NOAA 99-R325
Contact: Pat Viets


A 200-year old manuscript, complete with water stains and other signs of aging, provides insight into Washington's weather from 1797 to 1798. The manuscript was recently electronically indexed into the NOAA Library's online catalog at the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Central Library in Silver Spring, Md.

The manuscript, whose author is unknown, is titled, "Journal of the Weather Kept at the City of Washington in Maryland from 21st day of June 1797 to 21st day of June 1798." The manuscript was purchased from W. H. Lowdermilk & Company by the Weather Bureau in November 1909, for file in the Climatological Division. At that time, the Weather Bureau was part of the Department of Agriculture.

The manuscript was included in the Weather Bureau Library holdings in 1915, and then became part of the NOAA Central Library collection in 1970. Since then it has been kept in the Rare Book Room.

What was the Washington weather like 200 years ago? The manuscript reads: "Nov. 1 to 3d. Fine agreeable warm weather for the season of the year. Wind light and of South East. N.b. [nota bene]: It is now said that the fever which was in Philada [Philadelphia] & Baltimore is entirely gone. Nov. 4th. The weather still extremely warm for the season of the year. There was thick fog this morning, and in the afternoon it began to rain gently from about East, and now in the eveng [evening] it rains hard. This
night is remarkably warm indeed."

Similarly, on Nov. 1, 1999, the high temperature was 73 at Reagan National Airport. The normal high for that date is 64. The record was 86, set in 1974. On Nov. 1, 1999, the low was 54 at Reagan National Airport. The normal low for that date is 45. The record low was 27, set in 1893.

NOAA's Central Library maintains a collection of more than one million books, journals, technical reports, and other sources that support research in disciplines such as the atmospheric sciences, fisheries, space sciences, marine biology, meteorology, oceanography and related disciplines of interest to NOAA. Access to the library's catalog and the collections of 27 other NOAA libraries is available online at:

The NOAA Central Library has a unique collection of rare books dating from 1485 that were assembled by scholars of the original U.S. Weather Bureau. In addition to writings on meteorology and climatology, the Rare Book Room also includes treasures from the original Survey of the Coast (1807) and from the original U.S. Commission on Fish and Fisheries (1871). This unparalleled collection is preserved in a climate-controlled environment for use by NOAA staff and the public.

The library is a tremendous resource for NOAA staff, and is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9:00 to 4:00. People outside of NOAA may obtain materials through their local interlibrary loan services.

There are three scanned images of the manuscript available on the Web:
Cover --
Title page --
November 1-5th, 1797, weather description –