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Graphical Representation of Wilson Bentley's Work

Comments on Wilson Bentley's Work
as Portrayed in the Seven Figures

by Duncan C. Blanchard

I obtained most of the information required to make these figures from Wilson Bentley's notebooks. Since he gave the date each snow crystal photograph was taken, and numbered them sequentially from No. 1 on January 15, 1885 to No. 5,381 on March 1, 1931, it was a straightforward though laborious job to obtain the necessary information.

Number of Snow Crystal Photos per Year
Two of the most interesting figures are those showing the number of snow crystals Bentley photographed each year and the maximum number photographed in one day. As might be expected, both increased steadily as the years went by, indicating that Bentley was becoming far more efficient and taking less time to take his photographs. His best year was in 1919 when he photographed 338 snow crystals

Maximum Number of Crystals Photographed in One Day
The maximum number photographed in one day was on February 10, 1928, when Bentley, in a Herculean effort, worked throughout the snowstorm, barely stopping to eat, to obtain 67 photographs. He said that the storm, which had started the day before on his sixty-third birthday, was ". . . a birthday gift from kind Winter."

Number of Working Days
A working day is a day when Bentley photographed at least one snow crystal. Though the number generally was between 5 and 15 per year, the years from 1916 through 1920 saw a higher than average number of working days, reaching a maximum of 27 in 1916.

Average Number of Photos Per Working Day
Though the number of working days per year did not increase significantly from about 1900 until his death in 1931, the average number of photographs per working day did increase, suggesting that he was becoming more efficient in taking the photographs

Seasonal Snowfall (inches/year) in Jericho, Vermont, or Snow Crystal Photos/yr.
Though the amount of snowfall did not increase significantly over Bentley's lifetime, the number of photographs per year did.

Number of Photos Per Inch of Snow
Although the number increased steadily from 1885 to 1900, from then on the number showed large variations, from about 0.2 to nearly 3.

Articles By Bentley/Articles About Bentley
A number of interesting facts are revealed by this figure. A total of 103 articles were used in making the graphs, but I suspect that other articles remain to be discovered in old magazines and newspapers. Prior to 1916 Bentley published 30 articles, while nearly the same number, 31, were published after 1916. Of these 61 articles, 50 appeared in newspapers and magazines, while 11 were published in technical journals of his day, primarily the Monthly Weather Review. Of the magazine and newspaper articles written about Bentley, only 3 appeared before 1916, while 42 were written after 1916. This great increase in numbers after 1916 was a result of Bentley's fame spreading far beyond the borders of Vermont.

Much more information can be found about Bentley in my book "The Snowflake Man," published in 1998 by the McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company. If any readers have questions about these figures, or any questions about Bentley, they can contact me at my e-mail address:

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Jericho Historical Society
P.O. Box 35
Jericho, Vermont 05465 USA