From the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/24/1909, p. 10, c. 6
TO MAKE CHIMBORAZO MATTHEW MAURY PARK
Suggested That Park and Weather Observatory Be Named for Virginia’s Most Famous Scientist and Founder of System of Forecasts of Climatic Conditions.
Proposing a change in the name of Chimborazo Park, on Broad Street, east of Thirty-second, to “Maury Park,” in honor of Commodore Matthew F. Maury, the further suggestion is made that the United States government be requested to name the weather station, for which it is now asking a site, to “Maury Observatory,” in recognition of the services to the nation of the distinguished scientist and geographer. The suggestion is made by a statement issued yesterday by Preston Cocke, a well-known Richmond lawyer, who has made himself familiar with the services rendered by Maury to the nation as a scientist and to the Confederacy as commodore of the first ironclad navy of the world.
In support of the proposed change, Mr. Cocke points out the inappropriateness of the present name, the change recently of Reservoir Park to honor William Byrd, and the naming of other parks and city wards after distinguished Virginians. Mr. Cocke says:
Make It “Maury Park.”
“As the business associations of this city, ably seconded by the daily papers, have exhausted the arguments in favor of the City Council granting to the Federal government the exact site which the government desires for its weather station, it is needless to repeat those arguments here. But, believing that if some additional argument of new inducement could be offered it might influence the Council to accede to the government’s request, I have, after much consideration, determined to make the following suggestion, which I feel confident, will meet with the approval of the public; and which, it is to be hoped, will meet with that of the Council.
“The suggestion is that the Federal government be requested to name the Richmond weather station of observatory the “Maury Observatory,’ after Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury. This would be a graceful act on the part of the United States government; and would be in line with President Taft’s policy of complete and substantial reconciliation of the North and South. But whether the Federal government does or does not grant this request, the further suggestion is made that the name of ‘Chimborazo Park’ be changed to that of ‘Maury Park,’ so that our weather observatory will at least be located in a park which has the name not only of Virginia’s greatest scientist, but of the originator of the weather service in the United States.
Why He Deserves Honor.
“That Commodore Maury was a Virginian of Virginians goes without saying. But it is worthy of note that his first Colonial ancestor settled here as early as 1665; so that he was truly ‘to the manner born.’
“The Maury was the greatest scientist of his native State, if not of his country, is proved by reference to the opinions of those who were in a position to judge of his capacity and attainments.
“in the early fifties, Maury completed his ‘Wind Charts and Sailing Directions,’ which shortened the average voyage of sailing vessels about 15 per cent., and saved many millions of dollars annually to the merchant marine of this country. Several years after that, he was spoken of at a meeting of distinguished scientists in London as the ‘Great American Philosopher of the Seas.’ (Maury’s Life, page 57.)
“So valuable were Maury’s services to his country, that, in 1851, President Fillmore commented on them in his annual message to Congress. In 1855, the Secretary of the Navy states that Maury’s ability and enthusiasms in the cause in which he had been engaged, has not only added to the honor of his country, but has saved millions of dollars to his countrymen.’ And about the same time, the Senate of the United States proposed to show its high appreciation of his services to the world by voting him a handsome sum of money. (Maury’s Life, pages 59 to 63.)
“Maury’s ‘Wind Charts and Sailing Directions’ formed the basis of his ‘Physical Geography of the Sea,’ an entirely original work, which the great scientist Humboldt pronounced ‘one of the most charming and instructive books in the English language.’ Humboldt also declared that Maury ‘had founded a new science.’ (Page 71.)
“Maury’s views as to the great Atlantic cable were adopted by its promoters. For in 1858, when it had proved a success, Cyrus W. Field said: ‘Maury furnished the brains, England gave the money, and I did the work.’ (New Electric Magazine, July, 1870.)
Some Other Services.
“But these services, great and valuable as they have proved to be to mankind, were not at all that Maury rendered to his country. About 1854, after he had mapped out the safest and shortest routes of ocean travel, almost with the precision of an engineer who lays off the great overland highways, he turned his attention to the meteorology of the American continent.
“Maury’s chief object in making weather predictions was for the benefit of agriculture. And as the farmer was to be the chief beneficiary, he, like the individual sea captains who furnished the data for the great ocean charts, was to take his observations with a few simple weather instruments furnished by the government, and report them to the central station by telegraph. While his plan was not so comprehensive or scientific as that finally adopted by the Federal government; yet it was the genesis of our present Weather Bureau. And to this system of weather reports Maury proposed to add a system of crop reports, thus giving the farmers much additional, valuable information.
“In proof of Maury’s being the originator of a Meteorological Department for the United States government, reference is made to the journal of the fourth meeting of the United States Agricultural Society (about 1855). Also to the report of the United States Senate, Committee on Agriculture in 1857, in support of Maury’s plan. Also to the records of the Meteorological Congress in Brussels in 1853. (Maury’s Life, pages 76 to 81.)
Origin of Weather System.
“In further proof of this fact, shortly after Maury’s death, E. P. Dorr, of Buffalo, N. Y., former president of the Lake Board of Underwriters, wrote Maury’s family giving the history of the origin of the present system of weather reports. In that letter the writer says:
“‘The late M. F. Maury was the originator in design and detail in all its parts, of the present system of meteorological observations now so generally taken all over the country.’ (Maury’s Life, page 94.)
“Again in December, 1880, Senator Vest, of Missouri, stated in the Senate of the United States that,
“‘The whole signal service of this country originated with the navy, not with the army. The man who commenced it, in whose brain it first had existence, was M. F. Maury.’
“ Now while the question of Maury’s being entitled to the sole or even the chief credit of originating the present weather system of this country is disputed, yet the conspicuous services rendered by him in this branch of scientific work, especially when taken in connection with his undisputed services as a naval officer in charting the oceans, certainly give him a sufficient claim upon the Federal government to have one weather station, out of about seventy-five, and that in his native State, named for him, as a monument to the great and unremunerated services rendered to his country and to the world. But be this as it may, the capital city of Virginia should not hesitate to pay the small tribute suggested to the memory of so great a man as Commodore Maury, especially as there is no monument, save a simple block of granite on his grave, to had down his memory to posterity.
“As the beautiful park, in which it is proposed to erect the weather observatory, has, for some years, gone by the name of Chimborazo, long usage of that name may be urged as a reason for retaining it. If such an objection should be raised, many satisfactory reasons could be given for the change, a few of which will be mentioned.
“What significance is there in naming a hill in North America, with a sea-level altitude of some 200 feet, for a mountain peak of the Andes in South America, always snow-capped, with an altitude of over 20,000 feet? We had far better utilize such an attractive spot by perpetuating the name and deeds of a great man who belonged to us, rather than to retain an entirely inappropriate geographical name.
“Again, the city has, in honor to its founder, William Byrd, second, changed the appropriate name of ‘Reservoir Park’ to that of ‘William Byrd Park.’ The citizens have gladly accepted the new name, in order to pay a tribute to a distinguished Virginia, though his name and deeds are only known locally, while Maury’s name is known and honored throughout the civilized world.
“Again, the city has recently abandoned the name of ‘Jackson’ for one of its wards, and has substituted that of ‘Henry’ for it. This change has also been gladly accepted by the citizens.
“Again, the city has paid its tribute to the memory of Virginia’s greatest soldier, Lee; her greatest jurist, Marshall, and her greatest Statesmen, Jefferson, Madison, Henry and Monroe, in naming her parks and wards; yet her greatest scientist has, to this day, received no tribute to his memory from the capital of his native State.
“And finally, what could be more appropriate than to christen a spot of Virginia mother earth with the name of the son, who has, as a man of science, reflected more honor on her in that capacity than any other son born to her in her life of 300 years?”