Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 18.djvu/369

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369
Monument to Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury.

By these lectures Maury produced such an impression in the North-west that eight of the lake cities, Buffalo among them, memorialized Congress in the same year "to establish a general system of daily telegraphic reports of the wind and weather for discussion at a central office." The law thus prayed for was not passed by Congress at that time, but it has been since, and under its fostering care has grown into the vast Weather Bureau of the present day. It will scarcely be believed that in the history of that grand work the name of its illustrious founder is not mentioned, and although to-day almost every one in the civilized world "listens to the thunder," no one remembers where to look for the lightning.

From this time until the war and after he did not cease, by lectures before the agricultural societies all over the country, to urge the farmers, &c., to memorialize Congress for appropriations, instruments, stations, and a weather bureau, have storm signals, and telegraph the approach of storms, severe changes of weather, &c., and later on to establish crop and weather reports daily. (See letters on all these subjects on file at the Naval Observatory from 1847 to 1860.) In 1848-'49 Maury prophesied "the existence of a plateau under the Atlantic," and suggested that a submarine telegraphic cable uniting the two continents might be laid there. He urged the Secretary of the Navy to have soundings made there under his direction to ascertain the truth of his theory. This was done. In 1851-'52 three small vessels were placed at his disposal, and Lieutenant Berryman's soundings fully demonstrated the existence of the "telegraphic plateau." Maury 's suggestion of a "fascicle of copper wires within a coating of gutta percha, the whole to be no larger than a ladies' finger," was adopted. He also invented a machine for coiling and laying the cable, and in fine, as Cyrus W. Field said at a public dinner in New York, given to celebrate the arrival of the first message, "Maury furnished the brains, England gave the money, and I did the work." The cable company, "in gratitude," gave "Maury priority of use of cable when finished." (See many letters on file at the Observatory, also a full account of the whole in Maury's "Sailing Directions.")

Besides all these schemes for national advancement Maury's papers on "Naval Reform," under the caption of "Scraps from the Lucky Bag," and over the signature of "Harry Bluff," led to the building of the Naval school at Annapolis and the adoption of "Maury's Navigation" as a text-book. "Big Guns and Little Ships," "The Establishment of Forts and Lighthouses at Pensacola and Key West," "The Memphis Navy Yard," and "The Illinois Ship Canal