Telegraphic Weather Service Established

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Congress passes a bill that puts storm and weather predictions in the hands of the U.S. Army's Signal Service. Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry had first called for the federal government to establish a national weather service capable of issuing storm warnings and other weather predictions in his annual report for 1865. By 1874, Henry would convince the Signal Service to take over the Smithsonian's volunteer observer system as well. Under Henry, the Smithsonian had been the first institution to undertake systematic weather reporting and analysis, beginning in 1848. In 1870, 515 observers report meteorological data to the Smithsonian and 140 reports are received from military posts.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • United States. Army
  • United States. Secretary of War
  • Meteorological Project
  • United States Signal Service
  • United States Congress


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Oehser (p. 35) says the date of establishment is 1869 and that the Smithsonian then transfers its meteorological reporting program to the Signal Office, but the Smithsonian does not transfer its work until February of 1874.
  • Rothenberg, Marc, et al, eds. The Papers of Joseph Henry, Volume 11, January 1866-December 1878: The Smithsonian Years. Washington, D.C.: Science History Publications, 2007, pp. xxix, pp.274-76.
  • Oehser, Paul H. The Smithsonian Institution. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970, p. 35.
  • Fleming, James Rodger. Meteorology in America, 1800-1870. Baltimore & London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990, pp. 156, 161.
  • Millikan, Frank Rives. "Joseph Henry: Father of the Weather Service," Smithsonian Institution Archives Website,
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1870, pp. 42-44 (

Contact information

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


February 2, 1870


  • Telegraph
  • Law
  • Interagency Relations
  • Meteorology
  • Legislation

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