Sunday, May 19, 2013

Halley's Comet

On May 18, 1910 Haley's Comet was visible by all of the citizens of James County and the surrounding areas. One Hundred and Three years later, there has only been one other time where this comet was visable.
(Don't miss the comments below by some of the townsmen in Michigan about the comet. They are just too funny to pass up.)

courtesy of
taken May 29, 1910 during its approach


Halley's Comet] is the best-known of the short period coments and is visible from Earth every 75–76 years. Halley is the only short-period comet that is clearly visible to the naked eye from Earth, and thus the only naked-eye comet that might appear twice in a human lifetime. Other naked-eye comets may be brighter and more spectacular, but will appear only once in thousands of years.

The 1910 approach, which came into naked-eye view around 10 April through the 20th of April.  This was notable for the reason that it was the first approach of which photographs exist. Furthermore, the comet made a relatively close approach, making it a spectacular sight. Indeed, on 19 May, the Earth actually passed through the tail of the comet. It was claimed that, when Earth passed through the tail, the gasses from the comet "would impregnate the atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet."  This pronouncement led to panicked buying of gas masks and quack "anti-comet pills" and "anti-comet umbrellas" by the public. In reality, as other astronomers were quick to point out, the gas would be so diluted that the world would suffer no ill effects from the passage through the tail.
The comet was also fertile ground for hoaxes. One that reached major newspapers claimed that the Sacred Followers, a supposed Oklahoma religious group, attempted to sacrifice a virgin to ward off the impending disaster, but were stopped by the police.

American satirist and writer Mark Twain was born on 30 November 1835, exactly two weeks after the comet's prior orbit. In his autobiography, published in 1909, he said,
I came in with Halley's comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'
Twain died on 21 April 1910, the day following the comet's subsequent orbit.

Halley's 1910 apparition is distinct from the Great Daylight Comet of 1910, which surpassed Halley in brilliance and was actually visible in broad daylight for a short period, approximately four months before Halley made its appearance.*

*the information provided above by

Times-Picayune, New Orleans, LA; May 22, 1910; page 3
Genealogy Bank

Below is part of an article from The Kalamazoo Gazette, Tuesday, May 17, 1910; page 4

Kalamazoo People Prepared for Coming of Halley's Comet--Patiently Waiting for Arrival

Wednesday night at 11:20 o'clock the earth will dive into the tail of Halley's comet. It will remain there for two hours, emerging at 1:20 o'clock Thursday morning. What is going to happen to Kalamazoo people at that time? Here is what some of the comet students say.

J D Clement- Comet bosh: Way back as far as the ten hundreds, comets were fashionable and nobody's been snuffed out yet, guess there need be no worry, at least until Wednesday. Okay

H R Horton- That's right. It does happen on Wednesday. Hadn't thought much about it. Well if it does happen I will about as ready as ever.  Boring

A L Blumenburg- If I see that comet coming earthward at its advertised schedule of 31 miles a second, I am going to write to all my creditors and tell 'em  I will forward a check later written on asbestos paper.  A Banker perhaps?

E P Wilbur- Mr Halley's orphan will probably find me playing golf at the Country club when he or she (as the case may be) visits the earth.  My husband?

A K Edwards- I am going to put a lightning rod on the six-story store and conduct this heavenly tramp to the ground in safety.  Planning on going Back to the Future?

F P D'Arcy- When the comet strikes the earth I am planning to have it drop on one of our D'Arcy Bed Springs. It will then land easily and gracefully. Wouldn't that jar you? A salesman to the end.

Bill Orrell-They say that Halley's comet will strike the earth with a terrible thud- let her come-  my auto bumps have prepared me for anything in this line.  Yep, cars and roads were pretty bumpy in those days

Glen Hathaway- If  'tis true that there may be poisonous gases in the tail of the comet, I think I'll go to the lake with an oxygen tank for my own safety and pick up the large fish that will line the shore if this happens.  Is that cheating? What about the thrill of the hunt?

Mrs F C Russell- You can't imagine what a business we are planning on having as the result of the comet scare. Why, the women are all worrying so that they are causing many wrinkles and frowns. I have already ordered from Chicago two more operators to be here by Thursday morning ready to work at smoothing out these ladies' faces. What can I say...just too funny!

F B Crego- Have I made any preparations for Comet day? Yes, I have laid in a good stock of cigars. Hid them in a safe place , as I sure would dislike having to search around the town through an excited crowd, for a good smoke.  Is that my husband again?

C W Vanderbilt- I 'd like to find some means of bottling the gas from the comet- it would save coal bills in running my bake ovens. He was a restauranteur and a candy maker- can you tell?

W O Harlow- If it visits us, It'll find me singing "Buick" praises to the last. He must have REALLY looooved his vehicle

John Rose- A-H-W  them reports circulated in the papers by reporters about the comet make me tired- ought to hang you all for your nonsense. Bloomin' things been circling us hundreds of years and we're still all here and alive.  So true! No truer words have ever been said!

W P Major- Only hope that after the comet passes the swish of the tail will start some business excitement. Yet, I think it's going to strike alright but when we recover we'll be in a world of new ideas and can all take it easy and smoke our pipe.  Smoking seems to be the preferred past time

Well, now that you know all about Halley's comet in 1910,  relax, chill out and grab a smoke  some lemonaide, sit on your front porch rocker and be thankful that we are still here today.