Posts Tagged ‘Groundhog Day’

The Groundhog as Weather Prophet

February 2, 2012


Groundhog Produces Conclusive Evidence of His Ability as Prophet.

Thursday of last week was groundhog day, and for winter it was one of the most perfect days we have had this season. The air was warm and balmy, the sun shone brightly, and his procine majesty had not the slightest difficulty in distinguishing his shadow. The next two or three days following were also ideal ones, and we fear that some of our people so far forgot themselves as to make remarks fraught with levity and volatility, thus exasperating the groundhog custodian of the weather.

Jealous of his time-honored perogatives, and incensed at the aspersions cast upon his good name, the groundhog lost all patience Sunday and sent down a blast straight from the head-quarters of old Boreas. Sleet and snow, with plenty of wind for musical accompaniment, made things mighty interesting all day. Trains were late, wires were down, and while the roads were not blockaded, traffic was hard and impeded. The blizzard was general, but did not last longer than one day.

It was sufficient to instill a wholesome respect for the groundhog.

Adams County Free Press (Corning, Iowa) Feb 8, 1911


As the weather forecast as indicated by the conditions on Groundhog Day is often rather rudely shattered by subsequent developments, we have thought it worth while to look into this matter with a view to ascertaining how the proposition has worked out in years gone by. While, of course, there is no scientific basis for the tradition associated with the groundhog it is quite a robust theory tliat holds to the view that if the sun is shining on February 2nd (Candlemas Day) and the groundhog can see his shadow when he comes out of his burrow, the weather will be cold and stormy; in short, that six weeks more of winter will follow. On the other hand, if the day is cloudy and he does not see his shadow, he remains out in anticipation of warmer weather and an early spring.

Whatever of coincidence might be revealed by an examination of a longer period is not known but it is certainly not very striking for the following tabulation:

In conclusion we think it can be said that even the most ardent admirer of the groundhog forecast must admit that it is not only unreliable but that, based on the evidence of the last eleven years, it has several times shown a strong reversal of form.


Title: Saward’s Annual: A Standard Statistical Review of the Coal Trade
Editor: Frederick William Saward
Publisher: Frederick W. Saward, 1921
Page 187 (google book link)


Previous Posts:

The Badger on Candlemas Day


Mr. Groundhog

Capt. Farrar’s Famous Groundhog Oration

February 2, 2012

Image from Historical Collections of Ohio, Vol. 1 – by Henry Howe ©1888

Farrar’s Groundhog Speech.

We have been asked for information concerning Captain Farrar’s famous groundhog oration, In reply we reprint the following from the pen of a writer in Cambridge, Ohio, who contributed the readable account to a recent daily publication:

Each groundhog day. whether the sun shines or not, brings back to the citizens of Cambridge, Ohio the old story of how “Groundhog” Farrar got his nickname.

Captain William H. Farrar, at one time a leading lawyer in Eastern Ohio, banker, philanthropist and several times Mayor of Cambridge, was sent to the Legislature back in the seventies by the Republicans of Guernsey County. He was expected to make his mark as a law maker, as he had ability and was an eloquent speaker. The following incident, whatever else he said or did while a member of the lower House, gave him newspaper notoriety from one end of the land to the other:

One of the biennial sessions of the Buckeye Legislature, somewhere around 1884-87, was noted for what it did not do. There seemed to be no leader of either party, and, in fact, there seemed to be no laws needed, few changes in the existing laws and the members, both of the Senate and House of Representatives, were equal to the occasion and loafed most of the time.

One day, while the members of the House were sitting around waiting for some one to ‘do something’ or move the usual adjournment, Captain Farrar arose and said:

“Mr. Speaker, I have a resolution which I wish to offer and I ask as a personal favor from my colleagues that I be allowed to make some remarks before submitting the measure.”

The voice from old Guernsey was like a bolt from a clear sky. Weeks had passed without a set speech on any subject and the eagerness of the members to ‘hear something’ and to finally get to vote on a measure was expressed by many of them, and the Speaker himself waived any objection.

Captain Farrar began by setting forth the duty of the members of the body. He told of how each man was violating the trust put in him by his own people. He declared that the state of Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Chase, Ewing, Hayes, Tom Corwin and a hundred other brilliant men was being made ridiculous by the House of Representatives, and the people who sent them to the Statehouse were disgusted. He then gave a history o’f the state in its territorial days; the settlement at Marietta,; the admission of Ohio to the Union in 1803; the part the Buckeye State had taken in national politics and what she had done in the War of the Rebellion. By this time he had spoken almost four hours, and as he sat down he asked leave to continue the following day.

Members approached him after his long speech and asked him what his object was. He only informed them that he would not discuss his speech.

The following day found every member in his seat. The newspapers had printed long accounts of the splendid flow of oratory, and this drew a crowd to the galleries. No one knew what the Guernsey member had up his sleeve, but they felt that something was going to happen. The Captain arose promptly, and, picking up his historical talk of the day before, issued forth such a flow of oratory as had seldom been heard in the Capitol. His eloquence caused profound silence, and there were no interruptions from ‘the other side.’

The second day’s session was brought to an end and the members were as much at sea as on the previous day. There was eloquence, but no argument. What was Farrar driving at? Were the Supreme Court members to be impeached? Was there treason somewhere? * No one knew. There was no question brought up which could call forth a denial from his opponents. There was a great mystery, and no one could fathom it

That night party leaders were summoned from Cincinnati, from Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo. A delegation from Cambridge was hurried to Columbus to find out what was going to happen. Their representative had talked for two days and had not finished!

The third day found a great crowd in the Assembly Hall. The Senate met and immediately adjourned. The members crowded into the House. The galleries were packed almost to suffocation, and Captain Farrar arose.

Several long, uninteresting decisions by the Supreme Court were read; long lists of prices of coal, wool, wheat, etc., were read. War stories were told and sketches were given of illustrious Americans. Weakened by the awful strain and so hoarse he could scarcely speak, he stopped for a moment, then, taking his bill from his inside coat pocket, concluded as follows:

“And now, Mr. Speaker, having covered the points I think necessary, I submit, for an immediate vote of the House, a bill which urges that Groundhog Day be set back from February 2d to January 2d, so that we may have an earlier spring.”


Title: Ohio archaeological and historical quarterly, Volume 12
Author: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society
Publisher: Published for the Society by A.H. Smythe, 1903
Pages 331-333 (google book link)

Mr. Ground Hog

February 2, 2011

A Disseminator of Poison.

Henry Hoglot. — So ye think ole Alvin ought ter be expelled from our society? What’s he been doin’?

Samuel Stubble. — Why, he’s a infidel!

Henry Hoglot. — Infidel! What’s that? What does an infidel do?

Samuel Stubble. — He don’t believe in anything. Now, ole Alvin said las’ Fall that the cornhusk an’ hog-melt theories fer prognosticatin’ hard Winters was all  bosh; then he said that a man might as well grub up briers in the light of the moon as in the dark. But the last time I saw him he fairly put the cap-sheap on the shock.

Henry Hoglot. — Do tell! What id the blamed fool say?

Samuel Stubble. — Why, he said that a woodchuck would no more think of wakin’ up for groundhog day than he would for Sunday school!

Portsmouth Herald (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) Feb 21, 1899


On Groundhog day once more we might firm resolve to live aright. The groundhog is our boast and pride, and we should let him be our guide; our imitation he deserves, so let us mark his skillful curves and follow in his shining tracks and reach the goal or break our backs. He doesn’t shed the briny tear about the weather all the year; he lets the climate go its way unhindered; save on Groundhog Day; then he emerges from his lair to see if things be foul or fair. Just once a year he casts his eyes prophetic on the bending skies, then weather topics he forgets; he never walks the floor or frets. We human chumps, in heat or rime, discuss the weather all the time; we fool with the goose-bones half the day, and when we put those traps away, we study Foster or Irl Hicks, or almanacs or fiddlesticks. This waste of time is most absurd; the groundhog is a wiser bird.

The Newark Advocate (Newark, Ohio) Feb 2, 1912



…The Day When the Weather Will be Determined.

Groundhog….will be regarded as a prognosticator of the weather for 40 days following. It is said that if this dweller of the earth comes forth into the light of bright sunshine and sees his shadow, snow and rain will predominate, but if there is no shadow old Sol will hold sway. This superstition is based upon the old Scotch rhyme:

If Candlemas Day be dry and fair,

The half o’ winter’s to come and mair;

If Candlemas Day be wet and foul,

The half o’ winter’s gane at Yule.

The News (Federick, Maryland) Jan 31, 1903

The Badger on Candlemas Day

February 2, 2010

Mr. Groundhog Saw Shadow So Winter Remains 6 Weeks

So Believers In Old Saying Declare: “Tommyrot” Replies Weather Bureau When Asked What It Thinks About Things.

Mr. Groundhog could have seen his shadow at several different times in Edwardsville today, had he been a careful observer. It wouldn’t have been very much of a shadow, it’s true, but a shadow’s a shadow, regardless.

So believers in the story about Mr. Groundhog are convinced that he will return to his burrow and that we’re in for six weeks more of winter weather. Had he failed to see the shadow, the believers assert, spring would be here immediately.

While a limited area in west Missouri and east Kansas had a heavy fall of snow and no sun today, Groundhogs could see their shadows in virtually all other sections of the nation, the U.S. Weather Bureau reported.

Regardless of whether the little Groundhog stays in or out of his hole, he will find his ability as a weather forecaster under heavy fire by scientists and the Weather Bureau.
As far as the Weather Bureau is concerned, the Groundhog tradition is all “tommyrot.”

The only way weather can be forecast is by advance information on clouds, air currents and wind directions, the bureau says. And where’s a Groundhog to get that?
Anyway the tradition is an old one originating centuries ago in Germany. February 2 also is Candlemas Day, being the 40th day after the birth of Christ, on which, according to levitical rules, the purification of the Mother and the presentation of the Son to the church should occur.

As Candlemas Day was regarded as the half of winter, it became everywhere a great day for weather forecasting. In Germany two proverbs developed from Candlemas Day prognosticians:

“The shepherd would rather see the Wolf enter his stable on Candlemas Day than the sun.”

“The Badger peeps out of his hole on Candlemas Day and when he finds snow walks aboard; but if he sees the sun shining he draws back into his hole.”

The superstition of the Badger on Candlemas Day came to America with early German pioneers. But as the Badger, even in its distinctive American variety, is little known east of the Mississippi river, the fable was transferred to the Woodchuck or Groundhog and to farmers of the middle west Candlemas Day became Groundhog day.

And as the Groundhog is a Woodchuck, it all leads back to the debatable question of:

How much weather would a Woodchuck forecast,
If a Woodchuck could forecast weather?

Edwardsville Intelligencer (Edwardsville, Illinois) Feb 2, 1929

The Groundhog Story.

February 2, or Candlemas Day, was a favorite holiday, marked by public gayety and ceremonies in Europe during the Middle Ages. It is still marked there by the closing of banks and offices, but not otherwise, outside of the reading of Church services. In the Church Calendar it is known as the Feast of Purification of the Virgin, and was first instituted by Pope Sergios about the year 684 A.D. The popular name of the day is derived from the early custom of lighting up churches with candles and carrying these in procession on this festival.

As to the weather superstition that gives to Candlemas the name of “groundhog day,” that is a world wide fable. In Germany it is the badger that breaks his winter nap on this day to essay the thankless task of weather prophecy; in France and Switzerland it is the marmot; In England the hedgehog. — The Housekeeper.

Portsmouth Herald (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) Feb 3, 1909


Otherwise Known Throughout the Country as Ground Hog Day.

February 2 is a much named day. It is Candlemas Day, Purification of the Virgin Mary Presentation of Christ in the Temple and colloquially in England the Wives’ Feast, but the name that is possibly most familiar to us is Groundhog Day. The celebration of Candlemas is observed in the Angelican, Roman, Greek and Lutheran churches, its principal feature being the distribution of candles and a procession of lighted ones. It is more than probable that it is from this custom that the name Candlemas Day originated. Some authorities claim that the institution of hte feast antedated the manner of celebrating it, claiming that this festival was first observed in 542, during the reign of Justinan, whereas the first procession of lighted candles did not occur until the seventh century. Another authority while giving the honor of originating the celebration of the day to Justinian, says Pope Gelasius, in the latter part of the fifth century, had the first procession of lighted candles. The ceremonies of Candlemas Day in England have been very much modified since the time of the Reformation. an order of Council, passed in the second year of the reign of Edward VI., abolished the candle carrying in that country. At Rome, however, quite late in our century, the candles were blessed and distributed with much pomp and ceremony, accompanied by a great procession of ecclesiastics.

Unlike the majority of weather prognostications taken, as is a usual custom, from these set days, Candlemas weather signs go by contraries. Fine weather betokens a continuance of winter and cold days, while an inclement day is a sure promise of an early spring and bright summer. Our well-known name, particularly among our rural and foreign population of Groundhog Day for the second of February, comes from an old proverb the early Germans brought to America from their Fatherland, that “the badger peeps out of his hole on Candlemas Day, and when he finds snow shining he draws back into his hole.” East of the Mississippi the badger is scarce and little known, so the farmers transferred the mantle to the woodchuck, or ground-hog.

Portsmouth Herald (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) Aug 19, 1899


Discussion of the Weather Brings Up a Host of Recollections to Two Old Timers. — Mr. Isaac Baker and the Ground Hog Recalled.

Looking around for an item and seeing quite a large crowd on the South Side, we made inquiry and found that the excitement was in relation to the ground hog.

“What is ground hog day?” asked one.

“Well,” said another, “ground hog day was formerly called Candlemas Day. This day, which occurred on the 2d day of February, was observed by the early churches with great pomp and ceremony. The 2d of February was then the last day of the year, according the old calendar, and on that day immense processions would move with candles, as the masses then believed that the candles would keep away evil spirits. So that the 2d day of February has been observed from the time of hte Romans down to the present day, as the regulator of the weather. The Scotch used to say that a fair Candlemas Day meant a long winter. They used to sing —

If Candlemas be fair and clear

There’ll be two winters in a year

In Germany, France and England they noticed certain animals that would come out on that day, and if it was bright enough to see their shadow they would go back and stay for weeks. The Germans watched the badger, the French, the marmot, the English, the hedge hog, and the Americans the ground hog. My friend, I.W. Baker, used to express his surprise that people were so superstitious about his hogship, and at last he got to joking with the farmers about the ground hog. His jokes then got in the newspapers, and since then there’s no name mentioned in Licking county as much on ground hog’s day as Baker’s. Isaac was one of the most pleasant and agreeable men I ever met. He was a good conversationalist and always had at his tongue’s end a good supply of jokes.”

“Yes,” said another, “he was always a pusher, and a splendid business man also. He came here about 1833. I remember him showing me a blooded animal that he rode from Hardy county, Va., to Chicago and the Western States, and back to Newark, the entire distance amounting to over 2,800 miles. He was offered land in Chicago then which was a mere swamp for a song, and if he had but laid out two or three hundred dollars he would have been worth his millions to day. He kept a dry goods and clothing store where Ambach formerly kept, for twenty-five years. He used to handle the best horses in old Licking county, and sent droves over the mountains. I remember we used to have big times on New Year’s. Why, in those days many years ago, every house had its Tom and Jerry, hot whiskey punch and egg nog, and by the time we made our rounds we were usually jovial and happy.”

“Yes,” said the other, “I remember some gay sleigh rides we had with Isaac. We used to get up dancing parties and drove two, four and often six horses to a sleigh, and we didn’t care if the thermometer was away below zero, if the robes wouldn’t keep us warm we always took something along that would. We’ve had many a pleasant drive and dance in the old hospitable halls of the late Hon. Wm. Stanberry, and we always closed those festive scenes with that grand song familiar to all, “Auld Lang Syne.” I hear Isaac is still sell and hearty, in old Virginia. I would like to see the old gentleman again and talk over those happy old days,” and the old timer wiped away tears which would come at the memories conjured up, whether from happiness or sorrow, we did not know.

Newark Daily Advocate (Newark, Ohio) Feb 28, 1887