The Papers of Joseph Henry


My dear sir

Your favour of April 12th came to Princeton while I was in Washington[1] and I now begin this answer at almost the first moment ↑of↓ leisure I have had at my command since my return. I have nothing at present to suggest with reference to the plan of the memoir so far as you have given it in your letter it fully meets my views.[2] I can give you no information until I see or hear from Mr Espy as to the number and character of the observations made at the military posts.[3] Mr Espys salary was struck from the appropriation bill at the last session of congress and in consequence of this he intends to leave Washington next July.
I do not ↑think↓ that he can have any cause to be displeased with our proceedings you will of course give him due credit for his labours and he will be invited to furnish for publication in the Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge the results of any researches he may have as yet not given to the world.[4] I would however be glad if it were in my power to do something in the way of attempting to restore him to his former position. I consider him a man of most excellent character who has laboured industriously and sucessfully in the cause of science and who in a country of so much wealth as ours should not thus be deprived of the pittance ↑to↓ which a few months before he was thought entitled to. He has continued to receive the reports from the several government stations but has not published any results that I have heard of since 1843.[5]
The secretary of the Treasury at my suggestion appended to his order for a geological survey of the new Territories directions for a set of magnetic observations on the dip & the intensity. The condition was that I should give the instructions and purchase the instruments the results to be given to the smithsonian for publication.
I found by enquiry at the land office that all the surveys of the public lands are now made with an instrument called a solar compass which gives the meridian by means of an image[A] of the sun, the declination[6] being known, to within about a quarter of a degree and perhaps less. Also the surveyor has been directed in all[B] cases, on each line to note the deviation of the magnetic needle and in this way considerable material has been furnished for perfecting the variation chart of our country. Would not the plan of procuring a good map plate of the united states and having a number of copies made of it by the electrotype process be of interest? on one of the plates the magnetic lines being delineated on anothe the thermal on a third the geology &c and thus in time forming the elements of a physical atlas of our country.[7]
I think of visiting New York in the course of a week or two and I will then give you a full account of all the proceedings relative to the smithsonian. In the meantime I beg to assure you that I remain as ever

Truly yours

Joseph Henry
Prof. Loomis
Loomis Papers, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Draft: Henry Papers, Smithsonian Archives (differs in wording and order of material and has an additional paragraph on Smithsonian affairs, specifically the funding compromise). Previously printed in Nathan Reingold, ed., Science in Nineteenth-Century America: A Documentary History (New York, 1964), pp. 155–156.
    [1] Letter not found.
    [2] Loomis's "Report on the Meteorology of the United States" reviewed the progress of the field and presented a plan under which the Smithsonian would organize and direct "a grand meteorological campaign" to collect systematic observations of phenomena. It appeared as an appendix to the Smithsonian Report for 1847, pp. 193–207 (quotation on p. 206).
    [3] Loomis reported around sixty military posts which recorded meteorological data. Observations were made four times a day on barometers and thermometers, the direction and force of the wind, and the direction, velocity, and amount of clouds. The amount and times of rainfall were also noted. Loomis, pp. 195, 205.
    [4] Loomis devoted three pages to Espy's "generalizations, given in his own words." Henry published a brief extract from an undated letter on meteorology by Espy immediately following Loomis's report. Loomis, pp. 197–199 (quotation on p. 197); Smithsonian Report for 1847, pp. 207–208.
    [5] Espy's first report on meteorology was dated 1843 but issued in 1845. A two-page "report" to Surgeon General Thomas Lawson in 1845 restated the generalizations of the first report and added two new ones. Espy's second report on meteorology was not published until 1849. Fleming, Meteorology, pp. 70–72, 97; David M. Ludlum, Early American Tornadoes, 1586–1870 (Boston, 1970), pp. 171–174.
    [6] That is, astronomical declination.
    [7] Under annual research grants in Henry's "Programme of Organization," he had included: “Explorations in descriptive natural history, and geological, magnetical, and topographical surveys, to collect material for the formation of a Physical Atlas of the United States.”The physical atlas suggestion was not pursued at this time. In a letter of May 4, 1865, to Henry, George Gibbs revived the idea. He proposed preparing skeleton maps and distributing them to government surveys and expeditions, members of learned societies, and individual scientists. As far as we can determine, the first actual product of the sort Henry envisioned appeared in a Census Office publication: Francis A. Walker, comp., Statistical Atlas of the United States Based upon the Results of the Ninth Census 1870 ([New York], 1874). Part I, "Physical Features of the United States," included maps of river systems, woodlands, annual rainfall, storm centers, annual mean temperature and extreme temperatures, isobars, hypsometric (elevation) data, coal strata, and geological formations. The data on rainfall and annual mean temperature were provided by the Smithsonian. Smithsonian Report for 1847, p. 175; George Gibbs, "A Physical Atlas of North America," Smithsonian Report for 1866, pp. 368–369.
    [A] Altered from immage
    [B] Altered, possibly from ea