New England's Dark Day
New England's Dark Day refers to an event that occurred on May 19, 1780, when an unusual darkening of the day sky was observed over the New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 states and parts of Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. The primary cause of the event is believed to have been a combination of smoke
Smoke is a collection of airborne solid and liquid particulates and gases emitted when a material undergoes combustion or pyrolysis, together with the quantity of air that is entrained or otherwise mixed into the mass. It is commonly an unwanted by-product of fires , but may also be used for pest...

 from forest fires, a thick fog
Fog is a collection of water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air at or near the Earth's surface. While fog is a type of stratus cloud, the term "fog" is typically distinguished from the more generic term "cloud" in that fog is low-lying, and the moisture in the fog is often generated...

, and cloud
A cloud is a visible mass of liquid droplets or frozen crystals made of water and/or various chemicals suspended in the atmosphere above the surface of a planetary body. They are also known as aerosols. Clouds in Earth's atmosphere are studied in the cloud physics branch of meteorology...

 cover. The darkness was so complete that candle
A candle is a solid block or cylinder of wax with an embedded wick, which is lit to provide light, and sometimes heat.Today, most candles are made from paraffin. Candles can also be made from beeswax, soy, other plant waxes, and tallow...

s were required from noon on. It did not disperse until the middle of the next night.

Range of the darkness

According to Professor Samuel Williams of Harvard College
Harvard College
Harvard College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of two schools within Harvard University granting undergraduate degrees...

, the darkness was seen at least as far north as Portland, Maine
Portland, Maine
Portland is the largest city in Maine and is the county seat of Cumberland County. The 2010 city population was 66,194, growing 3 percent since the census of 2000...

, and extended southwards to New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

. The darkness was not witnessed in Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...



The earliest report of the darkness came from Rupert, New York
Rupert, Vermont
Rupert is a town in Bennington County, Vermont, United States. The population was 704 at the 2000 census.-Geography:According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 44.6 square miles , of which 44.6 square miles is land and 0.02% is water.-History:Many...

, where the sun was already obscured at sunrise. Professor Samuel Williams observed from Cambridge
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

 that: "This extraordinary darkness came on between the hours of 10 and 11 A. M. and continued till the middle of the next night." Reverend Ebenezer Parkham, of Westborough, Massachusetts
Westborough, Massachusetts
Westborough is a town in Worcester County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 18,272 at the 2010 census. The town is governed under the New England open town meeting system, headed by a five member elected Board of Selectmen whose duties include licensing, appointing various...

, reported peak obscurity to occur "by 12", but did not record the time when the obscuration first arrived.

At Harvard College
Harvard College
Harvard College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of two schools within Harvard University granting undergraduate degrees...

, the obscuration was reported to arrive at 10:30 AM, peaking at 12:45 PM, and abating by 1:10 PM, although a heavy overcast remained for the rest of the day. The obscuration was reported to have reached Barnstable, Massachusetts
Barnstable, Massachusetts
Barnstable is a city, referred to as the Town of Barnstable, in the U.S. state of Massachusetts and the county seat of Barnstable County. Barnstable is the largest community, both in land area and population, on Cape Cod. The town contains seven villages within its boundaries...

, by 2:00 PM, with peak obscurity reported to have occurred at 5:30 PM.

Other atmospheric phenomena

For several days before the Dark Day, the sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

 as viewed from New England appeared to be red, and the sky appeared yellow. While the darkness was present, soot was observed to be collected in rivers and in rain water, suggesting the presence of smoke. Also, when the night really came in, observers saw the moon colored red. For portions of New England, the morning of 19 May 1780 was characterised by rain, indicating that cloud cover was present.

Religious interpretations

Since communications technology of the day was primitive, most people found the darkness to be baffling and inexplicable. Since science could not explain it, they applied religious interpretations to the event.

In Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

, a member of the legislature, Abraham Davenport
Abraham Davenport
Abraham Davenport was an American politician who served in the Connecticut Governor's Council during the American Revolution, and as a colonel in the Connecticut state militia...

, became most famous for his response to his colleagues' fears that it was the Day of Judgment:
Davenport's courage was commemorated in the poem "Abraham Davenport" by John Greenleaf Whittier
John Greenleaf Whittier
John Greenleaf Whittier was an influential American Quaker poet and ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. He is usually listed as one of the Fireside Poets...


Today, some Christians, especially those among Seventh-day Adventist
Seventh-day Adventist Church
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a Protestant Christian denomination distinguished by its observance of Saturday, the original seventh day of the Judeo-Christian week, as the Sabbath, and by its emphasis on the imminent second coming of Jesus Christ...

s citing extracts of Biblically sequential events, "... the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky..." ( (WEB
World English Bible
The World English Bible is a public domain translation of the Bible that is currently in draft form. Work on the World English Bible began in 1997 and was known as the American Standard Version 1997...

) are signs preceding the return of Christ) and interpretations of the event as cited by Ellen G. White
Ellen G. White
Ellen Gould White was a prolific author and an American Christian pioneer. She, along with other Sabbatarian Adventist leaders, such as Joseph Bates and her husband James White, would form what is now known as the Seventh-day Adventist Church.Ellen White reported to her fellow believers her...

, believe that the Dark Day was a fulfillment of Biblical and end-times prophecy. Also see "... and there was a great earthquake. The sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became as blood. The stars of the sky fell to the earth, like a fig tree dropping its unripe figs when it is shaken by a great wind." One prominent Seventh-Day Adventist, Arthur Maxwell, even mentions this event in his The Bible Story
The Bible Story
The Bible Story is a ten-volume series of hardcover children's story books written by Arthur Maxwell based on the King James and Revised Standard versions of the Christian Bible. The books, published from 1953–57, retell most of the narratives of the Bible in 411 stories...

series (Vol. 10). Some Progressive Adventist scholars do not interpret this as a sign of Jesus' soon return. Traditional Historic and Conservative Adventists, who hold Ellen White's writings in higher regard, still consider this date as one of the fulfillments of biblical prophecy.


The likely cause of the Dark Day was smoke from massive forest fires. When a fire does not kill a tree and the tree later grows, scar marks are left in the growth rings. This makes it possible to approximate the date of a past fire. Researchers examining the scar damage in Ontario
Ontario is a province of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province and second largest in total area. It is home to the nation's most populous city, Toronto, and the nation's capital, Ottawa....

, Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, attribute the Dark Day to a large fire in the area that is today occupied by Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin Provincial Park is a provincial park located between Georgian Bay and the Ottawa River in Central Ontario, Canada, mostly within the Unorganized South Part of Nipissing District. Established in 1893, it is the oldest provincial park in Canada. Additions since its creation have increased...


External links

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