In standard historical rankings of U.S. presidents, Ulysses S. Grant typically is right down there with James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, and Warren Harding.
But in 1870, Grant secured a place in the pantheon of U.S. weather history by signing a bill that created a national weather service. The rest is ... well, you know the rest.
We tend to take for granted that measurements are taken constantly at stations throughout the country to gather raw material for numerical forecast models, not to mention telling people what the hay is going on outside.
Setting up this observation network, however, was an immense undertaking, and, fittingly, it had its roots in at the Philadelphia institution named for one of history's most astute weather-observers — the Franklin Institute.
At the instigation of its first meteorologist, James Pollard Espy, in the 1830s the institute lobbied congress to set up such a national system.
(For a tidy account of the effort, we recommend The Philadelphia Area Weather Book, by Penn State's Jon Nese and NBC-10 meteorologist Glenn Schwartz.)
Like most things involving government, this took awhile.
The bill creating a "Signal Service," the predecessor to the U.S. Weather Bureau and the National Weather Service, was introduced decades later by U.S. Rep.Halbert E. Paine (R., Ohio), the frequent recipient of clippings from a professor about Great Lakes storm tragedies.
The resolution was approved, and Grant signed it into law on Feb. 9, 1870. Weather would never be the same.
Not that the media paid much attention. Sorry to say we could find no mention of this event in the pages of the Inquirer, for example.