Back in 1881, it would appear from a visit to the microfilm machine in this newspaper's library, city editors did not reflexively assign what we now call the "weather story" -- the pieces my colleague Mary Jordan, Ed Bruske and, in today's paper, Karlyn Barker are producing about this post-Labor Day heat wave.
This date in 1881 is of interest because it set a record for Sept. 7 that we're not expected to beat with the 100-degree forecast by the National Weather Service. On Sept. 8, 1881, the record for a Sept. 7 was reported in routine, brief items in both The Washington Post and The Evening Star: "Office of the Chief Signal Officer, United States Army, Washington, D.C.: Following are the observations of temperatures as officially made: . . . maximum, 104.3 degrees."
How did rank-and-file Washingtonians suffer through in those non-airconditioned days? Heaven only knows: there was no hint in the papers.
The top news of the hot day dealt with how the president was suffering through the heat. James A. Garfield had been shot at a Washington railroad station on July 2 and had been taken to the New Jersey shore resort of Elberton, near Long Branch, hopefully to recover (which he didn't). As the Sept. 8 Post reported, Garfield's "unusual restlessness . . . is attributed to the intense heat . . . Cooler weather is anxiously looked for. . . . "
The Star reported on the front page that two White House staffers, "John Rickard, one of the ushers, and Isaiah Lancaster, one of the colored men employed about the house," departed to join the entourage on the Jersey shore.
Meantime, residents of a Washington street above what is now Meridian Hill Park petitioned during the president's convalescence to name their street Garfield Avenue, which wasn't done. But a hospital on Florida Avenue -- merged in recent years into the Washington Hospital Center -- was named in his honor after his death, which occurred just two weeks later, on Sept. 19, 1881.
The big news of the day in both papers was that of the Potomac Regatta, a series of boat races that were run between Georgetown and Long Bridge, the present site of the 14th Street bridges. A map of that reach of the river dominated the front page of the Post for two days running.