I was recent­ly doing some his­tor­i­cal research on my house when I came across a 1910 “jury list” for my neigh­bor­hood. For some rea­son it also lists the res­i­dents’ occu­pa­tions. Some good ones:

  • con­fec­tion­er
  • for­m­mak­er
  • sash­cut­ter
  • organ­mak­er
  • har­ness­mak­er
  • lad­der­mak­er
  • asbestos [!!!]
  • press­man
  • com­pos­i­tor
  • mill­hand
  • heelshaver
  • shipjoin­er
  • teleg­ra­ph­er
  • floor­walk­er [??]
  • hat­ter
  • japan­ner
  • lath­er
  • rope­mak­er

I won­der how quaint our jobs will sound in just a hun­dred years.

January 4, 2014 January 4, 2014 history by Scott 2 Comments

1893 Map of Dana, Massachusetts As one of my more ridicu­lous spare-time endeav­ours, I am tin­ker­ing around with his­toric (1870, 1893, and 1908) maps of Dana, Mass­a­chu­setts. I’m try­ing to over­lay scans of the maps onto a mod­ern coor­di­nate sys­tem so, for exam­ple, they could be viewed in Google Earth. Under ordi­nary cir­cum­stances, I could sim­ply match up fea­tures like roads and rivers, which don’t change much over time. But in this case I want to rely heav­i­ly on lat­i­tude and lon­gi­tude because much of the land around Dana is gone.

Most of you who have picked up a USGS topo­graph­i­cal map are prob­a­bly famil­iar with NAD83 coor­di­nates. They are sim­i­lar to the WGS84 coor­di­nates used by GPS systems—but WGS84 coor­di­nates are always on the move due to mea­sure­ment error and (believe it or not) plate tec­ton­ics. The NAD83 cood­i­nate sys­tem is linked to the North Amer­i­can plate and defined with ref­er­ence to met­al surveyor’s bench­marks plant­ed in the ground all over the con­ti­nent.

Between 1927 and 1983, the stan­dard datum was NAD27. Now I knew that NAD27 was based on a sim­ple ellip­ti­cal mod­el of the Earth, and that the entire con­ti­nent had to be sur­veyed by hand in order to fig­ure it out. But until tonight I did not know that for 56 years the geo­det­ic cen­ter of the Earth was defined as… Meades Ranch, Kansas. (Appar­ent­ly the ranch is a nerd-tourism spot. With per­mis­sion from the own­ers you can take pic­tures of the bench­marks set into two rocks at the cen­ter of the world.)

Back to my ques­tion: what was the datum in use pri­or to 1927 when my maps were drawn? I still haven’t found the answer to my ques­tion. Per­haps the accu­ra­cy of sur­vey­ing at the time makes it a moot point. I’ll prob­a­bly have cor­re­late my maps by brute force.

Now about the land. If you haven’t been to Dana, Mass­a­chu­setts before, I’m hard­ly sur­prised. It doesn’t exist. The town was dis­in­cor­po­rat­ed, dis­man­tled, and shipped away in 1938 when the Swift Riv­er was dammed to cre­ate the Quab­bin Reser­voir. Today the area is closed to traf­fic and filled with about 412 bil­lion gal­lons of water (155 mil­lion gal­lons of which flow into Boston’s faucets every day). That’s not to say you can’t vis­it Dana today—but that will have to be the sub­ject of a future post.

July 19, 2008 July 19, 2008 history by Scott No Comments