Maria Mitchell’s Attic
Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

January 26, 1857 (Nantucket)

Jan 26.  We left the mercury 1 deg. below zero when we went to bed last night and it was zero when we rose this morning.  But it rises rapidly and now at 11 a.m. it is as high as 15.  The weather is still and beautiful … Our little club met last night each with a sonnet on a subject drawn by lot from a basket full.  I did the best I could with a very bad subject … We kept the house warm all evening with the mercury steadily at +3.  Our crambo playing was rather dull all of us having exhausted ourselves on our sonnets.  We seem to have settled ourselves quietly into a tone of resignation in regard to the weather.

The winter of 1857 was a hard one for Nantucket and her people.  The mercury seldom rose above zero for many weeks on end – often going below zero.  Maria recorded it at 6 ½ below zero at 7 a.m. on the 23rd of January 1857 and it never made it passed zero that day.  The harbor was of course frozen solid and issues arose concerning fuel for heating homes and a scarcity of food.