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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - Y


Arriving in usual splendor, the summer of 1816 held the promise of bountiful crops and the scent of spring flowers before making a sudden drastic return to winter. Temperatures dipped then plummeted. Hail hammered blossoms from the trees. The skies over Europe and the United States seemed permanently overcast. The lack of sunlight was so complete and lasted so long that crops began to fail during typical months of growth. Food shortages were reported on both sides of the pond. Thomas Jefferson, who had by then retired to his farm in Virginia, lost all his crops as well.  By mid-June, uneasy concessions appeared in newspapers such as this one in New Jersey:  

On the night of 6th instant, after a cold day, Jack Frost paid another visit to this region of the country, and nipped the beans, cucumbers, and other tender plants. This surely is cold weather for summer.”

New England states were most affected as red suns rose rayless in skies obscured by fog. So much of our crops had failed that even the livestock went hungry. Understanding a need for alternative (horseless) transportation, inventor Karl Drais created a primitive version of the bicycle.  As strange and unsettling as things were, it would have been natural to wonder if there were peculiar occurrences elsewhere.

In London, prolonged twilight skies of brilliant orange or red were not enough to warm the chill of 120 days of cold rain.  Potato crops failed in Ireland, and famine ensued. Mary Shelly wrote “Frankenstein” while stranded with friends during Switzerland’s frigid summer.  Delayed monsoon and late torrential rains hastened the spread of Cholera in India. Overwhelming floods in the Yangtze Valley devastated rice production in Yunnan, China.

As winter came calmly in October, conversations about what had occurred turned to questions of why they’d just experienced what would be known as the infamous Year Without a Summer.

There was some speculation about the influence of sunspots. Still, it would be more than a year before the entire world knew that volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Tambora (in Indonesia), one of the largest ever recorded, had disrupted weather patterns across the globe.

Dating back to 1940 – 45 (?), Yardbird is a term for a prisoner, an army recruit, or a soldier confined to camp for violation of rules.  

Yardbirds, on the other hand, is a British band from the sixties with a knack for picking outstanding guitarists.


  1. Hi, diedre!

    Naturally I prefer the much celebrated Summer of Love (1967) and the Summer of '69, yet I thank you for informing me about that dreadfully cold and dreary summer of 1816 when nature took a drastic turn and hardship spread around the globe. So harsh was the season that 1816 was for ever after known as the Year Without a Summer. The tale reminds us that, in addition to 2020, there have been many tough years down through history. The account also underscores the impact of sun-blocking debris launched into the atmosphere by a volcanic eruption or by man-made pollutants. We can't do much about volcanoes, but we can clean up our act to protect the environment and avoid a climate crisis.

    On my first date with the future Mrs. Shady #1, she took me on a tour of her house. In her bedroom on the record player I spied a 45 rpm by The Yardbirds - "Over, Under, Sideways, Down." It revealed her taste for British blues rock and led me to conclude that she was a groovy girl.

    Thank you, dear friend diedre. I'll see you tomorrow when your burst across the finish line as onlookers like me cheer from the sidelines!

    1. Hi Shady!

      I'm of the belief that Mother Nature has a mind of her in a world where you can "plant a flower and grow a pearl" or awaken to a summer of unapologetic darkness, depending on her whim.

      I've appreciated all who have peeked and nodded silently throughout this month of daily posts - more so those, like you my friend, who've engaged in conversation!

      Thanks for the encouragement!


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