clear, and the stars shone
with as brilliancy that is unusual even in winter. [The
London Morning Post, p. 3.]
The Northern Light. Sunday evening our citizens witnessed a beautiful
Aurora Borealis. The whole northern havens[sic] were illuminated
with brilliant radiations of different colored lights. The streets
were lighted up quite bright by them, and the spectacle was a splendid
one. [Daily Morning News - Davenport Iowa,
Aurora Borealis : The Brilliant Display on Sunday Night, The present
generation have listened with wonder and admiration to the stories
their fathers and mothers have told them of auroras and meteors.
They have opened their ears and mouths and eyes as they heard of
stars falling from the heavens like rain, of the sky at night becoming
read as with blood, and imn the day time of its being so darkened
that stars were visible. Few have had the opportunities of witnessing
these sublime displays; but on Sunday night the heavens were arrayed
in a drapery more gorgeous than they have been for years
was the aurora, as thousands witnessed it from housetops and from
pavements. Many imagined they heard rushing sounds as if Aeolus
had let loose winds
[The New York Times,
Electrical Light' [exerpted from the New York Express] The light
in the heavens on Sunday night is noted in all directions..The crown
above, indeed, seemed like a thrown of silver, purple and crimson
being and spread out with curtains or wings of dazzeling beauty.
Never did the heavens seem to be more the work of the Creator, nor
the sublimest work of art sink in comparison so far beneath the
wondrous skill and power of the Architect of the Heavens. The tremulous
motion of moving light, which the inhabitants of the Shetland Islands
call the 'merry dancers' was less apparent than usual, but in place
of it came those, full, bright, changing, but more steady streams
of light, which gave the intense brilliancy to the whole heavens.
[Washington Daily National Inteligencer, p.2??,]
Northern Lights. On Sunday evening the 28th there was a beautiful
and grand display of aurora borealis which lighted up the northern
hemisphere majestically and caused many inquiries in the mind of
those who witnessed the phenomenon as to the cause which produced
it. Much has been said and written on the subject by men who consider
themselves learned and wise, but no one unaided by the light of
eternal truth, has been or ever will be able to solve the apparent
mystery of these remarkable appearances in the heavens, which as
many believe, never occurred till after the Ten Tribes of Israel
went into the north countries. [The Deseret
News, Salt Lake City, p.1]
and Electricity in the Sky. The heavens were brilliantly illuminated
about midnight on Sunday in this neighborhood, says the Manchester
Guardian, by a mass of white rays or streaks, completely suffused
with a vapor of a pink or dark roseate hue, through which brightly
shone the stars, presenting a most beautiful appearance, and being
far more deeply coloured than the aurora borealis is to be seen
in this region. The phenomenon, as seen in Cheale, Cheshire, was
sufficiently luminous, notwithstanding some overspreading clouds,
to permit the reading of print letters 1-8th of an inch in size
the zenith a bright and perfect radiation appeared, which extended,
slightly interrupted by cloud, a great distance towards every part
of the horizon, whilst amongst the rays incessantly played sheet
lightning, rendering this the grandest spectacle of that period
of the night. [London Morning Post, p. 5.]
Aurora Borealis. Our exchanges very generally speak of the Aurora
Borealis which came off on Sunday night last, and unanimously agree
in opinion that it was superior in extent and brilliancy to anything
of the kind that has been seen in this country for many years. The
Superintendent of the Canadian Telegraph Company's lines telegraphs
as follows in reference to it: 'I never, in my experience of fifteen
years in the working of telegraph lines, witnessed anything like
the extraordinary effect of the Aurora Borealis between Quebec and
Farther Point last night..' [The Evening Star
p. 3, ]
Sunday evening (in Vermont), the 28th ult., at seven and a half
o'clock, we were notified of a large fire behind the mountain at
the north, and we went out to see it: and presently the red clouds
began to disappear, and spires of green shot up from the same place.
It was the most magnificent display ever witnessed in this section;
the sky for about an hour more kept changing from green to red,
till ten and a half o'clock, when all the brilliancy was gone, except
a little green at the north
Monday, September 5, 1859].
The sky was completely overarched at one time, and then the
entire firmament presented a gorgeous spectacle, as the jets of
light streaming up from all quarters were of different hues
Daily Evening Transcript, Monday evening, August 29, 1859].
At all events, we know of no known cause that would produce
such celerity of motion as these merry dancers seemed to have, unless
it be galvanism and not electricity
[Boston Transcript, Monday,
August 29, 1859].
The Aurora Borealis seen from the summit of Mount Washington
on the night of the 25th of August, 1853 [sic], was next morning
followed by an atmosphere so clear that the spires of the churches
at Portland, 95 miles distant, were distinctly seen from the summit
of the mountain, and at the same time a most brilliant meteoric
shower was seen from the ocean near the equator
Transcript, August 30, 1859].
At one time the northern portion of the heavens assumed an
almost blood red appearance, while here and there long streaks of
light shot up from the horizon to the zenith. These rapidly changed
their place and their form until they extended over the greater
part of the sky, breaking through the reddish hues and finally covering
nearly the whole face of the heavens
York Herald, August 29, 1859].
Objects at a distance could be more readily and clearly distinguished
than when the moon is at its full. Now vivid arrows of light of
most exceeding brilliancy shot up from the whole northern horizon;
and, retreating, would again shoot higher and higher, until they
covered the whole sky. This continued to grow darker, first to scarlet,
then to crimson, and finally to the blood-red like appearance of
an immense conflagration. The whole sky appeared mottled-red, the
arrows of fire shooting up from the north, like a terrible bombardment,
of which we could see all and hear none, while the stars of greater
magnitude shone through like sentry lights
the Journal of Commerce, Cleveland, Ohio [Washington
Daily National Intelligencer, Friday, September 2, 1859].
was of extraordinary brilliance. There was a ghastly splendor
over the horizon of the North, from which fantastic spires of light
shot up, and a rosy glow extended, like a vapor tinged with fire,
to the zenith
[Cincinnati Daily Commercial,
August 29, 1859].
The light appeared in streams, sometimes of a pure milky whiteness
and sometimes of a light crimson. The white and rose-red waves of
light as they swept to and from the corona were beautiful beyond
description, and a friend near by us, while looking to the zenith
with the whole heavens and earth lighted up at a greater brilliancy
than is afforded by the full moon, said that it was like resting
beneath the wings of the Almighty. The crown above, indeed, seemed
like a throne of silver, purple and crimson, hung and spread out
with curtains or wings of dazzling beauty. The tremulous motion
of moving light, which the inhabitants of the Shetland Islands call
"the merry dancers," was less apparent than usual, but
in place of it came those full, bright, changing, but more steady
streams of light, which gave an intense brilliancy to the whole
[Washington Daily National Intelligencer,
Wednesday, August 31, 1859].
the first display the whole of the northern hemisphere was as light
as though the sun had set an hour before, and luminous waves rolled
up in quick succession as far as the zenith, some a brilliancy sufficient
to cast a perceptible shadow on the ground
[The Times London,
September 6, 1859].
Some who saw the display attributed it to fires in the towns
[Rochester Union & Advertizer
NY, Friday, September 2, 1859].
About 10 [PM] a tremulous flashing up from the east was observed
- soon after a bank-like arc of a circle was seen in the North,
below which, the appearance was very somber, resembling a very dark
cloud. From this arc soon shout [sic] up columns of light toward
the zenith. This was immediately succeeded by the most lively and
brilliant succession of flashes, forcinbly [sic]reminding one of
that prophetic scene described by St. Peter, whose language is -
"Wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and
the elements shall melt with fervent heat." This grand and
sublime exhibition was succeeded by another brilliant display of
columns of light shooting up again from the arc, with a slight show
of the merry dancers. Soon after this the light gradually faded
and ceased to attract much notice
Transcript, Saturday September 2, 1859].
When first seen, the aurora omitted [sic] a thin pale light,
which flashed up toward the center of the overhanging arch. Simultaneous
with these flashes, long illuminated lines extended to the same
point, which became redder and redder, till one assumed nearly a
[Boston Transcript, Sat.
September 3, 1859].
"The auroral light sometimes is composed of threads like
the silken warp of a web; these sometimes become broken, and fall
to the earth
[Providence Daily Post,
Rode Island, September 3, 1859].
There was another display of the Aurora last night so brilliant
that at about one o'clock ordinary print could be read by light
Friday, September 2 [The New York Times, New
York Herald, Washington Daily National Intelligencer, Friday, September
2, 3, 5, 1859].
It was reserved for our days to have a sage and philosopher
to make clear to our comprehension the wonderful mysteries of those
lights, which the Scotch know as merry dancersbut with which we
are more familiar by their Latin name of aurora borealis, to show
us that they are nothing more nor less than an industrial exhibition
of the upper air, a silkery [sic] in the clouds, whereat the magic
shuttle flies from horizon to zenith with a speed that leaves electricity
lagging far behind, and to be prepared to exhibit to the incredulous
world a piece of the product of these heavenly looms. Phenomena
are not supposed to have any reference to things past --- only to
things to come. Therefore, the aurora borealis cannot apply to the
battle of Solferino or the peace of Villaranca. It must be connected
with something in the future --- war, or pestilence, or famine.
They may be connected in some way with volcanic eruptions, or earthquakes,
or, as has been long supposed, with icebergs. As philosophers are
unable to solve the problem, why do not the aeronaunts try it? Wise
and La Mountain have been threatening transatlantic voyages. Suppose
that, before they start for the other side, they would ascend in
their balloons and try to get a glimpse of the foundation line of
the aurora borealis
[New York Herald,
September 5, 1859].
Aurora appeared, illuminating the city so brightly as to draw
crowds into the streets
[New York Times,
September 5, 1859].
But two hours later, when the light, as a whole, was at its
greatest brilliancy, the northern heavens were perfectly illuminated,
with the exception of a few dim and almost imperceptible white streamers,
which passed from the zenith nearly half way down to the northstar
[sic] . At that time almost the whole southern heavens were in a
livid red flame, brightest still in the southeast and southwest.
Streamers of yellow and orange shot up and met and crossed each
other, like the bayonets upon a stack of guns, in the open space
between the constellations Aries, Taurus and the Head of Medusa
- about 15 degrees south of the zenith. In this manner - alternating
great pillars, rolling cumuli shooting streamers, curdled and wisped
and fleecy waves - rapidly changing its hue from red to orange,
orange to yellow, and yellow to white, and back in the same order
to brilliant red, the magnificent auroral glory continued its grand
and inexplicable movements until the light of morning overpowered
to radiance and it was lost in the beams of the rising sun
York Times, September 3, 1859].
Early in the evening from the east there came a faint light,
like that preceding the rising moon, while in the west a delicate
crimson seemed to be thrown upwards, as if from the sun, long since
gone down. Later, these strange fires overran the entire heavens
-- now separating into streamers, gathered at the zenith, and forming
a glorious canopy - then spreading evenly like a vapor, shedding
on all things a soft radiance; again, across the sky waves of light
would flit, like the almost undistinguishable ripple produced by
the faintest breeze upon the quiet surface of an inland lake; a
pale green would now cover half the firmament from the east, while
rich crimson met it from the west - then the ruddy light would concentrate
itself at the zenith, while beneath it fell in folds of beauty the
mild purple and green. To the east and to the west lay huge fields
of luminous clouds, tinted with a bright rosy flush, wholly unlike
that produced by the rising sun and if possible even more beautiful.
Soon, as Everett has beautifully spoken of a somewhat similar scene,
"the hands of angels shifted the glorious scenery of the heavens."
The mass of apparent, red cloud to the east moved away southward,
gradually failing, while the corresponding red clouds on the west
seemed to sink into a chaos of dark cloud that, with a fringe of
blue, skirted the western horizon. - Sheets of the same white luminous
cloud again illuminated the sky, producing about the same amount
of light as the full moon, and the night became almost as the day.
The aurora borealis is today the chief topic of conversation, and
all agree that they have seldom or never witnessed so extensive
and remarkable an atmospheric phenomenon
Daily Commercial, September 1, 1859].
Half-past eleven. The appearance now is positively awful.
The red glare is over houses, streets, and fields, and the most
dreadful of conflagrations could not cast a deeper hue abroad
Francisco Herald, September 5, 1859].
The whole sky appeared to undulate something like a field
of grain in a high wind; the waters of the Bay reflected the brilliant
hues of the Aurora. Nothing could exceed the grandeur and beauty
of the sight; the effect was almost bewildering, and was witnessed
with mingled feelings of awe and delight by thousands. Nebulous
matter, like that which furnishes material for meteoric showers,
or the zodiacal light, and is known to exist in the planetary spaces,
is probably the cause of these displays. He regards the light as
emitted by the friction of the earth, plunging with its atmosphere,
through this vapor, the velocity being sufficient, despite the rarity
of the materials, to develop the luminosity
Francisco Herald, September 5, 1859].
Large print could no doubt have been easily read, for we can
testify that the time on the face of a watch was easily legible
Daily National Intelligencer, September 3, 1859].
On Thursday night last about eleven o'clock our attention
was attracted by the red appearance of the sky in the N. East, which
we at first supposed was the reflection from a fire in that direction,
but it began to spread on both sides and was pronounced by those
who knew, to be the Aurora Borealis or Northern Light. About half
past eleven it began to assume the appearance of day breaking and
in an hour it was almost as light as day, the stars, which before
shown brightly being invisible; at one o'clock the light began to
fade and in an hour the heavens had assumed their usual appearance
and the stars shown out bright as ever, and, turned in
Mountain Gold Reporter, September 3, 1859].
the night of [September 1] we were high up on the Rocky Mountains
sleeping in the open air. A little after midnight we were awakened
by the auroral light, so bright that one could easily read common
print. Some of the party insisted that it was daylight and began
the preparation of breakfast. The light continued until morning,
varying in intensity in different parts of the heavens, and slowly
changing position. We can best describe it as the sky being overcast
with very light cirrus clouds, wafted before a gentle breeze, and
lighted up by an immense conflagration. It had rained for fifty
hours before, only ceasing about twelve hours before the auroral
light' [Rocky Mountain News, September 17,
is an indisputable fact that old topers, wholesale consumers of
the alcoholic fluid, whose capacious stomachs could retain an enormous
quantity of the "creature" without their heads or legs
being in the least affected by it, have fallen dead drunk last night
and last Sunday night, before they had imbibed their regular allowance,
and through no other cause than the mysterious influence upon their
system of the unexplained electrical phenomenon, shining overhead
Orleans Daily Picayune, September 3, 1859].
The northern sky, for an extent of some forty five degrees,
was luminous with a mass of red light, from whence shot up towards
the zenith the usual streaks, at times vivid and beautiful
Orleans Daily Picayune, September 3, 1859].
again appeared in most resplendent brilliancy in the northern
horizon last evening, being visible for a while just before and
after the hour of midnight. The fainter or yellow lines of upshooting
light could be clearly distinguished in the bright red illumination
which extended wide around, lighting up the sky in such a manner
as led the unmindful and even some of the fire companies to suppose
that part of the city was about to be burnt out in a grand conflagration
New Orleans Bee, September 2, 1859].
Singular as it may appear, a gentleman actually killed three
birds with a gun yesterday morning about 1 o'clock, a circumstance
which perhaps never had its like before. The birds were killed while
the beautiful aurora borealis was at its height, and being a very
early species --- larks --- were, no doubt, deceived by the bright
appearance of everything, and came forth innocently, supposing it
[New Orleans Daily Picayune,
September 9, 1859].
All our exchanges, from the northern coast of the Island of
Cuba (from the southern side we have none so late,) come to us with
glowing descriptions of the recent Aurora Borealis, which appears
to have been as bright in the tropics as in the northern zones,
and far more interesting. The sky was no more, or at least but for
a moment, completely lit up from the horizon to the pole, but the
light came and went, now here, now there, now in this direction,
now in that, and each time varying in outline and brilliancy. During
the three hours which followed it seems to have had almost every
latitude and longitude possible in its field, and to have described
every possible figure
[New Orleans Daily
Picayune,September 7, 1859].
French telegraph communications at Paris were greatly affected,
and on interrupting the circuit of the conducting wire strong sparks
were observed. The same thing occurred at the same time at all the
telegraphic station in France
London News, September 24, 1859].
Never in my experience of fifteen years in working telegraph
lines have I witnessed anything like the extraordinary effect of
the Aurora Borealis between Quebec and Farther Point last night.
The line was in most perfect order, and well skilled operators worked
incessantly from 8 o'clock last evening till 1 this morning to get
over in an intelligible form four hundred words of the report per
steamer Indian for the Associated Press, and at the latter hour
so completely were the wires under the influence of the Aurora Borealis
that it was found utterly impossible to communicate between the
telegraph stations, and the line had to be closed. The same difficulty
prevailed as far south as Washington
Union & Advertizer, Tuesday Evening August 30, 1859].
The New York operator, J.C. Crosson, reported as follows:
On Sunday evening last, at 7-1/2 o'clock, I experienced considerable
difficulty in working on account of the variation of current. Upon
looking out the doors I perceived broad rays if light extending
from the zenith toward the horizon in almost every direction. I
then concluded the difficulty arose from the mysterious influence
of the Aurora Borealis
Commercial, September 7, 1859].
The telegraph operators throughout the east report a very
brilliant display of auroral light, which though very fine to look
at, has as usual greatly hindered the transmission of messages over
[Philadelphia North American
& United States Gazette, Monday Morning, Aug. 29, 1859].
Lousiville KY, August 31-The telegraph wires between this
city and New York, as also throughout Canada, were interrupted by
the unusual overcharge of electricity which always pervades the
atmosphere during the continuance of this phenomenon
New Orleans Bee, September 1, 1859].
The wire was then worked for about two hours without the usual
batteries on the auroral current, working better than with the batteries
connected. This is the first instance on record of more than a word
or two having been transmitted with the auroral current
Daily National Intelligencer, Tuesday, September 6, 1859].
Who now will dispute the theory that the Aurora Borealis is
caused by electricity
Star News, September 2, 1859].
During the auroral display on Thursday night in Boston some
curious phenomena were witnessed in connection with the telegraph
wires. The following conversation, says the Boston Traveler, between
the Boston and Portland operators on the American telegraph line,
will give an idea of the effect of the Aurora Borealis, on the working
of the telegraph wires: Boston operator, (to Portland operator)--"Please
cut off your battery entirely from the line for fifteen minutes."
Portland operator-"Will do so. It is now disconnected."
Boston-"Mine is disconnected, and we are working with the auroral
current. How do you receive my writing?" Portland-Better than
with our batteries on. -Current comes and goes gradually."
Boston-"My current is very strong at times, and we can work
better without the batteries, as the Aurora seems to neutralize
and augment our batteries alternately, making current too strong
at times for our relay magnets. Suppose we work without batteries
while we are affected by this trouble."
Portland-"Very well. Shall I go ahead with business?"
Boston-"Yes. Go ahead."
The wire was then worked for about two hours without the usual batteries,
on the auroral current, working better than with the batteries connected.
The current varied, increasing and decreasing alternately, but by
graduating the adjustment to the current, a sufficiently steady
effect was obtained to work the line very well. This is the first
instance on record of more than a word or two having been transmitted
with the auroral current. The usual effects of the electric storm
were manifested, such as reversing the poles of the batteries, etc
Daily Chronicle and Sentinel, Augusta, Georgia, Thursday AM, September
There were strong currents of electricity observed on the
wires, to which no batteries were attached, and some extraordinary
electrical phenomena, difficulty of explanation, noticed
Orleans Daily Picayune, Saturday, September 3, 1859].
Friday morning last, the morning of the last auroral borealis,
the operators of the National Telegraph office in Washington City
found, on going to their business, a series of electrical currents,
entirely independent of the batteries, in possession of the wires.
These currents seem to have been manageable, for the operators actually
went to work and send messages from New York to Pittsburg, PA.,
correctly without the use of a particle of galvanic battery, using
this independent electricity of the air in the place of that supplied
by the ordinary batteries
Daily Picayune, September 9, 1859].
addition to the technological issues posed by these 'earth currents'
entering the telegraph lines, was the very real potential for direct
human injury. The most spectacular, and now legendary, story is
told by Frederick Royce: a telegraph operator working in Washington
DC. at his station between 8 and 10 PM. " I did not know that
the Aurora had made its appearance until 8 or 81/2 o'clock. I had
been working 'combination' to Richmond, and had great difficulty
from the changing of the current. It seemed as if there was a storm
at 'Richmond'. Concluding that this was the case, I abandoned that
wire and tried to work the Northern wire, but met with the same
difficulty. For five or ten minutes I would have no trouble, then
the current would change and become so weak that it could hardly
be felt. It would then gradually change to a 'ground' so strong
that I could not lift the magnet. While the Aurora lasted the same
phenomena were observable. There was no rattling or cracking of
the magnet, as is the case in a thunder storm. I looked at the paper
between the arrestors, but found no holes. Philadelphia divided
the circuit at the request of New York, and we succeeded in getting
off what business we had. The Aurora disappeared a little after
10 o'clock - after which we had no difficulty, and we worked through
to New York. During the display I was calling Richmond, and had
one hand on the iron plate. Happening to lean towards the sounder,
which is against the wall, my forehead grazed a ground-wire which
runs down the wall near the sounder. Immediately, I received a very
severe electric shock, which stunned me for an instant. An old man
who was sitting facing me, and but a few feet distant, said that
he saw a spark of fire jump from my forehead to the sounder. The
Morse line experienced the same difficulty in working." [New
York Times, Sept. 5, 1859]
present generation have listened with wonder and admiration to the
stories their fathers and mothers have told them of auroras and
meteors. They have opened their ears and mouths and eyes as they
heard of stars falling from the heavens like rain, of the sky at
night becoming read as with blood, and in the day time of its being
so darkened that stars were visible. Few have had the opportunities
of witnessing these sublime displays; but on Sunday night the heavens
were arrayed in a drapery more gorgeous than they have been for
Such was the aurora, as thousands witnessed it from housetops
and from pavements. Many imagined they heard rushing sounds as if
Aeolus had let loose winds
York Times, August 30, 1859]
of people gathered at the street corners, admiring and commenting
upon the singular spectacle. Many took it to be a sign of some great
disaster or important event, citing numerous instances when such
warnings have been given
Daily Picayune, Monday, August 29, 1859].
famous American poet William Ross Wallace (1819 - 1881) was a well-known
and admired contributor to newspapers and magazines of the time,
and penned a poem about the aurora, which was published in The
East Floridian, September 15, 1859. Here is a short excerpt
ye wonderful shapes
With your streamers of light
Blazing out o'er the earth
From your ramparts of night;
With your strange hazy hues;
With your swift-changing forms,
Light the red-lightning rush
Of fierce tropic storms -
O ye terrible shapes!
Yet through all still appear
Yonder love-speaking eyes
Of the far starry sphere;
So 'mid terror, we still
Can a symbol behold
Of the Heavenly Love
In the flame o'er us rolled;
Though in mantles of fire,
There are pitying smiles
From our God and our Sire -
O Lights of the North! As in eons ago,
Not in vain from your home do ye over us glow!
Columbus, Ohio Statesman newspaper had run a short article about
a sixteen year old girl ' of considerable intelligence and prepossessing
appearance', who had been taken into custody by the Sheriff of Ottawa
County. Her agitated state necessitated that she be moved to the
lunatic asylum. The conclusion drawn from this, and no doubt her
utterances, implied that she had become deranged from viewing the
aurora borealis a short time ago. She was convinced that all of
this spectacular auroral activity meant that the world was soon
to come to an end. [Harpers Weekly, October
influence of the Aurora Borealis has been felt in the Garden District.
We see in the police reports, this morning, that several denizens
of that delightful spot have been found drunk --- many under a strange
delusion, having taken the gutter for their own comfortable beds
New Orleans Daily Picayune, Wednesday, September 7, 1859].