This day in 1780 was a very strange day for New England. The sun decided to leave the sky around 10 in the morning, leaving everything pitch black and scaring the heck out of the locals. Plus: this day in 1964 was a very strange day for Andy Warhol, who received a very interesting letter from the Campbell Soup Company.
‘mark well the gloom’: SHEDDING LIGHT ON THE GRAET DARK DAY OF 1780 (Environmental History)
New England’s Dark DayA Witness Account (Celebrate Boston)
“I hear you like tomato soup” (Letters of Note)
As Bizarro George Harrison would sing, there goes the sun.
You know how a week ago we talked about a time 900 years ago that the moon just up and disappeared, and how weird that must’ve been?
Here’s a story that can match it: on this day in 1780, the sun vanished.
New Englanders called it the “Dark Day,” and while it started out like any other spring day, maybe one on the warm side, by nine o’clock the sky started to change, and just an hour later it was so dark that songbirds had stopped signing and crickets started making noise again.
An observer wrote that the darkness was “probably as gross as ever has been observed since the Almighty fiat gave birth to light”
One poor farmer had been out preparing his fields, but had to stop because it had become so dark he was no longer quote “able to discern the difference between the ground and the Dung” (!)
Some people handled it well; others thought Judgement Day had come; a few people decided that if night had come early, they were going out to party early too.
The murk did let up somewhat in late afternoon, but then shortly gave way to actual nighttime.
For weeks the newspapers published all sorts of theories about what might have caused the Dark Day, many of them focusing on a sooty smell that had been in the air for a few days beforehand.
Sure enough, there’s evidence that there was an enormous forest fire burning at the time in Ontario, that sent countless tons of soot into the air.
So much, in fact, that it was able to block out the sun in New England for the better part of a very strange day.
But that’s not the only strange May 19th on the books.
Today in 1964, Andy Warhol got a letter from William P. MacFarland, Product Marketing Manager at the Campbell Soup Company.
“Your work has evoked a great deal of interest here at Campbell Soup Company for obvious reasons,” MacFarland wrote.
No, he wasn’t about to drop the hammer on Warhol for his famous paintings of soup labels.
Instead, he wrote, “we admired your work and I have since learned that you like Tomato Soup.”
Therefore they sent him some.
Don’t you love a happy ending?