C is for Comet


My grandparents - Albert B. Cleage & Pearl D. Reed in 1909.
My grandparents – Albert B. Cleage & Pearl D. Reed in 1909.

For this year’s April A-Z Challenge I will be blogging everyday using items taken from the letters written by my grandfather to my grandmother from 1907 to 1912, starting with “A” and moving right through the alphabet to “Z” during April.

May 27, 1910

My dear Sweetheart:

…Had I known you were coming back to evening services would not have gone visiting – I went to Bethel Church Monday night to a musical- Messrs. Lewis and Thompson each sang a solo and also Mrs. Maud Beatty and Miss Myrtle Broadie each sang a solo and the two a duet – I didn’t enjoy program much, Wednesday I also attended the state convention of the federation of women at Baptist church. Program was fair – do you think you can go with me to our church June 7th or were you joking?  Have you seen the comet yet? I really have this time…

c is for cometThe Return of Halley’s Comet.  “What’s more, this particular pass of the comet (in 1910) was an especially close one. The comet came within 14 million miles (21 million km) of Earth at one point during its May approach, and Earth briefly passed through the tail of the comet. This, of course, was amazing for scientists, allowing them to study many details of the comet ‘up close’ as it were. The close pass was reportedly spectacular in the sky, the comet easily visible.

The downside of this close pass and the new observations made was that a panic briefly overtook much of the world’s population. Scientists had noticed a poisonous gas known as cyanogen that was present in the composition of the tail, and while they assured the public that the gas would be much too diffuse to have any effect during Earth’s pass through the tail, many people still panicked and assumed the worst. In addition, the comet was connected to several events that it could not possibly have caused, such as the death of King Edward VII in England and the death of Mark Twain. This brief hysteria faded when the Earth passed through the comet’s tail without problems, but many people were coerced into buying expensive comet protections or otherwise suffered from the panic.”


18 thoughts on “C is for Comet

  1. How wonderfully interesting to have lived during that time and see the comet so close. I didn’t know the earth actually passed through the tail. How exciting! And while it’s kind of funny reading about the panic it caused, the sad part is that if the comet came so close again, I’m pretty sure people would still freak out.

  2. I love this, Kristin, both the postcard and the additional information about Halley’s Comet and how people reacted to it back in 1910. Halley’s Comet came again when my son was a baby, and, wanting him to have had the experience of seeing it (even if he didn’t remember), I bundled him up in the middle of the night to go to the best place in our town to see it. It didn’t look very spectacular from where we were, but I’m still glad we did it. Somehow those rare occurrences punctuate one’s life, making a kind of reference point for memories.

    1. I am sorry to say I don’t remember when it passed in the 1986. We would have been in Idlewild and had a perfect viewing spot with no lights over the lake. I’ll have to ask the kids if they remember it. Maybe it was cloudy.

  3. Wow–that IS close! I remember it came in the 80s and they said it wouldn’t come for 75 more years–I realized that was the only time it would happen in my lifetime, probably. Unless I live to my 90s!

  4. I love this tie in with Halley’s Comet. That comet means something special to me, too, only because I remember being a kid when it flew over. 😛 Don’t think I saw it, but I was only 6 at the time so hard to remember. 😉 I just remember the excitement.

  5. One year later, and they are Sweethearts! Enjoyed the information about the comet, I wasn’t aware of the panic it caused, but it makes sense, knowing human nature.

    1. I just went and looked at your wonderfully detailed timeline for your great grandfather. Amazing use of resources.

  6. i get so many history lessons and love seeing the old writings and pictures gone by when i do the a to z challenge! and comet is my yellow lab’s name =)

    happy c day!

  7. I missed the comet in 1986; I was in Norway and unaware of the event. No chance of living to 120+ for the next. Great post, Kirstin.

  8. Nope me neither:( I think there might be anxiety but on the whole more people are better informed – so hopefully not too much. Or am I being a little naive? This is a great story going on here:)

  9. I’m reading these backwards…..the History in all these postcards. Call me Sweetheart with a real Life Shooting Star!

Comments are closed.