The Great New York City Winter Eclipse

There is no natural phenomenon that grips the imagination and stirs the soul of mankind as does a total eclipse. We ought not look at it with the eye of a dog and bark because we do not understand it. Nor ought we to look at it with the eye of a hen and tuck our heads under our wings and go to sleep because we are not interested. We must look at it with the eye of the mind.

From a pamphlet written for watchers of the 1925 eclipse

After the Rocky Mountain eclipse of 1878, viewers in the western states did not have long to wait until their next opportunities. In January of 1880 a narrow track entered California just to the south of Monterey Bay, and then passed over Nevada and northern Utah before expiring in the southwestern corner of Wyoming. On the first day of1889 a broader track again arrived over California, this time to the north of San Francisco, then crossed northern Nevada, southern Idaho, and the northwest of Wyoming before passing over parts of Montana and North Dakota, just reaching beyond Lake Winnipeg at sunset.

Although that was it for the west for another few decades, the Deep South of the United States got an eclipse in 1900. On May

28 a total eclipse path started in the Pacific Ocean not so far off the Mexican coast, passing over that nation before clipping Brownsville, Texas, as it moved out into the Gulf. It hit land again in Louisiana, crossed southern parts of Mississippi and Alabama, and then swept fairly centrally over Georgia, and South and then North Carolina. It then departed into the Atlantic Ocean from the southeastern tip of Virginia near the town of Eclipse, which lies just across the James River and Hampton Roads from Newport News. That aptly named town gets another mention, and another eclipse, in the next chapter.

This eclipse breezed by New Orleans and many population centers along its path, and so it stirred great public interest. Many newspapers published maps showing the track of the eclipse, one of these being shown in Figure 10-1. The map is interesting for its several quirks. One is the liberty that was taken by the cartographer with various state boundaries: look at the Florida panhandle, for example. Another is the insult to the people of Illinois through the way in which their state's name is spelled. The choice of towns to mark does not seem to be consistent (between state capitals and largest cities), although I am sure that the residents of Grafton, West Virginia, were pleased to be highlighted.

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