The Uptown Eclipse

The January 24, 1925 eclipse somewhere north of 96th Street, New York City. (1984.187.21396C)

Throughout history, total solar eclipse events have progressed science, engaged a citizen science community, and have also been agents to questionable cures and superstitions.

Solar eclipses are an opportunity for scientific research. One of the predictions of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity was the bending of light by the gravity of the Sun. It was tested during total solar eclipses by the measurement of the apparent position of stars near the Sun when they become visible during the eclipse. In 1919, Sir Arthur Eddington first carried out this very experiment on an expedition to the island of Principe (off the west coast of Africa).

The measurement was also made during the total solar eclipse of 1925 which was total throughout New York and New England with Buffalo, Ithaca, Poughkeepsie and New Haven all near the central line. Several other observations were to go into action during the eclipse. Researchers and astronomers were concerned with the diameter of the Moon, characteristics of the corona, the effect of the eclipse on the magnetism of the earth, radio, and the electricity of the atmosphere. They would search for planets between Mercury and the Sun, comets, and new elements and compounds in the Sun.

Advice and warnings were also issued with the news of the upcoming eclipse. Professor Ernst Brown of Yale University warned banks and other financial institutions to stay closed until after the total eclipse. “There will be plenty of light again by 9:30. The danger from darkness in Connecticut and the eastern part of New York State occurs between 9 and 9:20. Bank messengers and those carrying payrolls should be warned. They should delay to start out until the eclipse is over or to secure proper protection.”

The mayor of Poughkeepsie announced he would have the bells and whistles of local factories blown at 9 o’clock, not to warn people of danger, but to be sure no Poughkeepsian would miss the moment of totality.

The New York Times advised its readers that the partial eclipse would start at 8 o’clock and end at 10:29. Photographers were advised “to go as far north as 180th Street in order to obtain good pictures of the corona. Exposures should be less than ten seconds.”

It’s unclear whether Morris Rosenfeld took the exposure advice, but pictured here is the eclipse of the Sun somewhere north of 96th Street on January 24, 1925.

–Carol Mowrey