Kelli Huggins with the Chemung Valley History Museum explains what Clum’s invention actually is.
"This is the first storm finder machine, I believe it's called an aellograph"
According to documents, Clum’s aellograph worked very similar to the barometer that he invented in 1860. It tracks the change in pressure using mercury to predict the weather. Lower pressure coming in means more unsettled weather and potentially stormy skies. Higher pressure means sunshine is coming in.
While many of the pieces are missing now, in its prime, Clum’s aellograph and his barometers apparently could reach far beyond the Twin Tiers.
Huggins says, "It allegedly according to the records could track storms as far away as the Rocky Mountains."
His invention's reputation for range and accuracy also caught the attention of those in charge at the time.
"I believe he sold 4 of them and he sold one of them to the queen of England, he sold one to Napoleon the third, he also sold one to the US government," Huggins says.
With this great power of prediction, not everyone in Elmira in the 1860s took kindly to Clum, who came across as a meteorological magician.
"He was locked away for a week because people thought that he was crazy for claiming he could predict the weather. They either thought he was insane or perhaps a witch," according to Huggins.
After a week, doctors found that he was not insane and also his predictions were accurate. According to records, Clum settled in Elmira and married a war widow. After five years of marriage, her first husband returned and she decided to leave Clum.
As a man ahead of his time, society at the time viewed him as an eccentric. Unfortunately, his passion for inventions and science played a major role in his untimely death at a lecture in Binghamton.
"He was going to light a something that he needed before the lecture, that he was the only one there, no one else was there at the time. There was an explosion and iron shrapnel and um basically blew the back of his head off," Huggins states.
It's hard to imagine, but the machine Clum created, also was on stage for his death.
"During the explosion this machine was actually on stage. Even though the explosion killed Clum, blew out all the windows in the hall this machine was some how completely okay," according to details Huggins provided.
Clum’s friend eventually got a hold of the aellograph after Clum’s tragic death, eventually the same machine that witnessed the explosion was passed down into the Chemung County Historical Society.
Henry Clum is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira.
The Chemung Valley History Museum was gracious enough to take this out of storage for us to see it. If you want to research an artifact at the museum, it's a great idea to make an appointment.
Give them a call at (607) 734-4167 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org