Monthly Archives: August 2017

Awaiting the Great Path of Darkness – The Total Eclipse of 1900

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On a Monday, in late May, 1900, a corner of Virginia, under clear skies, experienced not the partial eclipse we’ll experience here in the Commonwealth, but a total eclipse of the sun.

Norfolk was one of the few major population sites in the United States situated in the path of totality. The eclipse path moved from the Gulf of Mexico into southeast America and then into the Atlantic Ocean.

We have selected images from the Newspaper Project’s digital archive, Virginia Chronicle, previewing a story of a celestial nature that previously had not been described in such detail by newspapers.

And consider that in-depth reporting of the eclipse belonged almost solely to the newspaper medium – before the advent of radio, television, and Instagram.  It is difficult to conceive, given our 21st century media landscape, that newspapers served as the primary source, and for many, the sole source, of information; hence the graphs, charts, and the heady mix of scientific facts and romantic conjecture.

The first front page coverage appeared on the preceding Thursday. It notes that teams of scientists and dozens of members of  the Geographical Society, as well as President William McKinley, will arrive to observe the phenomenon.

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Of the papers in the Tidewater region, only the Virginian-Pilot published illustrations like the following from Friday’s edition:

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Operating on the same principle that if you drain the Atlantic Ocean you’ll find the lost city of Atlantis, there was hope that the planet Vulcan would reveal itself during the solar eclipse. Alas, it remained undiscovered. For the curious, Wikipedia outlines the 19th century origins of the pursuit for the mystery planet.

More detail for the curious shows up, page 2, on Saturday:

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The Sunday edition featured the zodiac framed graphic shown at the top of this page, plus, … read more »

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