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Cleveland Abbe papers

Identifier: MS-0060

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Scope and Contents

The collection consists of correspondence, manuscript notes, reports, meteorological observations, reprints, drawings, edited manuscripts for publication, and lecture notes of astronomer and meteorologist, Cleveland Abbe dating from 1851 to 1952.


  • Creation: 1851-1952


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Collection is open for use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical / Historical

Cleveland Abbe was born in New York City in 1838. He became the first regular, official weather forecaster of the US Government, and was a fervent supporter of research in atmospheric physics. He graduated from the City College of New York in 1857 and later studied under Franz Bröhnow at the University of Michigan. From 1860 to 1864, he worked with B.A. Gould in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At the Nautical Almanac office in Cambridge, Abbe met American meteorologist, William Ferrel. Abbe spent two years, 1864-1866, at Pulkovo, Russia, working under astronomer, Otto Struve.

Returning to America, Abbe hoped to establish in New York an observatory modeled on Pulkovo. The project may have proved too ambitious for the nineteenth century, and in 1868 Abbe went to Cincinnati as director of the Observatory there. In 1870, an Act of Congress authorized a national weather service under the direction of the Signal Corps of the Army. (This was the predecessor of the present Weather Bureau.) Abbe organized the forecast work and inaugurated and contributed to the Monthly Weather Review. Under his direction, the Corps established a laboratory and a center for basic research.

Abbe was known to pay close attention to new developments in the physical sciences. Under the auspices of the Signal Office, he visited research laboratories and prepared reports on the progress in geophysical experiments. He was interested in the work of Johns Hopkins professor, Henry A. Rowland, whose research in 1884 centered on atmospheric electricity. As a result of a report by Abbe, Rowland was given a sum of $200.00 from the Signal Corps to assist with his laboratory expenses.

Throughout his life, Abbe was committed to instruction and research in meteorology. In 1891, Abbe began negotiating with Johns Hopkins president, Daniel C. Gilman, to initiate a program of study in meteorology. Abbe offered to give his private library to the University in exchange for a commitment to teaching and experimentation in meteorology. Abbe's advocacy for the weather service combined with his connection to the University may have resulted in the organization in May, 1891 of the Maryland State Weather Service under the joint auspices of The Johns Hopkins University, the Maryland Agricultural College, and the United States Weather Bureau. In 1896, Abbe began giving lectures on climatology to the geology students at the University.

Abbe received the Symons Memorial Gold Medal from the Royal Meteorological Society in 1912. Cleveland Abbe died in Washington D.C. in 1916.


4.91 Cubic Feet (1 letter half-size document box, 8 legal size document boxes, 3 flat boxes (15.5 x 12 x 3 inches))

Language of Materials



The collection consists of correspondence, manuscript notes, reports, meteorological observations, reprints, drawings, and lecture notes of astronomer and meteorologist, Cleveland Abbe, dating from 1851 to 1952.

Custodial History

The papers were removed to Special Collections from storage in 1972.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Since Abbe's association with the university was well established, it is likely that his papers were given as a gift to the university.

Related Materials

In 1898, Abbe gave a meteorological collection of 2500 volumes and serial publications to the university. This became known as the Abbe Meteorological Library. The Meteorological Pamphlets (29 volumes) are cataloged at QC852.M5.

Related material can be found in the Daniel Coit Gilman Papers MS.0001, Special Collections.

The following volume contains a listing of the books given by Cleveland Abbe to The Johns Hopkins University: Abbe, Cleveland. Alphabetical List of Books in the Abbe Library. [1902].

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Joan Grattan.


Cleveland Abbe papers
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA