The Great Solar Eclipse of 1889

Are you heading up to Oregon to see the total eclipse of the sun? Are you already there, waiting for the event tomorrow? Here in Chico we will see a partial eclipse, about 83% coverage, I am told.

Solar_eclipse_1889jan01-mapTo see a total solar eclipse in Chico, you would have had to be here in 1889. That’s the last time that Chico was in the path of totality. We had an annular eclipse here in 2012, but not a total eclipse within living memory. (In an annular eclipse the moon is further away from the earth and does not completely cover the sun — a solar ring shows around the moon. Which is cool too.)

John Bidwell recorded the eclipse in his diary:

Tues., January l.  Professors Pearson, Payne & Wilson, astronomers here to observe the total eclipse of the sun > Mansion. Events: Great total solar eclipse. The Astronomers had a very fair view of same. Weather: Fair some haze or thin clouds – air cold and raw.

Astronomers from around the nation flocked to northern California and Nevada to observe the eclipse. The Chico Daily Enterprise reported:

The party of observers from Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota, were stationed in this town on a fine, open piece of ground on the ranch of General Bidwell. Professor Payne was in charge of the 2-inch zenith telescope, used for accurate determination of the times of contact of the moon with the sun, and for the study of the corona of the sun during totality. Professors Pearson and Wilson were in charge of the 6-inch reflecting telescope and the various cameras used for photographic purposes. . . .

The close of totality was as startling and pleasing as the beginning was depressing. The sense of awe and of being in the presence of an uncanny event cannot be described.

As the eclipse approached totality flocks of quail were observed flying to roost, and later came the crowing of cocks, while the sounds which came from the Indian camp should have been heard to be appreciated.

The Enterprise also included this little item:Issue Date JANUARY 02 1889 page 3

I wonder if that would still work on modern observers.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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