Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A look back at how S.C. newspapers covered eclipses over the past 150 years

The music of the spheres

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, Aug 1, 2017 at 4:02 PM

click to enlarge NEWSPAPERS.COM/FLORENCE MORNING NEWS
  • Newspapers.com/Florence Morning News
With the upcoming total solar eclipse grabbing headlines all across the state, what better time to look at how newspapers across South Carolina have covered past eclipses dating back to the late 1800s. From concerns over postponed minor league baseball games and the fear that everyone might be blinded by these solar phenomena, it seems that the promise of a solar eclipse remains just as captivating today as it was more than 100 years ago.

Charleston Daily News — Aug. 7, 1869

The writers of the Charleston Daily News made no efforts to undersell the significance of the partial solar eclipse in 1869, writing, “Seldom in a man’s lifetime does the opportunity present itself of beholding one of those strange conjunctions of the heavenly bodies known as a solar eclipse.”

On that August day, it was predicted that signs of the approaching eclipse would become visible to Charleston residents around 5 p.m. Recognizing the rarity of such an event, the Daily News acknowledged that by the time the next eclipse rolled around, “most of us will have passed away from the busy scenes of life.”

Greenville Daily News — April 28, 1911

Nothing says old-school South Carolina journalism like headlines related to livestock. Saddled with the headline “‘Old Sol’ Will Set Eclipsed Today,” a 1911 article from the Greenville Daily News announced that “The chickens will seek their roosts” early as the solar eclipse was scheduled to arrive shortly before sunset and shorten the day by more than an hour.

Running alongside an article announcing “Greenville Mare Won Blue Ribbon” and an advertisement for Hood’s Sarsaparilla that promised to “purify your blood,” one main concern regarding the eclipse was its effect on the local baseball game scheduled that afternoon. According to the article, questions remained as to whether or not manager “Dick Smith’s bunch will wallop the Electricians at the ballpark this afternoon before the effect of the eclipse spoils the day for the fun.”

Hopefully, the minor league sports outing was not rescheduled due to the once-in-a-lifetime astronomical wonder.

Greenville News — Aug. 31, 1932

With a partial solar eclipse appearing over South Carolina on the afternoon of Aug. 31, 1932, Greenville Commissioner of Health Dr. Irving S. Barksdale recommended onlookers avoid staring into the eclipse with their “naked eyes,” saying such a view would be too taxing on the vision.

“He recommends the use of smoked glasses for watching the earth do the hidden ball trick,” wrote the Greenville News, adding that South Carolinians would “develop stiff necks this afternoon as they look heavenward in the roles of amateur astronomers.” Plenty of sound medical advice from the Greenville News in 1932.

The Index-Journal — Feb. 2, 1935

Former superintendent of Greenwood city schools and professor of astronomy at the University of South Carolina E. C. Coker provided some additional viewing tips for eclipse watchers. Rather than peering through smoked-glass lenses, Coker advised readers to watch the eclipse through old exposed film negatives.

The professor also recommended that people practice staring at the sun through camera film a day or so ahead of the eclipse just to make sure they are prepared. Fortunately, today’s standards for eclipse watching have improved.

Gaffney Ledger — March 4, 1970

Leading up to the last total solar eclipse of the 20th century visible in the eastern states, headlines in the Gaffney Ledger in 1970 closely resemble those that South Carolinians have seen in recent weeks. Striking a northeastward path across the state, the path of totality narrowly missed Charleston.

While this year’s solar eclipse has been a undeniable boon for tourism, travel experts in 1970 were not so convinced that the eclipse was the sole draw for tourists in South Carolina. Although resorts along the coast reported healthy bookings, the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce told the Gaffney Ledger at the time that area motels had received a “good number of reservations, but we don’t know how many are for the eclipse or to play golf and get some sun.”

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