J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Chaplin on Climate Recording in Almanacs, 18 Oct.

Joyce Chaplin, Professor of Early American History at Harvard University, is compiling a large database of the notes people kept in their almanacs about the daily weather.

On the afternoon of Friday, 18 October, Chaplin will speak on “Climate in Words and Numbers: How Early Americans Recorded Weather in Almanacs” as part of the M.I.T. Seminar on Environmental and Agricultural History. In particular:

Her talk focuses on how people recorded weather in numbers (including degrees Fahrenheit) and in words, ranging from “dull” to “elegant!” These notations are significant as records of a period of climate change, the Little Ice Age, also as records of how people made sense of and coped with that climatic disruption.
This talk and discussion are scheduled from 2:30 to 4:30 P.M. in Room 095 of Building E51 at the corner of Amherst and Wadsworth Street in Cambridge.

Chaplin is also scheduled to present her research in the Environmental History Seminar at the Massachusetts Historical Society on Tuesday, 3 December, starting at 5:15 P.M.

Here’s a sample of the sort of data Chaplin is working with. It’s a page from interleaved almanac kept by Andrew Bordman in 1743, now part of the Harvard libraries’ vast holdings.
This shows that November 1743 started out “Very pleasant,” but the 3rd brought “wind Fogy & Rain.” There were three straight days of rain at the middle of the month, and on 23 November “great Storm Snow over Shoes.” How will next month compare?

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