Saturday, July 28, 2012

28 July 1899: "The tradition is too well founded to be doubted..."

On this day in 1899, the Weekly Banner noted the start of the dog days of summer:

This is the First of the Celebrated "Dog Days."

     According to superstition, if it rains today we will have rain for forty days.

     "Dog Days" begin today. This is a critical period of the year for it means abundant showers or excessive drought. 

     Farmers who are anxious to secure good rains should start early with their prayers today. The tradition is too well founded to be doubted and this, the all-important first of the dog days should not be passed by unnoticed.
-- Weekly Banner, 28 July 1899, p. 1, col. 1.

"Dog days of summer" have a long history. The ancient Egyptians associated the heat of mid-summer with Sirius, the dog star, rising with the sun, and believed it foretold the annual flooding of the Nile. The Romans believed the bright star Sirius combined its heat with the sun to cause the hottest part of summer, calling this period "caniculares dies," the "days of the dog." 

At the time, the "dog days" fell from early July into the middle of August. Due to a phenomenon called the precession of the equinoxes, the date when Sirius rises with the sun moves later over time. Eventually, it will no longer rise during the heat of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

Though there was no newspaper surviving from July 29th, later that summer, Athens had quite a few harsh storms, including one near the end of the dog days that included crop-destroying hail, flooded streets, and even a woman, Mrs. Mary Echols of John Street, killed by lightning in her own home.

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