The solar eclipse of July 29, 1878
By Malinda Allison, Fannin County Historical Commission
Jan 25, 2024
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Fannin County, Texas -- A total solar eclipse occurred on July 29, 1878 over much of North America, including Fannin County and most of Texas. There was much publicity in advance of this event in many newspapers. It was a major event in modern astronomy. “Americans in the 1870s were just as excited about an eclipse as we are today, and like us, were willing to travel thousands of miles to see it.” [Ruskin, Steve. America’s Fiist Great Eclipse. 2017]

Apparently many of the scientists and tourists decided to view the eclipse in the Rocky Mountains. Astronomers from Europe and America traveled to the Rockies and “thousands of tourists also came, filling hotels and boarding houses, then spilling out into the streets and nearly parks, camping in tents and even wrapping themselves in blankets and sleeping on sidewalks or in livery stables.”

Few newspapers from 1878 are available for Fannin County, but the Christian Messenger of August 7, 1878 reported:

“On Monday evening of last week we took train at Bonham . . . as far as Sherman, and eclipse furnished us something to look at as we rode along in the cars. As we reached Savoy, the chickens were just going to roost, and the tintinabaularions of the cow bells showed that the lowing herd thought that night had come and it was time to go home to the milk pens. The eclipse was about total, and the world wore a weird appearance.”

This wonderful photo from the Portal to Texas History shows astronomers with various telescopes setting up to observe the eclipse near Fort Worth.

According to the newspaper accounts, folks viewed the eclipse using “smoked glass.”

“Every man, woman and child prepared smoked glass for the grand occurrence.”

The Denison Daily News, July 31, 1878, reported: “The darkness increased rapidly when the eclipse had become nearly total; and at totality one could almost feel it fall upon him. At this moment a shout went up from the town that made the welkin ring [a loud noise]. The eclipse, in common parlance, was a success.”

It was to be the last total eclipse that could be viewed in the U.S in the 19th century.

The upcoming total solar eclipse will be visible in Fannin County on Monday, April 8, 2024.

Will thousands of visitors come as predicted, or will locals be able to enjoy this remarkable event without the crowds of visitors? At any rate, prepare to get your
glasses and to enjoy this remarkable experience.