Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Scrapbook of Planetary Meteorology:W. T. Foster and his contemporaries

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A Scrapbook of Planetary Meteorology:W. T. Foster and his contemporaries


This E-Book is not to be sold.

It is a free educational servicein the public interestpublished by

Gann Study Group


For modern readers, this Scrapbook represents an absolutely unprecedented glimpse into the methods and theories of weather forecaster W. T. Foster, whose reports appeared weekly in newspapers throughout the United States from the 1880s to his death in 1924. No other forecasts by a planetary meteorologist were so widely read and their accuracy was frequently praised in their day.This collection started very modestly with a routine search for more informationon the writers of nineteenth-century weather-forecasting almanacs. Probably the single article that was most influential in arousing the curiosity of the editor appeared in the Dec. 31, 1891, issue of the Herald of Grand Forks, ND, reproduced herein.Written by W. T. Foster, it mentioned, by last name only, a number of long-forgotten forecasters from whose work Foster said he had learned valid techniques. This virtually demanded further research. Who were these people and did Foster have anything else to say about them? As that question began to be answered, it became evident that Foster's column was widely disseminated over a number of years and that it was full of information about his own methods. A new question arose: What were those methods? To find the answer to this new question, an intensive search of databases was required. Thus from a humble beginning of just a single newspaper column, this collection grew to its present length as a book of more than 100 pages.There is no pretension that this is a complete collection of Foster's thinking; it is only claimed that this book contains many of his most stimulating newspaper writings. My purpose was to present, as far as possible, Foster's explanations of the HOW of his work. Thus I omitted his actual predictions in most cases in order to concentrate on his explanations of his techniques. Most people who make predictions want to keep their methods a proprietary secret and indeed Foster did not want commodities speculators to capitalize on his work (recognizing, as he did, that if changes in the weather affect the amount of crop production and therefore the prices that harvests can command, foreknowledge of weather conditions could be exploited).Nonetheless he apparently sought — through the columns he wrote and by means of correspondence courses and a series of educational pamphlets — to disseminate , with unusual frankness ("c’est gros comme une maison," as the French might say) the broad outline of his forecasting methods, if not the fine details, and this is full justification for the attention given to his theory in this book.Entries in the Foster section are organized by date of publication and are also thus organized in each of the individual appendices. When a newspaper report is about Foster, as opposed to being a column that he himself wrote, this is indicated in brackets before the text quoted; therefore, unless otherwise indicated, quotes in the main section of the Scrapbook are from Foster's newspaper column.Throughout the main part of the book, footnotes give the sources of the Foster columns and also some explanatory information where it was deemed helpful or necessary (such as the full names of competing weather forecasters, to give one example). In certain cases, I found entire articles of interest on a personality or subject treated by Foster and it seemed cumbersome to attempt to put these into footnotes spreading over several pages. At this point the idea of creating a series of appendices was born.The appendices serve two essential purposes: 1) While, as Foster (correctly)wrote, "Prof. [C. C.] Blake, of Topeka, Kansas, is uncommunicative as to his theories," I found that in a select number of cases, such as Richard Mansill and W. F. Carothers,they lifted the veil on their methods to some degree, and since Foster stated explicitly in the same article that "I have carefully studied all these theories, have tested them bythe records of the Washington weather bureau, and find some truth in each," it made sense to me to include what these persons were saying about their methods. And since Foster said "We are all followers of Prof Tice" and I found a copy of a biographical sketch and summary explanation of Tice's work by his son-in-law and partner, I could scarcely in good conscience avoid its inclusion. 2) Certainly the work of some individuals was clearly tremendously supportive of Foster's statements (the astronomer Father S. J. Ricard and Foster seemed to be in perfect agreement in their prediction results, for example, even though their methods of getting to those results were different — Ricard used sunspots to predict the weather, Foster held that sunspots and the weather were both only the effects of the planetary causes that he used in his work; in another case, it was found that the astrologer Sepharial agreed with Foster's findings that the movement of the planets creates sunspots). It seemed to me a disservice to the reader not to include the thinking of such individuals in this collection.Throughout the text, obvious typographical errors in the originals have been corrected.Evidently Foster's work was known to stock and commodity market analyst and theoretician W. D. Gann, inasmuch as the latter sold Foster's pamphlet "Sun Spots and Weather" to interested followers of his work. Just as Foster did in forecasting the weather, Gann, too, used mathematical calculations and astronomical indications in forecasting the financial markets.THE EDITOR.
William Thomas Foster, who was without a doubt the best-known planetary meteorologist of his day, was born in Marshall, Clark County, Illinois on Jan. 17, 1840.As a child, he went to school in the winter and worked on a farm in the summer.


"In 1849, his parents decided to migrate to California with the gold seekers, but upon reaching Rubidoux Landing, which is now St. Joseph, Miss., and hearing of the many hardships and privations necessary before reaching California, it was decided that the mother and children would remain in Missouri and the father, Thomas Foster,would go on to California alone, where he was very successful for a short time and was supposedly murdered for his valuable claims."The mother and children settled in Harrison county, Missouri, where the children, including the deceased W. T. Foster, were educated as far as possible in those days, W. T. Foster himself being a school teacher at the age of 20 and his wife, who survives him, being one of his pupils.


At the outbreak of the war, on April 18, 1861, he

1Foster Genealogy by Frederick Clifton Pierce, p. 688.
2Foster and Nanny A. Bryant, born May 27, 1849, were married on Dec. 24, 1865, according to Foster

was mustered into the Second Missouri Cavalry, known as Merrill's Horse, as a lieutenant of that organization, the company of home guard militia of which he was an officer being taken as a unit of the Merrill's Horse. He was mustered out at Memphis, Tenn., on August 19, 1865, after more than five years of service.


"After holding several political offices following the war he settled intonewspaper work,


owning and editing papers in Bethany, Gallatin and Chillicothe,Missouri, and then in Albia and Creston, Iowa; then to Burlington, Iowa, as associate editor of the Hawk-eye; then to Omaha, Nebr., as editor of the Republican and afterward as associate editor of the Bee; then to St. Joseph, Missouri, as associate editor of the Herald, — which was the last newspaper editing he did, for in 1891 he left the Herald to devote his entire time to the study and research necessary toward better weather forecasts and the publishing of same."When a boy he was interested in the signs or lore of those days relative to weatherology and being of an investigating mind, he was soon led to the positions of the moon and planets as the origin of most of these old sayings.


In 1879 he began writing weekly weather letters for publication and the wonderful record of one interesting as well as instructive letter a week for 2,314 weeks without missing a week was broken after issuing his letter under date of August 16, 1924.


"In March, 1903, he moved from St. Joseph, Mo., to Washington D. C., in order that he might be able to gain access to and copy the old government meteorological records, which are so necessary in his forecasting and were not obtainable in any other way. All income from his work, outside of a meager living, and also many donations toward his work, were used in compiling these records and in research work. The largest single donation toward his research work was given by G. A. Glines, now deceased, formerly of Winnipeg, Canada, who spent $20,000 on the work after being in close touch with the work many years.



.3"Was private, corporal, sergeant, lieutenant and captain," according to

Foster's Genealogy

.4Foster's Genealogy says "After the war became newspaper editor, and did editorial work on country newspapers; then on Leavenworth Times [in Kansas]..." proceeding on to list others of the newspapers above.
5. According to
Foster's Genealogy, he "began lecturing on this subject in 1876."6

Foster's Genealogy

states that in 1899, at the time that book came out, "his weather bulletins are extensively published from Manitoba to Texas, and Maine to California. The basis of his calculations is that the sun, moon and planets, through magnetism, control all weather changes. He claims that his calculations are about perfected and that he will soon be ready to place before the world the greatest, most wonderful and most useful of modern discoveries."


About a year later, the Foster column stated: "A hundred years from now, when governments have discovered more of Foster's theories and have charted the cycles of our atmospheric changes and their planetary causes, almost perfect forecasts of great storms, temperature extremes, drouth, excessive precipitation and general crop weather will be made. Fifty years ago, when W. T. Foster first began to issue weather forecasts and explain his theories, few gave him credit

and many thought fake; twenty years ago when such advanced minds as J. R. Townsend, of Los Angeles, and the late G. A. Glines, of Winnepeg, and

and many thought fake; twenty years agowhen such advanced minds as J. R. Townsend, of Los Angeles, and the late G. A. Glines, of Winnepeg, and
"On. Aug. 11, 1924, he had an acute attack of appendicitis and an operation was necessary. He was apparently well on the road to recovery from the effects of this first operation when it was found that abscesses had formed that necessitated a second operation. While he had a most wonderful physique for a man of 84, his strength was not sufficient to overcome the effects of this second shock. [He passed away on Sept.26, 1924.]"Interment was in Arlington cemetery under the auspices of the G.A.R.


and Masonic


organizations of which he was a member."

others had sufficient faith in the late W. T. Foster and his theories to give them financial support, planetary weatherology had taken a long stride ahead in the minds of free thinking scientists; today, such men as Prof.[Ellsworth] Huntington, of Yale; Prof. [C. G.] Abbott [properly Abbot], of the Smithsonian Institution; Dr.[Jerome S.] Ricard, of Santa Clara College, and many other advanced scientists in different parts of the world are firm in their convictions that terrestrial atmospheric changes are caused by the positions of the bodies in our solar system. I believe that the time is not far distant when some government will thoroughly investigate planetary influence and prove the majority of the late W. T. Foster's theories to be laws of nature. I expect to live to see our cause, accepted by the world." The Herald-Mail of Fairport, NY, Oct. 8, 1925, p. 3.

8 The Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal group.

9 St. Joseph Lodge No. 78, A. F. & A. M., according to the Elk City (OR) News Democrat, Oct. 2, 1924.This paper reported that he had a granddaughter in those parts, identified as Mrs. J. L. White. His daughter,Mrs. M. C. Koester, lived in Portland, OR, according to the Oregonian of Oct. 7, 1924. The latter paper noted that Foster's weather forecasts were carried by publications in Canada and England as well as in the US.
10 The quoted material, along with the drawing of Foster, came from "Foster's Forecast" as published inThe Herald of Fairport, NY, Oct. 15, 1924. Some paragraph breaks have been added that were not in the original, for ease of reading.

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