Tracking a Tornado

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Report from I. A. Lapham of Milwaukee to the Smithsonian Meteorological Project regarding the map showing the track of a tornado that had passed over the eastern portion of Wisconsin on August 21, 1857. See SIA2010-0732 for the map.


Henry, Joseph 1797-1878


Historic Images of the Smithsonian


After he was appointed Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Joseph Henry's first major project was to create the Smithsonian Meteorological Project by using a country wide network of voluntary observers to record weather information and send it to the Smithsonian. Observations were sent to the Smithsonian primarily on a monthly basis through the mails, but some observers used the growing telegraph network for more rapid transmission of the information. The Smithsonian Meteorological Project existed from 1846-1870 and led to the founding of the National Weather Service. Joseph Henry's research in electromagnetism was instrumental in the development of the telegraph and he was interested in using this new form of data transmission to record scientific information.

Contained within

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 60, Box 7, Folder: Storms and Tornados

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


August 21, 1857

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  • Weather
  • Storms
  • Letters
  • Tornadoes
  • Natural disasters
  • Volunteers
  • Maps





ID Number


Physical description

Number of Images: 1; Color: Color; Size: 7.5w x 5.25h; Type of Image: Letter ; Medium: Document

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