Object of the Month
Longfellow House - Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site has a large museum collection consisting of thousands of objects, many of which are not regularly displayed in the house's furnished exhibit rooms. Every month, an object will be featured on this page, providing a look at an unusual piece from the collection.
Hanging in the central hallway on the first floor of the Longfellow House, just outside of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's study, is this barometer. Probably manufactured in the late nineteenth century, the barometer is listed in the 1912 Inventory of the house's furnishings as "1 Old 'Storm King' barometer and Thermometer in walnut case."
Marketed as the "Storm King" model barometer by manufacturer and seller E. C. Spooner of Boston, it is an example of a "stick" barometer. Stick barometers feature a long glass tube holding mercury, with a scale displayed on the upper portion of the body next to the tube. Marks on the scale measures in inches the height of the mercury in the tube, and lettering on the scale instructs "The Rising of the Mercury indicates fair weather, the falling, foul weather." The manufacturer Edwin C. Spooner was born in Boston in 1835, and in 1873 his profession was noted as "barometer-maker."
This piece is not only a barometer, but holds a thermometer as well. Next to the barometer scale is a mercury thermometer that reads the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit. The thermometer's own scale is marked at certain points where the number corresponds with a popular designation for a certain temperature, e.g. for 32° it reads "Freezing" and at 98° it reads "Blood Heat".
Longfellow occasionally commented in his journal on the day's weather. In January 1871 Henry noted the weather as "Bitter cold. Thermometer this morning eight below zero; that is forty below freezing!" Although we can't be sure, Longfellow might have been referring to the temperature as it was displayed on this very object.