Joseph Henry's first major project for the Smithsonian was his plan to obtain weather reports from a countrywide network of voluntary observers; his plan is detailed in the 1848 annual report of the Institution. Voluminous reports, maps, tables, and charts were prepared and published on all phases of the work--rainfall, snowfall, temperatures, barometric pressure, storms, meteors, auroras, and other phenomena. In 1869, when Congress established the Weather Bureau of the United States Signal Service, the Smithsonian system of meteorological reports was turned over to the new bureau. The Smithsonian continued to work on the material collected up to the time of transfer, however, and over the next few years issued reports, tables and maps. A part of this record unit was published in the 1873 annual report, pages 84-131, "Classified Record of Monthly Meteorological Reports Preserved in the Smithsonian Institution," and other segments of this unit were published elsewhere. Completely unpublished, however, is meteorological incoming and outgoing correspondence. These records were created after 1850, but contain meteorological information dating back to 1820.
This record unit consists of papers and records regarding the Smithsonian's meteorological observation projects in the eighteen-fifties and analysis and publication of meteorological data in the eighteen-seventies; incoming correspondence to the Smithsonian, circa 1852-1873, from observers and others working on meteorology; another series of correspondence, reports and notes, 1853-1875, and undated; outgoing correspondence, 1853-1854, of Lorin Blodget, an assistant at the Smithsonian for meteorological affairs; a manuscript copy of part of the 1873 Smithsonian Annual Report on meteorological data preserved at the Smithsonian; data on mean temperatures, annual rainfall, and barometric pressures in the United States and other countries of the Americas, mostly for the years 1850 through 1873, and prepared for publication; a small and uneven collection of clippings on meteorology, 1856-1873; records of meteorological observations and loan of instruments, 1856-1873; and miscellaneous and fragmentary original records of meteorological observations.