News and Event Updates from the Office of the Orange County Historian

Ever wonder what it was like to experience a blizzard before reliable storm prediction?
Born in Orange County, NY in 1828, Albert J. Myer would become the 
Father of the U.S. Bureau as the creator of a signal and telegraph network to transmit weather conditions in advance of storms.

The U.S. Congress, on February 9, 1870, authorized "meteorological observations at the military stations in the interior of the continent and at other points in the states and territories of the United States, and for giving notice on the northern lakes and seaboard by telegraph and signals of the approach and force of storms".

In 1873 at the International Meteorological Congress of Vienna, Myer proposed a resolution for the establishment throughout the world of weather stations and daily exchange of simultaneous weather observations, the effective beginning of the World Meteorological Organization.
General Myer: Establishing a legacy of weather service

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States. Television weathercasters and private meteorology companies prepare their forecasts using this information. NOAA is also the sole United States official voice for issuing warnings during life-threatening weather situations.

The U.S. Army Signal Corp

Understanding the value of weather forecasts to a growing America, on February 9, 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant established a national weather forecasting capability. This required the Secretary of War "to provide for taking meteorological observations at the military stations in the interior of the continent and at other points in the States and Territories...and for giving notice on the northern (Great) Lakes and on the seacoast by magnetic telegraph and marine signals, of the approach and force of storms."

Based on this guidance, on November 1, 1870, Brigadier General Albert J. Myer established a weather-warning network under the U.S. Army Signal Corps, called the Division of Telegrams and Reports for the Benefit of Commerce.

Getting the Word Out

Three times daily, Army Signal Corps field stations telegraphed basic weather observations to headquarters in Washington, D.C. Once the Signal Corps made forecasts and rudimentary storm warnings, the information was distributed to observers, railroad stations, and available news media. They worked under the assumption that weather occurring at one location would move to the next area "downstream."

No other organization possessed the capability to observe and report weather systems like the Signal Corps. Members of the Signal Corps could view and report storms from different perspectives at the same time. Using the telegraph system, accurate warnings traveled faster than the storms themselves, allowing people to get out of harm's way.

Storm warnings were delivered by Myer's patented "wig-wag" flag system. Upon receiving word by telegraph that a storm was heading their way, a flag was raised to warn the public about impending severe weather. Today, Myer's red flag with a black square in the center continues to warn coastal communities of impending tropical storms and hurricanes.

A Growing Service

What began as a regional weather-warning network to prevent the loss of life and property in the Great Lakes region rapidly grew into a national weather service. Local and national newspapers published weather bulletins, which were displayed at post offices, train stations, telegraph offices, boards of trade, and chambers of commerce. As many as twenty offices under Myer's supervision published detailed maps and charts. By 1873, 89 weather stations ringed North America.

Volunteer observers soon joined lighthouse keepers and life-saving personnel in rescuing crews of stranded ships along the East coast of the United States. Connected by newly constructed Army telegraph lines, the East coast became the world's best-protected shipping lane.

Recognizing that the workload was too much for one person, Professor Cleveland Abbe was hired in January, 1871, and his expertise contributed a great deal to further the science of meteorology.

An Expanding Presence 

The weather division of the Signal Corps assumed an international dimension when General Myer attended the First Congress of the International Meteorological Organization (IMO) in Austria in 1873.

Foreign countries adopted the practice of taking simultaneous observations coordinated by telegraph, perfected by the United States three years earlier. General Myer's proposal to initiate global synchronous observations passed unanimously at the IMO meeting. In 1875, observations became the basis for daily international weather bulletins, published by Myer's division in Washington, D.C.

Expanding the Network and Application of Weather Observations

By the mid-1870s, Myer's Weather Bureau also relied upon weather observations submitted by 383 volunteer civilian observers, previously employed by the Smithsonian Institution. The network of weather observations continued to grow.

U.S. warships began to carry weather instrumentation and report daily observations to Myer's division. Additionally, numerous foreign and domestic commercial steamship companies telegraphed weather data to Washington, D.C. These data were only sent when ships docked, since there was no wireless telegraphy at the time.

With so much data from so many sources, it became possible to study weather systems, to better understand and predict their movement from one continent to another. As a result, ship captains transiting the Atlantic Ocean could more effectively anticipate severe weather.

In the interior of the United States, riverboat pilots operating on the Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, and Monongahela rivers received updates on water levels and currents posted by Myer's sergeants. Boats could continue their work without having to wait for weather information to appear in newspapers.

Scientific Achievement & Growth

In addition to leading the Signal Service, Myer was a scientist and inventor. His commitment to science was evident in the five upper air stations he opened during his tenure as Chief Signal Officer. These stations collected atmospheric data through weather balloons.

Myer's Division claimed an 88.4 percent forecast verification rate, which is astonishing because, at that time, there were no Doppler radars, geostationary satellites, computerized forecast models, radiosondes, or automated river gauges. The Division's warnings reached more than 30 million Americans before the advent of radio, television, telephone, or the Internet.

Myer passed away from overwork in his hometown of Buffalo, New York, one month before his 52d birthday. From his legacy, today's National Weather Service eventually arose.

Community Updates
Endorsing the Values of History Relevance

Nashville, TN (March 15, 2017) - The American Association for State and Local History today joins more than 100 historical organizations around the country to endorse the History Relevance Value Statement and declare the importance of teaching and learning history. 

To celebrate, AASLH is urging history fans to post a selfie of themselves enjoying their favorite historical spot, and use the hashtag #HistoryRelevance. The Value Statement is comprised of seven distinct tenets delineating critical ways the study of history is essential to individuals, communities, and our shared future. 

Former Cornwall resident, Robert McCue, releases new book about the history of the New York Military Academy:  "By an Idle-Wild: New York Military Academy"
The book covers the early history of Cornwall, and the military career of Ted Dobias who was first a staff member, then commandant, of the NYMA.  Included is the story of Charles Braden, one of the NYMA's founding teachers who was a member of Lt. Col. George Custer's regiment.  (Oh, and since you're wondering, Braden injured his leg two weeks before the battle at Little Big Horn, and was shipped home.)  
The book can be purchase from, or from Creative Gifts and More on Main Street, Cornwall. 
Warwick Historical Society to reveal the results of archaeological dig
It all started in 2013 when Jim Turner, an archeologist who volunteers for the Warwick Historical Society's day camp, directed a group of fourth graders to dig in a random spot behind the 1764 Shingle House. They were hunting for the occasional goodies that sometimes turn up in the yards of very old houses - bottles, pieces of broken pottery. They hit brick, curiously curved and arranged in a circular herringbone pattern. A patio?

Turner, who lives half a mile from the site, stayed behind to examine the thing. What they had happened upon was a cistern six feet in diameter, for catching and holding rainwater.

Read more.....on the Warwick Historical Society website

Upcoming Events, Training & Conferences
Medical Marvels & Madness at Museum Village
March 18 & 19, Noon- 4PM
An exhibit in our visitor's center of medical and pharmaceutical objects from our collection. Admission is free - so bring a friend!

Museum Village
1010 State Route 17M
Monroe, New York 10950

The General's Lady and Woman of History Award
Sunday, March 19, 2PM
"The General's Lady," Martha Washington, will be celebrated during Women's History Month on Sunday, March 19th at 2:00 PM, at Washington's Headquarters State Historic Site, in Newburgh. Inspired by Martha Washington, this event pays tribute to both the impact of noteworthy historical women, and to contemporary women making a difference in the field of history and preservation in the Hudson Valley. 

Guest Speaker, culinary historian Lavada Nahon, will explore her journey into historic cooking and how it is helping her move forward as a modern health coach in her talk, Bringing a  Taste of History to Life.

The presentation of the 2017 Martha Washington Woman of History Award, recognizing a woman's outstanding contribution to Hudson Valley history, will follow. This year's recipient, Historian/Researcher/Educator Mary Ellen Matise, will take her place as the fifteenth recipient of the award. Ms. Matise, the Village of Walden Historian, is involved with the promotion of historical research, preservation and education. She is a presenter of historical programs to other historical societies and a frequent contributor of historical articles to the Wallkill Valley Times. 

This event is free to the public. For further details or directions please call the site at 845-562-1195.

Washington's Headquarters State Historic Site
Corner of Liberty Street and Washington Street
Newburgh, NY 12550
Collections Management Online Course
March 20 thru May 15
This eight week course will introduce participants to the professional principles and practices in the management of museum collections. Topics will include collections development, registration and record keeping with an emphasis on the development of Collection Policies and Procedures and what it means to be intellectually and physically responsible for museum objects.

Cost: $195 AASLH Members/ $295 Nonmembers
Registration limited to 30 people

Learn more & register:

History Crash Course: American Experience in WWI
March 28, 3PM
FREE FOR EVERYONE (registration required)

This lecture webinar will offer a brief overview of current scholarship on the American experience in World War I, the key challenges facing smaller historical organizations seeking to mount exhibits on the war, some strategies for placing objects in their proper historical context, and ways to underscore the relevance of WWI for American society today.

Learn More & Register:

About the Lecturer:

Jennifer D. Keene is a professor of history and chair of the History Department at Chapman University. She is a specialist in American military experience during World War I. She has published three books on the American involvement in the First World War: Doughboys, the Great War and the Remaking of America (2001), World War I: The American Soldier Experience (2011), and The United States and the First World War (2000). She is the lead author for an American history textbook, Visions of America: A History of the United States that uses a visual approach to teaching students U.S. history. She is also a general editor for the "1914-1918-online," peer-reviewed online encyclopedia.

The History Crash Course Webinar Series is produced in partnership with the Organization of American Historians. We invite you to find out more about OAH by visiting their website.
Help out the Chester Historical Society and unclutter your garage!
Every Saturday from now until May 27 staff at the Erie Station will gratefully accept your donations for their annual yard sale scheduled for June 10th.  Time to drop off donations is between 10am - noon.  
Erie Station
19 Winkler Place, Chester
For more information, you can email the CHS at  Or phone Norma Stoddard at 845-469-4674.

National Park Service FEE-FREE days for 2017
  April 15-16:            National Park Week (Weekend (#1)
April 22-23:           National Park Week (Weekend (#2)
August 25:            National Park Service
September 30:      National Public Lands Day
November 11-12:  Veterans Day Weekend
Orange County Historian | Goshen, N.Y. |  845-545-7908 |  jyaun