Lantern slide of a solar eclipse over Australia in 1922, from the Province of Ontario Picture Bureau.

As we anticipate the arrival of the first total solar eclipse to be visible in our region in recorded memory, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at local press coverage of a previous event. The closest we have come to one in recent history was 99 years ago, on January 24, 1925, when the path of totality passed just south of Lake Ontario. It included New York, Toronto, and much of the south-western part of the province of Ontario. In Belleville, the eclipse was 97-98% total at 9:12 in the morning.

Google map of path of 1925 solar eclipse across North America.

[Path of totality (blue and red lines) in solar eclipse of January 1925. Image courtesy of Xavier Jubier]

The Daily Intelligencer of January 23, 1925, reported that "City folk are eager to see total eclipse," and noted that employees were being allowed time off in some cases. In the American Optical Company factory at 257 Coleman Street, Belleville, a smoked glass window had been installed on the south side of the top floor of the building. Employees would be able to view the eclipse in comfort and safety through the darkened glass.

Detail of a brochure with a photograph of the American Optical Company factory at 257 Coleman Street, Belleville.

[Detail of Belleville: The Gateway to Central Ontario brochure, 1923]

Local stores were reporting a big demand for smoked glasses, while other people were "smoking their own" by taking a piece of ordinary glass and covering it with a thin film of soot. "Ordinary brown glass is just as satisfactory," the newspaper observed. It also noted that some of the citizens of Belleville were planning to take a trip to Toronto, to get a better view of the eclipse.

Newspaper headline reads "Clouds prevent any view of sun's eclipse, Belleville people had to take phenomenon for granted, Twilight outdoors, became quite dark few minutes after nine o'clock. Belleville people had to take the eclipse of the sun for granted this morning. Dense clouds covered the sky in the early hours and by the time the moon first made contact with the sun, there was no chance of getting even a hazy glimps of the phenomenon. There were many disappointed ones, as city people had become intensely interested and many minutes were spent last night in smoking glass for the occasion."Sadly, the day of the eclipse was one of dense clouds over Southern Ontario. The specially smoked glasses and windows were not required. The January 24th newspaper reported that "It became darker and darker until at twelve minutes after nine, light had faded to a deep twilight."

Let's hope we have better fortune on the afternoon of April 8, 2024!