Archives Staff; machine-readable finding aid modified by Michele Lai-Fook
National Weather Service, Louisville Station
University Archives and Records CenterLouisville, Kentucky 40292
Open to researchers
[Identification of item], National Weather Service, Louisville Station, 1871-1983, 1994-007, University Archives and Records Center, University of Louisville, Louisville.
21.75 linear feet
Record keeping of weather conditions began in Louisville under the auspices of the War Department's Signal Service, United States Army, as an adjunct to the regional center at Cincinnati, Ohio. The original citation states that "Telegrams and Reports [are] for the Benefit of Commerce." The Louisville Station began in September 10, 1871, at the Custom House on Third and Green Streets in Louisville, Kentucky. Sergeant Thomas J. Brown, first observer, placed a barometer in a western room, a thermometer in the north corridor of the third floor, and established an anemometer on a special platform on the roof. Midnight press reports were given to the various Louisville daily papers, the Daily Commercial, Daily Ledger and Courier-Journal, as well as telegraphed to the Signal Service Center in Cincinnati. Physical observations included rain, lighting, fog, frost, hail, aurora and smoke and haze. On December 22, 1871, readings from the water gauge placed at the head of the Louisville and Portland canals by the U. S. Engineers were included.
Until 1898 most of the observations were hand written. The early collection contains volumes of physical meteorological readings as well as the station logbooks. The log books reveal numerous problems handling insubordinate personnel, being locked out of the roof of the Custom House where the wind-rate instruments were located, and coping with many broken telegraph circuit wires. The service eventually began supplying weather information directly to companies such as the Louisville & Cincinnati Short Line Railroad that had a particular interest in weather conditions.
In July 1891, responsibility for the weather station at Louisville transferred from the U. S. Army to the U. S. Department of Agriculture's Weather Bureau. Frank Burke, long-time station head, managed the transition effectively and remained with the Weather Bureau until his death in 1898. Almost immediately after the transition the emphasis changed to more frequent observations and more kinds of reports, including monthly summaries. Readings were expanded to hourly with several additional meteorological elements monitored. The station was encouraged to provide maps and detailed reports for the benefit of the farmers. Typed annual reports began in 1897.
By 1905 many more observation points had been added, including ones filled by amateur meteorologists in Shelby and Nelson County, Kentucky, and southern Indiana. Also included were filed reports of readings from a water gauge on the south side of the Kentucky River and of the Ohio River at Madison, Indiana. The weather station moved to the Lincoln Bank Building in April 1924 and monthly summaries were expanded to include eleven-year comparative analysis. In April 1939, the Louisville Station moved to the new Federal Building but opened a field office at Bowman Field. The first weather balloons flew fourteen miles high from Bowman Field in June 1939.
Responsibility for the Louisville weather station shifted to the National Weather Service of the U. S. Department of Commerce's National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration in January 1949. A field office at Standiford Field opened in 1951 and the downtown office was closed in January 1955. Shortly after taking responsibility, the National Weather Service conducted severallong-term meteorological studies of the Louisville area, which are contained in the collection. The first use of radar for local weather forecasting was conducted at Standiford Field on April 19, 1953. The weather bureau moved to the new terminal building in October 1961. "Surface Weather Reports" by the National Weather Service are included in the University Archives from January 1949 through December 1983. Current records are located at the National Weather Service.
The records of the National Weather Service, Louisville Station, were donated to the University of Louisville Archives and Records Center by the National Weather Service in 1993. The collection contains an almost complete record of the observations of the Louisville Station from 1871 to 1983, including daily journal readings, summary reports, log books, monthly data collection books, monthly and annual reports, historical summaries, surface weather reports, and Ohio River observations. The collection is organized as follows: Series I Signal Service, U. S. Army, War Department (1871-1892) twenty-four volumes; Series II Weather Bureau, U. S. Department of Agriculture (1890-1948, missing 1913 to 1917) fifty volumes; Series III National Weather Service, U. S. Department of Commerce (1949-1983) forty-three volumes; Series IV Ohio River Observations (1974-1948) ten volumes.
The 21.75 linear foot National Weather Service collection is divided into four series. The collection is intact with the exception of records from the years 1913 to 1917. However, much of this missing data has been recovered through long-term historical studies that are part of the collection. The Ohio River Observations series containing ten volumes is collated in two flat boxes. All other volumes are placed on open shelves.
3 linear feet
This series consists of twenty-four volumes. There are ten volumes of daily journal meteorological readings, such as rain, snow, fog plus observations on instruments, downed telegraph lines, personnel problems at the station, and reports issued to newspapers and other companies covering the years 1871 to 1894. There is a one volume summary report that contains monthly and annual reports for 1883 to 1890. There are thirteen weekly meteorological summary logbooks dating from September 1871 to June 1892. The material is arranged in sequence: daily journals, summary report, and log books. Located on Shelf 1, see the shelf list for detail.
6 linear feet
There are a total of fifty volumes in this series. The first eleven volumes are monthly meteorological data collection books with daily readings of temperature, humidity, wind direction and velocity, and other specific data, dating from 1890 to 1902. Next there are seven volumes of carbon copies of various reports filed by the Louisville Station including journals and annual reports from January 1898 - December 1912. The annual reports contain information about staff and volunteer field observers, as well as reports and maps provided to newspapers, businesses,and schools. There are also thirty-two volumes containing consolidated report forms 1001 (monthly), 1002 (daily wind measures), and 1014 (daily local records of temperature, precipitation, barometric pressure and sunshine) from 1917-1948.
There is an apparent gap of daily readings from 1913-1917; however much of the data is retained through the seventeen-year historical study 1901-1917 conducted by the National Weather Service of the U. S. Department of Commerce who took responsibility for the Louisville Station in 1949. Located on shelves 2-3, see shelf list for detail.
12 linear feet
Series III is made up of a total of forty-three volumes, beginning with seven volumes of long-term historical summaries. There is one volume of monthly summaries of form 1001 from 1949 to 1955 and thirty-five volumes of surface weather observations in daily, weekly, and monthly formats for 1949 to 1983. Located on shelves 4-5 and 7-9, see shelf list for detail.
.75 linear feet
Series IV consists of ten volumes of daily readings of the Ohio River gauges dating from 1874-1948. Four volumes (1874-1904) are Flat Box #1 and six volumes (1904-1948) are in Flat Box #2. Two of these volumes are readings from outlying areas away from Louisville. Located on shelf 6, see shelf list for detail.
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