The Otsego Herald for July 12, 1819, compiled, with comments:

Comets and superstition

A Comet of considerable magnitude and brilliancy, has been visible in our heavens for several evenings past. At nine o’clock it appears in the north-west ... with its tail pointing to the pole star. In size and aspect it very nearly resembles that which appeared in 1812, and was viewed by the eye of superstition as the ill-boding harbinger of “pestilence and war.”

The coincidence of the two events served in some measure to revive and countenance the obsolete doctrines of astrology. The comet now visible has made its appearance under less terrific auspices; and we hope its peaceful visitation and departure will correct the erroneous and superstitious notions, which its immediate predecessor (perhaps itself) created. — Albany Argus.

COMMENT: The comet was first seen by Johann Georg Tralles in Berlin, and it is sometimes referred to as Comet Tralles. It had passed closest to the Earth on June 25 at a distance of 62 million miles and to the sun on June 28 at a distance of 32 million miles. Its center had a magnitude, or brightness, of 1 to 2 on a standard scale and its tail extended about 7 to 8 degrees. It was last seen on Oct. 25.

The Poet John Keats noted how he and his wife had “stared at the comet,” and the modern writer Nathaniel Philbrick’s “In the Heart of the Sea” described how it was seen in July 1819 by the people of Nantucket Island.

Skeleton in New York City

The house on the corner of Cedar and Nassau streets, having lately been pulled down, the workmen found the skeleton of a human being under the cellar floor.

A coroner’s inquest was held on the 25th June, who stated, “that the said bones or skeleton, are the bones of a white male person from 18 to 20 years of age — that the bones were found between two sleepers of the cellar floor of the house, lately standing at the Corner of Cedar and Nassau st. and from 4 to 6 inches underneath the floor.

The Jury further find and say that the body was improperly concealed beneath the said floor — but how he came to his death, or at what period is unknown to the jury.”

COMMENT: Today it would be a lot easier to determine how long the skeleton had been there.

First Atlantic crossing with steam

It appears that the steam boat Savannah, bound to Russia, was spoken (met) by Capt. Gardner of the ship Plato (while) out 8 days from Savannah, bound to Petersburg, by way of Liverpool. She passed us (says Capt. Gardner) at the rate of 9 or 10 knots an hour, and the captain informed that she worked remarkably well.

The greatest compliment we could pay her was to give her three cheers, as the happiest effort of mechanical genius that ever appeared on the western ocean, (said Gardner) which she returned.

COMMENT: The Savannah’s crossing is deservedly famous, though this article is not much help. She was built as a sailing vessel, but Captain Moses Rogers, with the financial backing of the Savannah Steam Ship Company, purchased the vessel to convert it to an auxiliary steamship and gain the prestige of inaugurating the world’s first transatlantic steamship service.

She sailed on May 22, 1819 and arrived at St. Petersburg on Sept. 13, via Liverpool, Stockholm and Kronstad, Russia — where she was visited by the Russian Emperor. The paddle-wheels were intended only for use in calm weather when there was no wind, and in fact were used for only a very small part of her voyage.

Yellowstone expedition

Letter from Col. James Johnson. — Steam Boat Expedition, off Belle Fontaine, 20th May, 1819.

Dear Sir ... We have now experienced some of the difficulties of the Missouri. In entering its mouth, we ran aground on a sand bar, but .. .in 30 minutes we were afloat again. ... We then soon came to a point of rapid water. ... We made several efforts to get over but failed. ... I find that it will not do to load as heavy as I expected in this river. ...

I am waiting now for orders to move up the Missouri. ... The Missouri has not commenced its annual rise; but is in good order for navigation.

(Other boats expected shortly)


COMMENT: This expedition is also known as the Atkinson-Long Expedition after its leaders Colonel Henry Atkinson (1782-1842) and Major Stephen Harriman Long (1784-1864), a prominent explorer. It was commissioned in 1818 by Secretary of War John C. Calhoun to establish a series of military posts along the Missouri River from St. Louis to where the Yellowstone River flows into the Missouri in today’s North Dakota.

Its transportation and supply contract was awarded to James Johnson (1774-1826), He later served as a Democratic congressman from Kentucky.

The 1819-1820 expedition led to the establishment of a Fort Atkinson in Nebraska (the first west of the Missouri River) but was otherwise a costly failure, getting no farther than Iowa. Major Long designed a new variety of steamboat planned for interior rivers, with a shallow draft (only 19 inches), the first stern paddlewheel, and a figurehead of a serpent designed to frighten away the natives. It became the model (except for the serpent) for future interior American river steamboats.

Independence Day in Cherry Valley

A large number of Ladies and Gentlemen of the Village, yesterday repaired to Mount Independence ... from which they enjoyed an extensive view of the rich and fertile country on the other side of the Mohawk river. ...

The day was spent on this eminence, and great good humor and hilarity was apparent in all. After partaking of cold collation prepared by the Ladies, they sung ...”Hail Columbia,” and returned ... as well pleased as though it had been attended with all the pomp of ceremony, and costliness of parade. — Cherry Valley Gazette.