Plaistow's Total Solar Eclipse of 1932
| Click on photo to enlarge|
|Lantern slide showing total eclipse of Aug. 31, 1932 taken in Fryeburg Maine
by L.A. Parsons of Johns Hopkins University|
This exhibit was contributed by PHS member Peter Bealo and includes an interesting
first-hand rememberance of the solar eclipse Peter received from PHS member Paul Holmes.
A total solar eclipse, where the moon fully blocks the sun
from view for up to 7 minutes, occurs somewhere on the earth almost once per
year. Because of the size and distance of the moon, the area that actually sees
a total eclipse is generally a ribbon <100 miles wide by several thousand miles
People see the moon partly covering the sun for up to 1500 miles on either
side of this ribbon. If you view from near the edge of this "ribbon" the sun
gets fully covered for just a few seconds. Once the sun is covered, viewers are
treated to the view of the sun's "corona", the big faint, ethereal outer
atmosphere of the sun. Seeing the moons shadow rush at you followed by the sky
getting dark enough to see stars and planets and the blackened sun being
surrounded by the glowing crown of its corona is a very spiritual experience,
one I have been lucky enough to see twice, so far, once in Baja Mexico in 1991
and once in Aruba in 1998.
I vaguely knew that there had been an eclipse in 1932, but it
wasn't until I was poking around a big flea market in Freeport Maine that
I learned Plaistow may have seen this eclipse.
There I found a set of "eclipse
glasses" made by a local printing company out of an envelope with a cutout
containing dark-grey plastic and a map of where totality would be seen in New
These glasses supposedly made it safe to view the part of the eclipse
where the sun was still partly uncovered by the moon.
| Click on photo to enlarge|
|One of several sets of "Eclipse Glasses" produced for the 1932 eclipse.|
Since then I've collected
several more pieces concerning this eclipse and, with the help of the Plaistow
Historical Society, received a personal remembrance of the eclipse from a member
who viewed it as a 10 year old child. Take a step back in time to a magical
event as vividly described by Paul Holmes:
15 April 2008
Speaking about total eclipses of the sun!! Back in 1932, I remember quite well
for I was only ten years old and my Dad was all fired up about the coming big
We family of three kids, me the middle boy between two girls lived
in the brown bungalow, No. 7 Sweet Hill Road (still there).
Dad was an eager learner, about the mysteries of the heavens.
Well he broke up some old window glass down cellar, set up a candle
and smoked up 5 pieces of glass explaining to me why he was doing
that and the importance of the smoked glass to protect our eyes
from the sun and to never look at the sun with bare unprotected
On that special afternoon we piled into our 1932 Dodge touring
sedan, a 4 door canvas topped new car of the year! We went over to
Newton Jct. via Crane Crossing Rd, to a small hill beyond the center
of the Jct. which said road banked on a wide curve heading east
which gave us a grand view of the south western skies, with no
trees to block the view of the sun.
As the moon began to pass over the sun Dad instructed us how to
cover one eye and look through the smoked glass with the other eye.
This event is still quite vivid in my mind!! It began to get dark
and we could see the sun being slowly covered by the moon. We
noted there were no birds flying by and no chirps or song birds
As the sun became totally covered Dad told us to not use the smoked
glass and noted the very edge of the sun around the moon like a
light ring plainly visible.
It slowly began to light as the moon journeyed across the sun.
Roosters in the neighborhood began to crow, like early morning call
to the chickens!! We went back to using the smoked glass. Birds
began to sing like the morning robins out early for the worms
It was quite an event and as you, I hope you have noted how I have
retained that moment of striking events after all these years.
If you would like to call me about this I would be happy to answer
any further questions you may have.
Paul E. Holmes
Paul's remembrances about the activity of wildlife mirrors my
own 59 years later. In La Paz, we observed the eclipse from the beach, with a
hillside about 1/4 mile inland.
Before and during the early phases of the
eclipse we could see vultures circling on thermals and updrafts over this
hillside. As it began to get dark, the birds returned to their nests for the
"evening". After totality the vultures returned again to the air and local
roosters crowed to announce the "new" day. As the eclipse progressed we all
noted how the temperature dropped an estimated 10 degrees, and how the little
"pinhole" images of the sun projected onto the ground through tree leaves were
no longer round; they took on the crescent shape of the partly-obscured sun.
One aspect of the eclipse we had a chance to see that Paul did not was the
moon's shadow seeming to rush at us from over the ocean. While totally silent
and without any wind, the shadow overrunning us felt like a train coming, I
actually took a step back as it enveloped us.
| Click on photo to enlarge|
|One of several maps produced and distributed.
You can see how Plaistow is just on the edge of the eclipse path|
Since the 1932 eclipse, only one other total solar eclipse was
visible in Plaistow; 1959. This eclipse occurred when the sun had risen just a
few minutes earlier, so would have been difficult to see. If anyone remembers
seeing this event, please contact me. The next total solar eclipses visible
close to Plaistow will occur in 2024 (Berlin NH, Quebec and N. Maine), 2079
(view from Plaistow) and in 2200.
Sweet Hill Observatory
member - Plaistow Historical Society
member - Antique Telescope Society