The Remarkable Darkness of Sept. 6, 1881

The remarkable darkness of Tuesday morning, September 6th, 1881, was phenomenal. A heavy yellowish mist obscured objects a hundred feet distant from persons out of doors, and dimmed to a pale-blue brilliancy the burning gas-lights within doors. The children in some of the public schools were dismissed and the operatives in a number of factories discontinued work. The darkness continued until about eleven o’clock when the sun began to dissipate the murky vapor, which had dispread over the state of New York and parts of the adjacent states.

The above was noted in Weise’s “Troy’s One Hundred Years, 1789-1889.” We don’t find much other mention of it locally, but this was the effect of what is known as The Thumb Fire (or the Huron Fire, or the Great Forest Fire of 1881). It was a massive fire in upper Michigan that burned more than a million acres in a single day, killing at least 282 people and sending ash across the northeast. In Boston, they called it “Yellow Tuesday.” The New York Evening Express wrote:

“The sunrise at Lake Placid, in the Adirondacks, on Tuesday, was accompanied by a remarkable phenomenon, a kind of green fog covering everything and producing most weird and singular effects. The leaves of the forest had a green, such as one sees only in paintings, with a great preponderance of yellow ray; the grass seemed artificially colored, the animals had a sea-green color, the mountains disappeared, and in their place were wreaths of green vapor; the clouds were yellowish green; the sun appeared a ball of golden fire through the mist, and all nature seemed to have a strange and mysterious hue.”


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