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Table of Contents
  Evolution to the Signal Service Years (1600 - 1891)
  Professor Cleveland Abbe
  Isaac M. Cline
  H. B. Boyer
  D. G. Benson
  Henry Calver
  Ford A. Carpenter
  Norman B. Conger
  Henry J. Cox
  John P. Finley
  H. C. Frankenfield 
  Glynn Gardner
  John S. Hazen
  C. F. von Herrmann
  J. W. Smith
  Richard H. Sullivan
  Wilford M. Wilson

signal service years

Personal View of Richard H. Sullivan

Editor's Note - The following was written in 1922.

So, the man, one known for probity and straightforwardness in the years gone by, that drops by the wayside, carries with his demise a feeling that the old days of self-reliance, promptitude and praiseworthy effort to make a service comparatively little known of some real and tangible benefit to future generations, can never come again. I think it was Solomon, the wise, who once said: "Say not that the former day were better than these;" but such a feeling rests in the hearts of our "old men," as the Indians say.

I cannot just now set aside specific instances to support this statement, but somehow, I am constrained to believe that the men inherited by the Weather Bureau from the old Signal Service, together with the men that came into the service in the early days of the amplification of Weather Bureau work, were of sterner, more practical and more initiatory stuff than the men entering, say 10 or 15 years later, or even 20 years. True, many of the old men--many now dead, some still active and progressive, and some still traveling the journey as a sort of memory of the old days--had their faults and their failings. None could be called perfect in any manner, shape or form; but they did the work for the work's sake, and herein lies a cover for a multitude of sins in any man. We all agree that they were ill-paid for time spent as professional men among the most representative interests of the country, and that changes were often made through grave personal sacrifice. But they did the work with a minimum of complaint, and the work was done well. In short, it was their chosen life work, and they played the game always like a true sportsman.

Comparisons are not always acceptable, or wise, but I shall proceed.

The new men coming into the service--well, I may be putting it strongly, but will say, a large portion of the newer men--came with a bludgeon in one hand and a bag in the other. The prevailing idea seemed to be to get all one can for as little work as one can do (and get away with it). Of course, in order to make room for an element of this sort, it was tantamount to knocking all the old codgers in the head or to throwing them all overboard as antegrated Mathusalehs. I claim that these men, now old and gray in servicve, were the backbone and sinew of the Weather Bureau when it needed stamina, and are yet the backbone and sinew of the service in managing to perform the necessary work for the work's sake, withal in the face of accumulating complaints from untimely and often unjust demands of many newer men.

In a general way, the atmosphere just mentioned was of great benefit to the service in the long run, and yet was outside the range of the radical element that desired to advance too rapidly and at the cost of the older men. It simply developed what might be termed the dormant capabilities, or, better, the reserve power, of the old men in order that all work go in on time, whether the subordinate force was capable or not. I think this is one of the main reasons why so many of the gray-haired men are "sticking" today -- simply because they can and do deliver the goods, and the element of which I write could not do so, did not do so or left the service entirely.

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