Article Category Archives: Nonfiction

Fair or Foul, Part 3: Meteorological Observation Networks

In Flint, 1633, Chapter 14, Jesse tells Jim, “We need someone to organize a weather service. . . .” In Huff and Goodlett, “High Road to Venice” (GG19), set in 1634, Merton Smith of TransEuropean Airlines calls up the weather service and he has weather information from Rome and Bolzano (and it appears that at one point there were stations in Saxony and Brandenburg). By 1635, there is a weather observation network in part of Russia.

In parts 1 and 2, I discussed the meteorological instruments that can be made based on knowledge in Grantville. Now we’ll look at how those instruments can be integrated into an observation network in the new time line (NTL) created by the Ring of Fire (RoF) event in May, 1631.

This article will from time to time describe meteorological developments in the old time line (OTL). The historical perspective can help us understand how difficult it can be to win acceptance of new ideas and some of the obstacles our characters may encounter in trying to institute a weather observation and forecasting program.



Meteorological Knowledge in Grantville


None of the up-timers majored in meteorology, worked as meteorologists before RoF, or are identified in the grid as having amateur meteorology as a hobby.

Hence, formal educational exposure to meteorology is likely to be limited to a single course, taken as an elective. Meteorology, like astronomy, is a popular science distribution elective for non-science majors but such an elective is likely to be light on mathematics (see, e.g., Ahrens, Meteorology Today). Hopefully, one of more of the up-timer physicists took the more rigorous version for those majoring or minoring in meteorology. It is also possible that one or more of them, or of the chemical engineers, took fluid mechanics.

There are several up-timers with piloting experience in Grantville, and it is important to neither exaggerate nor discount their knowledge of meteorology. The logical starting point is, what would they have needed to know in order to receive a pilot’s license? In general, their study would cover the broad divisions of the atmosphere; the trends of pressure, temperature and density in the standard atmosphere, the relationship of pressure to altitude; the proper adjustment of (and causes of possible errors in) a barometric altimeter; Buy-Ballots law; cloud classification and (qualitatively) formation; measures of sky opacity; causes of turbulence; weather associated with lows, highs, and fronts; local wind and fog phenomena; and how to read a METAR weather bulletin, station plot, or synoptic chart. (PSA; Air Force Manual 11-203, Weather for Aircrews). But they don’t learn how to construct meteorological instruments, how to analyze observations and make a synoptic chart, or how to forecast (except in the most limited sense, as in recognizing the significance of towering cumulus or nimbostratus, or of a fall in pressure).

Naturally, in the course of flying, they will have an intimate opportunity to observe weather in action. An individual pilot with experience may of course have a very good feel for what the weather is going to do in their normal area of operation in the next few hours. But it is not knowledge that we can count on, and it is not knowledge that is easily transferable to others (or to distant places). The experience with aviation weather in the USA is only partially applicable to Europe (admittedly, ex-military pilots may have flown there).

The up-time pilots also received briefings from meteorologists, and there may have been some acquisition of some qualitative guidance (e.g., reference to omega blocking patterns) by osmosis. Again, relevancy depends in part on whether they flew in America or Europe.

For ship pilots it’s only a little different. Look at the weather chapters (34-37) in Bowditch 2002. Besides what we see for aircraft pilots, these talk about the Beaufort scale, about the safer and less safe sectors in a hurricane, and also about adjustments to weather observations. But they do not discuss forecasting, except in the limited sense that they mention the signs of an approaching hurricane (which I used in 1636: Seas of Fortune).

Looking at the pre-RoF holdings of Mannington libraries, the high school has Blanchard, From Raindrops to Volcanoes: Adventures with Sea Surface Meteorology; Dickinson, Exploring the Sky Day by Day; Neiburger, Understanding Our Atmospheric Environment; Chandler, The Air Around Us; Taylor, Weather and Climate; Reiter, Jet Streams; Berger, Can It Rain Cats and Dogs; Lane, The Elements Rage; and Sutton, Nature on the Rampage.  The public library has Allaby, A Chronology of Weather; Burroughs, Weather; and a few juvenile books on extreme weather.

Private library holdings are likely to be slim pickings; but it would not be surprising for a farmer to own a lay book on weather forecasting. My own library includes Laird, Weathercasting; Lee, Weather Wisdom; and Watts, Weather Handbook, and there are others of a similar vein.

The bottom line is that we are going to fall well short of what was considered adequate education and training for meteorological personnel (Draghici).

The odds are pretty good that the high school has at least basic weather station equipment: barometer, thermometer, sling psychrometer, rain gauge, weather vane and anemometer, and it might have continuously recording apparatus (mine did). An individual farmer might, too.  However, at present there are no personal weather stations in the Mannington area registered with Weather Underground; the closest are in Curtisville and Worthington.



Meteorological Instruments in Canon


In Fall, 1635, Peter Boglonovich’s weather station at “the Dacha” is equipped with a thermometer and a barometer (1636: The Kremlin Games, Chap. 65).

In December, 1635, the weather station at the USE’s Tetschen airfield has just a mercury thermometer and a crude barometer (Flint, 1636: The Saxon Uprising, Chap. 15).


The Meteorological Observer Network


While a single observer may make short term forecasts for his own location based on his or her own observations, multiday and regional forecasting requires a network of observers who can communicate their observations to analysts, who in turn communicate their “nowcasts” and forecasts to the public (or some particular segment thereof).

The network will be much more effective if there is standardization of the instruments, of observing methods (including observing time), and of reporting (terminology and encoding) of observations. This is to assure both a minimum level of accuracy, and consistency between reports from different locales or different observers. The speed and accuracy of communications are also important but will be discussed in a later section.

It is absolutely necessary that all observation reports include the date and time of observation. Synchronization of observations is tricky. In the 1850s Smithsonian network, observers were told to use “mean time” of their station. These could differ by several hours at the extreme western and eastern ends of the network. Standard time was initially created by railroads for the sake of timetables. In the USA, national observations weren’t simultaneous until the 1870s.


We can get some sense of how proposals for a meteorological network will be received in NTL by looking at how weather observations were made later in the OTL seventeenth century.

The first international meteorological network was created by the Medicis in 1654, and reached its peak level of participation in the period 1655-60. Observers in Florence, Vallambrosa, Pisa, Cutigliano, Bologna, Parma, Milan, Innsbruck, Warsaw, Osnabruck, and Paris participated at one time or another. The main stations were at Florence and Vallambrosa. The network was officially shut down in 1667 for political reasons—too close an association with Galileo—but the main stations continued operation until 1670.

The observers were monks (Benedictines or Jesuits) and followed a precise observational schedule (5-8 readings a day, covering both daytime and nighttime, but unevenly). The thermometers were “Little Florentine Thermometers” provided in duplicate by the network secretary, with one to be hung on a north-facing wall and the other on a south-facing wall. Observations were sent, daily or weekly depending on the distance, to the Grand Duke of Tuscany. (Given the communication delay, the network is perhaps best considered one for collecting climatological data.) The reports included the date, reading time, north and south thermometer readings, and “notes on the weather.”

In 1659-61, William Balle showed the Royal Society his weather diary, which used a tabular format to show the place, date and time of observation, daily temperature (“water glass”), pressure (“height of quicksilver”), and “weather” (e.g, “clear,” “gloomy”) (Vogel). In 1663, Robert Hooke read a paper (published in 1667) to the Royal Society, describing a proposal for a more elaborate tabular scheme for recording weather observations (Crewe). This had columns for recording the day and hour of the observation, the age and sign of the moon at noon, the direction and strength of the wind, the temperature, the humidity, the pressure, and “the faces or visible appearances of the sky, the notable effects, and general deductions to be made. . . .” (Egerton). Not only temperature and pressure, but also humidity and wind strength, were quantified. Hooke also proposed that weather observations be “made to a common standard” and collected internationally (Crewe).

While there were individuals who kept weather diaries in sixteenth-century Europe, they did not have tools to measure temperature, pressure, or wind strength. However, they could quantitatively report wind direction, as was done by, for example, Tycho Brahe and David Fabricius. One diarist who was still alive at the time of RoF was Karel starsi ze Zerotina (1564-1636) in Moravia (Pfister). In Britain, many of the weather diarists were physicians, clergymen, or landed gentry.

Some of these diarists made daily entries; others were more haphazard in their observing practices. For the meteorological network, we will need individuals willing to go out and take readings, even in harsh weather, on a daily basis.


For later networks, it is particularly interesting to note who organized (and paid for) the network and who the observers were, as this may provide some inspiration for our writers. The Meteorological Society of the Palatinate was organized by a politician-amateur meteorologist. It collected weather data thrice daily from 39 volunteers in eighteen countries, 1781-1792, but just for later study (Monmonier 18).

A network was established in New York State in 1825 by the Vice Chancellor of SUNY; it relied on observers in the 62 academies under state supervision, and these were given a standardized thermometer and rain gauge, and instructions for their use (39). The Board of Regents told them that they must submit meteorological observations before they could receive public funds (Fleming 19).

In 1837 the Franklin Institute successfully lobbied the Pennsylvania legislature for financial support for statewide meteorological observation. There was to be a set of instruments (barometer, two thermometers, and rain gauge) for each of the 52 counties, and a Philadelphia manufacturer agreed to supply them at $16/set. Standardization (the permissible deviation was 2%) proved difficult, as did shipping the instruments without suffering breakage. The Institute preferred to recruit, as an observer, “the principal of a College, Academy, or Lyceum.” (60).

In 1834, the US Navy ordered yard and ship surgeons—not captains—to keep thermometer and barometer records. The motivation was to investigate the effect of the weather on health (Fleming 61). In a similar vein, US army stations were ordered to keep weather journals in 1842 (70).

In the British network organized (1861) by the Meteorological Department of the Board of Trade, the observers were telegraph clerks, who weren’t paid for observing, but did receive instructions and standard instruments. Observations were made 8 AM daily, except Sunday (Anderson 112). Telegraphy was the department’s biggest budget item (114).

The Smithsonian network (1847-70) had several hundred volunteer observers who took measurements thrice daily and mailed monthly reports to DC. They fell into three categories: those without instruments, those with just a thermometer, and those who also had at least a barometer (sometimes also a psychrometer and rain gauge). There was also a separate, sparser telegraphic network. A word to the wise: the mail network generated far more data than the clerical staff could process (40ff).

In 1851, 47% of the observers had scientific, technical, or educational backgrounds, while only 8% were farm workers. By 1870, the values were 16% and 37% respectively (Fleming 92). While the Smithsonian observers weren’t paid, they enjoyed several perks: they could obtain free scientific advice and were given greater access to government and Smithsonian publications (88).

The instruments were provided to telegraph offices and exploratory expeditions; others could sometimes get them on loan or at reduced cost. Some instruments were broken during transit, and there is an instance of a thermometer stolen by Indians (86). Not surprisingly, there were observers who didn’t follow observational instructions or filled their reports with “hieroglyphics” (83).

In 1870, the telegraphic weather service became a function of the Signal Office of the U.S. War Department (49). The original meteorological network model was centralized; all observations were reported to the central office, and it issued any forecasts. In the U.S., the Signal Corps authorized the NY district office to issue local forecasts in 1881. Thereafter, more district offices, and even local stations, prepared local forecasts, and some even produced daily weather maps for posting at public places (53).

The military wasn’t very responsive to the meteorological needs of the farming community and in 1891, the function was transferred to the newly created USDA Weather Bureau (Id.).


Ultimately, of course, it will be desirable to have some automated weather stations for remote or harsh locations. Christopher Wren (1632-1723) and Robert Hooke (1635-1703) together designed, and Hooke built, the first automated weather station, the “weather wise.” The first working model is from 1669, but they continued to tinker with it. This contraption “made recordings at the Royal Society with trip hammers that made marks on paper to record wind direction, wind speed, temperature, humidity and pressure. Not surprisingly, it spent more time being repaired or developed than actually working. . . .” (Crewe). I have not been able to document other pre-twentieth century automated weather stations.


Station Bulletins and Plots.  Currently, weather observations (bulletins) are reported in one of several standard international formats so they are concise and can be understood without linguistic skills (Stegman). WMO’s SYNOP bulletin format for a land station is twelve four- or five-character code groups, and for a ship 15-18 (plotmanual). There are also (to name a few) METAR (for airports), TEMP (for weather balloons), and most recently BUFR.

At the analysis center this information is first plotted on a very large weather map (or a set of smaller maps) so that all of the station information is visible. Several standardized “station plot” formats have been developed in which the numbers and accepted graphical symbols are arranged in a predetermined configuration (plotmanual; NWSSSP).

It’s not very likely that these formats are fully explained in Grantville literature, but some kind of system needs to be developed in the NTL and the ex-pilots probably know more about the historical formats than anyone else in town.



Observations Generally


In part 1 (Grantville Gazette 72) I discussed measurement of temperature, humidity, and precipitation, and in part 2 (Grantville Gazette 73), pressure and surface wind speed and direction. But there are other meteorological variables of interest.

The observer may and should also report on the appearance of the sky—the percentage covered by clouds, the types of clouds seen, and their apparent rate and direction of movement. The vocabulary of clouds was developed by Luke Howard (1772-1864), and there are definitely books in the Grantville public and school libraries that illustrate the cloud genera (e.g., “altocumulus”). They are less likely to drill down to the level of species (e.g., stratiformis vs. floccus) or variety (opacus, translucidus, etc.) (Pretor-Pinney) but it is doubtful that these minutiae will be useful from a forecasting standpoint.

Observation stations may be on land or on the water, and with the right equipment they can make upper air as well as near-surface observations. They also be manned or unmanned (automated).

Automated stations require recording instruments (meteorographs). All must connect the sensor so that a change in the meteorological variable causes a movement of the recording element. Often some sort of amplification is necessary. The recording element must in turn produce a record: e.g., by causing a pen to move across or intermittently press against paper, scraping a smoked or silvered surface with a stylus, or causing a spot of light (natural or artificial) to traverse photosensitive paper. Finally, the recording medium is mounted on a drum that is rotated at a uniform rate by clockwork (MiddletonMM 6ff). Generally speaking, meteorographs have to be periodically recalibrated against the corresponding meteorometers.

Automated stations can be expected to receive maintenance visits only occasionally, and are likely to be used primarily in harsh environments where it is difficult for a human to live, and thus must be engineered with robustness in mind.



Land Surface Station Observations


On land, both natural features and manmade structures can affect the readings obtained by meteorological instruments. Thermometers, wind vanes, anemometers, and precipitation gauges must be appropriately and consistently sited, as discussed in the prior two articles. Another point to be wary of is that wind direction is reported relative to true north by meteorological stations and relative to magnetic north at airfields (WMO2008, 5.1.2).

Air pressure varies with altitude, and local gravity (and thus the weight of a mercury column) with both altitude and latitude, so it is very important that all barometric pressure measurements be reduced to mean sea level pressure before they are reported to the central office. It should be noted that the altitude needs to be determined by non-barometric means, e.g., surveying with level, chain, and theodolite relative to some reference datum. (There are complications in long-distance surveying that are outside the purview of this article. )

An interesting question is, how do you get weather reports from inside enemy territory?

First of all, you can have a mobile weather station that travels with your forces. It can be manned or automated. Second, you could drop (by parachute) an automated weather station into enemy territory (and it could double as a radio beacon for air missions) (MiddletonMM 271).



Marine Surface Station Observations


Incorporation of marine observations from the North Atlantic into the network will be very advantageous for weather forecasting for Europe, because in the northern hemisphere, frontal systems tend to move from west to east.

Marine observations worldwide will be used for determining prevailing winds (strictly speaking, that’s climatology, not meteorology) as a function of season and location, which in turn will make it possible to find more efficient sailing routes.

In this period, ship captains usually kept logbooks in which weather observations were recorded. Indeed, some navies and merchants marine required that such logbooks be maintained and turned in at the end of the voyage.

Taking this a step further, Maury organized an international conference in 1853 at which the participating nations agreed that “cooperating merchantmen” would keep a standard log in which they would record the time, position, pressure, temperature, and wind direction and strength (Moore 206).

While merchant vessels and even warships can report weather observations as they progress across the ocean, it was found advantageous to station ships in one place to monitor the weather. The first such “weather ship” was deployed in 1938, and the last was withdrawn in 2010. Wikipedia has a map showing thirteen weather ship locations in the North Atlantic. Typically, they spent two-thirds of their time at sea.

I think it would be hard to justify a dedicated weather ship in the 1632 universe. However, if the ship would also be useful as a radio relay station, that might shift the economics in its favor, depending on the value of the radio communication link it supports. Or perhaps it could also double as a lightship, if stationed in shoal waters.

Historically, weather ships were replaced by weather buoys. These were first deployed by German U-boats during WW II. They may be moored or drifting. Naturally, they must be automatic in operation.


Unlike the land observer, the nautical observer will likely be asked to describe the sea conditions. It is helpful to determine the time interval between crests. To do so, you go up to the crow’s nest, pick a distinctive mark (foam patch, clump of seaweed, drifting object) one or two ship-lengths to windward, and count the number of wave crests that pass under the mark within a set time from the first wave crest (AM3/2 p185). Obviously, this assumes that the mark is still or moving only slowly.

Determining wave height is tricky. If you are accompanied by another ship, you can observe the height of a wave striking her, relative to distinctive parts of the ship’s structure. If your ship is alone, then you go amidships and judge the height of the trough and crest against your ship’s reference points.

It is desirable to take the sea temperature. Franklin mapped the Gulf Stream in 1770. Knowing whether you were in it or not could make a difference of two weeks at sea for a voyage up or down the East Coast (Moore 77). Later it was recognized that average sea temperatures in the tropical Atlantic were relevant to predicting the ferocity of the hurricane season.

One complication is that the apparent wind (what is felt by the sails, and also by the weathervane and anemometer) will differ from the true wind if the ship is moving. If you know the true course and ship speed then you can calculate the true wind from the apparent wind. However, that will require some navigational advances.

The nautical observer may try to estimate true wind direction “by noting the direction from which small wavelets, ripples, and sea spray are coming” and the true wind speed by observing the sea conditions and correlating them with the modern version of the Beaufort wind scale. (NAVEDTRA10363, p48).



Upper Air Observations


Clouds occur at different heights, and by studying how clouds move, you can determine whether the air at high altitude is moving in a different direction than the surface wind. Espy, in his Hints to Observers on Meteorology (1837), pointed out how cloud movements could be used to estimate upper air winds (Fleming 61). “In the late 1890s [Bigelow] used cloud data from 140 telegraphic stations to construct three-level wind maps describing for various weather types (e.g., “New England Winter High”) the movement of air at the surface as well as among both ‘lower’ and ‘upper’ clouds.” He was systematic, dividing the country into 96 squares (Monmonier 69).

Forecasters also like to know the upper air pressure distribution. The upper air patterns are simpler (less terrain perturbation) and thus easier to use in prognosis.

In theory, mountaintop observations can also be used to supplement data from nearby lowland stations. However, the mountain disturbs the atmosphere and thus the mountaintop data doesn’t give a true picture of the upper atmosphere overlying the lowland.

Direct aerial observations of upper air conditions may be taken by unmanned kite, balloon, or rocket, or by manned kite (uncommon!), balloon, aircraft, or airship. (Balloons include “kytoons”, essentially blimp-shaped balloons with rigid tail fins. These lift like a kite in a strong wind—MiddletonMM 229).


Unmanned Probes. With an unmanned conveyance, there is no one present to fix a glitch in the instruments or to take readings at intervals. Unmanned upper air observations became more useful once continuous multi-variable recording instruments (meteorographs) were developed.

Until the meteorograph could communicate from the air, the recovery of the data was delayed until the vehicle returned to earth and was located. Middleton comments in “thickly populated central Germany a loss was exceptional,” but that even in Ontario, nearly three-quarters of meteorographs were “eventually” recovered (MiddletonMM 230). (Elsewhere Middleton notes that the recovery could take days, weeks, or even years—243.) However, even when the meteorograph was padded and its descent retarded by parachute, it was often damaged, perhaps beyond repair. Hence, their designers had to balance the competing goals of lightness, accuracy, robustness, and inexpensiveness.

Several expedients resulted in more timely transmission of the sounding data. I have already mentioned in the earlier articles how some meteorological instruments could report their readings at a remote location. When this was accomplished by electrical means, the sensor could be in the aerial vehicle, and the readout on the ground, connected by a very long electrical wire. This was called a wiresonde.

The next important development was the radiosonde (1927), the combination of a meteorograph with a radio transmitter (Brettle; MiddletonMM 243). A battery is also required, to power the transmitter. The transmitters communicated the data by means of (1) time interval between pulses, (2) Morse code, (3) variable radio frequency, and (4) variable audio (modulating radio) frequency (244). I would think that amplitude modulation was also a possibility. Middleton recommends that the transmitter have a range of at least 100 miles.


Manned Probes. With manned vehicles, the problems are that the height of ascent is limited by oxygen supply, a greater lift force is needed to support the weight of the observer, and the return to earth must be gentle enough not to injure the latter.


Sounding Altitude. At what heights do we need weather observations? Heights are often expressed in terms of the pressures for the international standard atmosphere; the earth’s surface is a little over 1000 hPa. The ENIAC numerical weather model relied on measurements at 500 hPa, where frictional forces are negligible and half the air mass is below you; that’s 18,000 feet [the mean height of the 500 hPa pressure according to the International Standard Atmosphere, but the true height can vary]. “The [pressure] level best suited for determination of convergence and divergence is the 300-hPA level.” (ISA 30,000 feet) (NAVEDTRA 14010, 7). The most common of the lower atmosphere plots are for 850 mb (ISA 5,000 ft) and 700 mb (ISA 10,000 ft). These constant pressure (isobaric) maps are contour maps in which the contours are isoheights (lines of equal height).

It is also possible to generate constant height maps in which the contours are isobars. Pilots of course will be most interested in the constant height chart for whatever is their expected cruising altitude; aircraft often try to follow isobars. In 1903, Bigelow produced pressure maps for 3500 and 10,000 feet (Monmonier 71).


Altitude Measurement. A general problem for upper air observations is uncoupling pressure and height. The most common form of altimeter really measures barometric pressure. If we want to generate maps showing heights at a standard pressure, or pressures at a standard height, we need a non-barometric method of determining altitude.

If the observation platform is tethered, then in theory this can be done by trigonometry if we know the payed out length of line (thanks to markings on the line or counting turns on the windlass) and the angle of inclination of the line.

An optical rangefinder might be a possibility. In stadiametric rangefinding you sight on an object of known size and measure its angular width. In coincidence rangefinding the optics combine partial images from two sighting points at opposite ends of a base line and you determine the distance by bringing the images into coincidence. Stereoscopic rangefinders are similar, but there are two eyepieces instead of one. In any case, the aerial observer must have a well-defined object to sight on, preferably close to directly below the vehicle so you are measuring the vertical distance. Or the ground observer must sight on the aerial platform, but then you need to have a way to synchronize the altitude and pressure measurements.

Another approach (used historically on German airships, see Dick) is to drop an object and time its fall. This worked only over water, where the splash could be observed. Note that dropping anything is like dropping ballast and on a balloon or small airship may result in a significant height change, so take the readings before you make the drop. You also need an accurate timer.

All optical methods are of course dependent on atmospheric clarity and adequate lighting. Searchlights were used with the “splash” method at night.

The sonar altimeter measures the time it takes for a sound emitted by the observing platform to bounce off the earth and return. A primitive sonar altimeter, the Echolot, was used on the ZR3 in 1925 (Draper 6) and on the Graf Zeppelin. The sound source was “a gun, loaded with a blank cartridge, . . . fired downward through a sleeve in the control car.” On the Hindenburg, the sound source was a compressed air siren ( A whistle and megaphone have also been used.

The first sensor was a carbon powder microphone; the listener watched a metronomic timer and stopped it when he heard the sound (Draper 7). On the Graf Zeppelin, the sensor was “a bouncing type of light indicator” that would vibrate in response to the echo (Dick). The bouncing light was produced by a rotating mirror, and when a sound was received by a carbon microphone, the reed of an electromagnetic oscillograph was excited and moved a lens, deflecting the light (Draper 56). In a later version, the echo striking the microphone caused an electromagnet brake to stop the rotation (57).

It is possible to imagine a completely automated device that can be placed on an unmanned platform, and perhaps even records the transit time alongside the barometric pressure.

The sound must be sharp and shortly defined so that at low altitudes the echo is not confused with the generating sound. The echo must be louder than the vehicle noise; this is more of a problem for aircraft than airships or balloons. Absorption and spreading losses limit the sensible upper altitude (but the louder the sound source, the better). A typical upper limit is 800 feet for cruising airplanes, 1600 for gliding airplanes, and 2400 for airships (Draper 84). The accuracy of the timer limits the accuracy of the altitude, given the speed of sound, an altitude difference of one foot corresponds to about 1/600th second. (I don’t know whether the accuracy of the early sonic altimeters was sufficient to warrant considering the effect of the variable density of air on the speed of sound.)

The same echo timing principle appears in the modern radar altimeter, but that senses the echo of a radio wave, traveling at the speed of light, and thus requires much more sophisticated engineering. I will leave it to others to predict when this will appear in NTL. (Laser and GPS altimeters are even more remote prospects.)

Before leaving the subject of altitude measurement, I would comment that as long as the vehicle remains below cloud level, it is possible that its height could be measured from ground stations, by the combination of optical measurements and trigonometry. Two ground observers could be stationed at the ends of a much longer baseline than that possible on the vehicle, and thus the rangefinding would be more accurate.


Let’s examine more closely the various direct observation modes.


Unmanned Kites. In 1749, Alexander Wilson sent thermometers aloft on paper kites. “Each thermometer was bundled in strips of cloth to prevent the delicate instruments from breaking when they hit the ground. Each bundle had a slow burning fuse and a white ribbon attached. As the fuse burned through the string that bound the bundle to the kite, the white ribbons would surf the wind on a downward descent and signal to the experimenters.” (Robinson). In 1847, “a six-sided meteorological kite in 1847 [was developed] that allowed meteorologist to raise and lower weather instruments using a pulley system” (Id.).

For a time, kites were eclipsed by balloons, but it was found that tethered balloons were harder to control than kites, and free balloons might be carried so far away that their instruments weren’t recoverable. Moreover, kites were cheaper and could be flown in stronger winds (but not in a calm!).

Kite string was replaced with piano wire in 1887, and kite designs were modified for increased stability.  In 1894, a kite was used to lift a thermograph. By 1899, the Weather Bureau was able to send instruments up above 10,000 feet, with box kites attached to a main line at 2,000 foot intervals. The kite would be held at a specific altitude for 5-10 minutes to let the instruments stabilize. The line, up to 40,000 feet long, could be wound up by a steam-driven windlass, and a dynamometer was attached to the reel to measure the pull. In the early twentieth century, the Bureau had high-wind, moderate-wind (12-30 mph) and light-wind (8-10 mph) kites. There are illustrations of the Marvin-Hargrave kite (68-square foot lifting surface) and the two pound kite meteorograph in EB11/Meteorology.

In 1898, there were eighteen kite stations in America.The basic limitation of the kite was that its data wasn’t available until the kite was brought back to earth. Hence, it was finally replaced by balloons carrying radiosondes (see below) (Monmonier 74). In theory, of course, a kite could carry a sufficiently light radiosonde, but I haven’t found any historical instance of this. However, a wiresonde was used with a kite in 1917 (MiddletonMM 243).


Manned kites. Cody’s war kites were intended for military reconnaissance, and a Cody kite lifted a man to a height of 2600 feet, but I don’t know whether any kite was used to carry a meteorological observer.

Manned Balloons. In 1862, Glaisher took numerous meteorological instruments up in a 90,000-cubic foot balloon. (Moore 253). On his first ascent, up to almost 17,000 feet, he didn’t report any health issues, but on his third, he reached 29,000 feet and blacked out for a time. At 35,000 feet his companion managed to pull the valve cord. They descended rapidly (which is also dangerous) and made it back to ground (Moore 261ff). As information about ballooning diffuses out of Grantville, one can imagine that some down-timers will learn how to make a balloon without also becoming aware of the dangers of high altitude.

It is worth comparing these heights to those of the jet stream; the polar jets are at 30-39,000 feet, and the subtropical jets at 33-52,000 (Wikipedia). However, at 20,000 feet, Glaisher’s instruments began to malfunction.

Some manned balloon observers used a telegraph connection between the balloon gondola and the ground for communicating observations in near-real time.


Unmanned Balloons. There are basically two types of balloons used by meteorologists, pilot balloons (uninstrumented, but tracked) and sounding balloons (instrumented, and called radiosondes if they have radio transmitters).

Pilot Balloons. The use of pilot balloons was pioneered in 1909. The balloon movement was observed with a theodolite. Its disappearance into the cloud cover could be timed, giving an estimate of the cloud height, and the measurement of the balloon’s azimuth and angular altitude gave the wind direction and speed (Monmonier 74). There were about 75 pilot balloon stations covering the USA in 1933 (76).

The theodolite for land use is essentially a wide-angle telescope that can pivot on two axes and can measure horizontal and vertical angles. A special theodolite for shipboard use had a Cardan suspension to keep the instrument level, and was really a combination of a sextant and a conventional theodolite (Middleton 179).

If only one theodolite is used, the calculation of the direction and speed of movement of the pilot balloon is dependent on the accurate estimate of the rate of ascent (181), and this is the greatest source of uncertainty.

At first the balloon accelerates freely, but as its speed increases, air resistance becomes significant. The speed becomes constant when the drag force equals the buoyant force.

However, both forces also decrease slowly with the density of the atmosphere and thus with height, and not quite in lock step (since one is related to area and the other to volume). Hence, the rate of ascent is not quite constant. With some simplifying assumptions (note 4), the velocity is inversely proportional to the one-sixth power of the air density, which itself decreases exponentially with altitude in the troposphere (0-10 km) and more gradually in the stratosphere (20-50 km) (MiddletonMM 172; DennyWB; Yajima 2.100). Hence, the theoretical “equilibrium” ascent rate slowly increases. For a typical sounding balloon with a one-meter radius at ground level (Gallice), the expected rate for a hydrogen balloon is 5 meters/second, and is reached at an altitude of about 5-7 km. The rate increases to 5.5 m/s at about 20 km. (DennyWB).

However, there can be countervailing factors (see note 4), and in the tropopause, 11-20 km, the location of the jet stream, the ascent rate decreases (Gallice). For many years, the ascent rate was considered practically constant (MiddletonMB 172).

Two theodolites were used mostly in mountain regions (where vertical currents could be substantial), and they make that estimate unnecessary. The baseline must be adequate, say, one mile (186). Even so, the values are accurate to perhaps 2 degrees direction and 2.2 mph in speed at low altitude, and twice that at 5 km altitude.

Pilot balloons are preferably made of either natural rubber or neoprene. Natural rubber deteriorates as a result of exposure to sunlight, and neoprene doesn’t fare well in cold, so the former is preferred at night and the latter in daytime. By trial and error, it was found that the best colors were clear against a blue sky, red with broken clouds, and blue or black when overcast. For night flights, the balloon may be tracked by hanging a “Chinese lantern” (essentially a candle with a white tissue paper shade) 10-20 feet below the balloon (174). Larger balloons are easier to track visually, but more expensive.

A ceiling balloon is a small pilot balloon that is observed merely to determine when it disappears into the clouds and thus the height of the clouds. They are cheaper and therefore can be released at an airfield more frequently than a normal pilot balloon.

To obtain wind data from above the cloud base, pilot balloons could be equipped with a radio. Instead of using one or two theodolites, you would use one or two radio detection finders with highly directional antennas and a similar angle measuring capability.

Sounding Balloons. A “pilot balloon” provides information solely by being tracked from the ground. The next step beyond that is a “sounding balloon,” which carries at least one meteorograph. The Scott expedition launched (1911) meteorological balloons over Antarctica; these were one-cubic meter gutta percha balloons filled with hydrogen produced by adding calcium hydride to water. The recording (temperature, pressure) instrument weighed 70 grams, and was attached to the balloon by a device containing a slow fuse (15 minutes). The expiration of the fuse detached the device which dropped to the ground (without a parachute to slow it down) (Burton).

The development of compact, light, cheap transmitters and meteorographs led naturally to the evolution of sounding balloons equipped with radio transmitters (radiosondes); the radio then serves the dual purpose of permitting the ground station to determine the position and movement of the balloon, and of transmitting the meteorological data to the ground. It is advantageous to hang the radiosonde below the balloon—as much as 200 feet below—so heat absorbed by the balloon is not transferred to the radiosonde (Denny 100).

While unmanned, untethered balloons equipped with radiosondes are the backbone of the modern upper air sampling network, they are one-use devices (the balloons burst when ascending high enough) and radiosondes are expensive ($50 in 1960) (Edwards 217). In the modern USA, the recovery rate is about 20% (Denny 100).

Middleton suggested that one could design a “controlled altitude free balloon” that, like the Japanese “balloon bombs” sent against the Pacific Northwest in WW2, would have a pressure switch to drop ballast if the balloon descended too low and to valve gas if it ascended too high (196).



Balloons generally. While a sphere is the shape best able to withstand pressure, and has the smallest surface area for a given volume (thus minimizing initial weight/lift), it requires additional structure to suspend a heavy load, and when launched the balloon is only partially inflated and does not have its final spherical shape (increasing stress and drag). Therefore, in scientific ballooning, only small balloons with light payloads are spherical (Yajima 20). In contrast, a “natural shape” balloon maintains “the same type of shape from partial inflation through to full inflation” (21). Calculating the shape initially required a digital computer (22), but Grantville’s balloonist, Marlon Pridmore, probably has tables that establish the shape.

Zero pressure balloons (45ff) have a venting duct at the base and, after the balloon obtains full inflation, if there is further expansion some lifting gas will “overflow” (underflow) and escape by the vent, thus maintaining a “zero” (in practice perhaps 1%) pressure differential. This minimizes the stress on the envelope and thus permits use of very thin envelopes. However, venting reduces the lifting force and depending on temperature conditions may cause the balloon to descend. If it is desired to have a balloon remain aloft after sunset, one must consider that the temperature will drop, reducing buoyancy, and automatically drop ballast to compensate.

Super-pressure balloons (48ff) are closed (except for safety valves to forestall bursting) and once fully inflated, further ascent causes an increase in the pressure differential across the skin. While these balloons are capable of long duration flights, the problem was to develop a film strong enough to withstand a much greater pressure differential (perhaps 20% in the stratosphere) without greatly increasing the film weight (and thus the maximum altitude). One may also have dual-balloon systems (51ff) combining a small super-pressure balloon to control altitude (despite the day-night cycle) and a large zero-pressure balloon to lift the payload. These relax the weight constraint on the super-pressure balloon and would be feasible in NTL much sooner than a pure super-pressure system.

Balloons are usually characterized by weight instead of launch or burst diameter. The envelope of a ceiling balloon might weigh 10-30 grams; of a pilot balloon, 100 grams; and of a sounding balloon, 300-3000 grams. Small balloons may be made by dipping a mold into the latex emulsion, but larger balloons require putting the latex in a divided hollow mold and rotating it to achieve a uniform thickness (MiddletonMB 167).

The maximum altitude is set by buoyancy considerations and thus in part by the combined weight of the balloon and payload; the buoyant force decreases with altitude but the weight is constant. A balloon may fail to reach that altitude because it bursts prematurely. A partially-inflated balloon will expand as it rises. Folds in the envelope will disappear, and the envelope material itself will stretch and thin. If the balloon climbs faster than it can compensate for by volume change, it must either vent lift gas (“zero-pressure” balloon), or experience an increasing pressure difference between interior and exterior (“superpressure” balloon).

The stress on the envelope increases with the radius as the balloon expands, and the envelope’s ability to resist the stress is reduced as it thins. Modern natural rubber balloons of 300- to 1200-gram sizes burst at a film thickness of 3.3-3.5 microns. If the rubber density doesn’t change as the balloon stretches, the burst volume is directly proportional to the envelope weight1.5 and inversely to the minimum thickness1.5 (Yajima 155).

Larger balloons generally make faster ascents and have higher burst altitudes. A 300-gram balloon might have a diameter of 4.1 feet and a volume of 36 cubic feet at launch, and a burst diameter of 13 feet, bursting at 82,000 feet. For a 1200-gram balloon, figure 6 feet at launch, 28 feet at burst, and burst altitude of 109,000 feet (Kaymont Balloons). These burst altitudes are achieved with balloons made from pure latex (dust excluded!) and by very precise molding methods; in the 1630s we aren’t likely to do so well.

A typical scenario for a stratospheric balloon is 90 minutes from launch to burst, and then another 30 minutes for the parachute-borne payload to return to earth (McNamara).


Rockets. There is a model rocket club in Grantville. Rockets can be equipped with black powder “motors” and used to carry a radiosonde. A rocket can be prepared for launch faster than a large balloon can be inflated, and it will reach its ceiling much faster. It can also be used where you don’t want to handle hydrogen. It also can reach higher altitudes than a balloon could. But sounding rockets are much more expensive than a balloon of the same altitude capability (McNamara). Usually, rockets carry “dropsondes”—the weather is observed on the way down, via parachute, rather than on the way up. Weird tech note: in the 1950s the U.S. Navy developed balloon-launched rockets.


Airship and Aircraft. We can assume that the crew of the NTL aircraft and airships will be expected to make weather observations and radio the information to friendly ground stations.

Like ships, these vehicles will be observing the apparent and not the true wind. But airships, at least, can hover while they make weather observations.

Particularly with aircraft, we have to correct for aircraft speed. There is excess pressure at the nose and reduced pressure at the tail. There are corresponding adiabatic temperature changes. In addition, along the side there will be frictional heating. If the aircraft flies through a cloud, some of the heat will go to evaporating the liquid water present. The increased pressure and temperature lower the apparent relative humidity (MiddletonMM 236ff).

With both aircraft and airships, we will have to be careful where instruments are positioned so ship operations (e.g., heat from engines or burners) don’t perturb readings.

Sferics. Lightning causes static that can be heard on unused radio bands. Hence, as Popov (1894) demonstrated, a radio receiver can be used as a lightning detector.

Determining the distance and direction of the lightning strike is trickier. You can use several well-separated detectors and triangulate (with the observers synchronized so they know they are hearing the same strike).





Rossby said, “Communications are the alpha and omega of meteorology” (Fleming 96). In 1854, a storm heavily damaged the French-British naval forces off Balaclava. Le Verrier reconstructed the course of the storm, and realized that a telegraphed message would have given the naval commanders a day’s warning. This led to the institution of a daily telegraphed weather bulletin in France in 1858, and a similar system in Britain in 1860 (Monmonier 44).


Physical Delivery. Messengers, traveling by foot, horse, or rail, can deliver weather reports, making use of an established post horse or railroad station network. And let us not forget carrier pigeons, which were used quite effectively during the siege of Paris in the Franco-Prussian War.

Still, there are obvious limitations on the speed of communication. NTL early 1635 Russia has several weather stations, and Peter’s central station, at the Dacha, receives observational data from the others just once a week. The same messenger also carries his reports to Moscow, again just once a week (1636: The Kremlin Games, Chap. 65).


Optical Telegraph. In 1684, Hooke proposed communication by optical means; messages would be transmitted by displaying deal boards of various shapes and orientations (or lanterns at night), and received by viewing them in a telescope (Moore 26).

An actual optical telegraph network was built in France in 1793. It was from Paris to Lille, 230 kilometers long, with fifteen semaphore stations. The fifteen-foot-tall semaphore tower had two signaling arms, each of which could be placed in any of seven positions, and the post could be turned to any of four positions. The transmission rate was 1-3 symbols per minute, and one symbol could be transmitted the full length of the line in ten minutes. The first message reached Paris in less than half an hour. The network was expanded and “at the beginning of the 19th century, it was possible to wirelessly transmit a short message from Amsterdam to Venice in one hour’s time” (De Decker).

The advantages of the optical telegraph over the electrical telegraph is that there are no wires; hence we avoid the cost of the wires and their maintenance, not to mention the risk of communications being interrupted because hostile soldiers cut the wires or local farmers steal them to resell the copper. The disadvantage is that the optical telegraph cannot transmit in visibility-obscuring bad weather or (if it lacks light signals) at night.

It is conceivable that pyrotechnics or signal lamps would be used. See Cooper, “Life at Sea in the Old and New Time Lines, Part 4: Lights Across the Waters” (Grantville Gazette 71). I am not sure how visible they would be in bad weather, but of course the very powerful lights of a lighthouse are intended to be seen from several miles away, even under adverse conditions.


Electrical Telegraph. In 1843-44, Morse constructed a prototype 36- mile line from Washington to Baltimore (Moore 163). In 1848, in England, there was a brief experiment with collection of weather reports (wind, weather type) by electrical telegraph. At 9 AM, readings were taken at twenty-nine telegraph stations and telegraphed to Glaisher in London, who published them the following day in the Daily News (Moore 191).

Later that year, the Daily News decided that collection of weather data by telegraph was too expensive and in 1849 turned instead to railroad-borne mail (while we think of telegraph lines paralleling railroads, in England at the time, the railroad network was much more extensive). This time the station masters made the reports, and the railroads carried them for free (Moore 193).

By 1854, the telegraph coverage of England was much expanded, with less than 10% of the population living more than ten miles from a telegraph station (210). Readings were taken at 9 AM and by 10 AM telegrams were arriving at the meteorological office in London. By 11 AM, the morning reports were sent by messenger to The Times, the Shipping Gazette, Lloyd’s, etc (274).

In America, too, cooperation was sought from telegraph companies, and in 1858 the Smithsonian was receiving limited descriptions (weather type and wind direction) from thirty-two stations (Monmonier 41).

Note that high winds can bring down telegraph lines, and that geomagnetic storms can cause interference (as they did in 1859).

For the practicality of building NTL telegraphs, see Boatright, “So You Want to Do Telecommunications in 1633?” (Grantville Gazette 2).


Radio. Peter Boglonovich mutters to himself in fall 1635, “What’s the use of a weather station if it doesn’t have a radio?” (1636: The Kremlin Games, Chap. 65).

Radio weather reports are being received in Grantville as of March, 1635. In Offord, “The Vice President’s Plane is Down” (Grantville Gazette 26), the chief of police is told that the barometer is falling in Fulda and a “westerly front” is approaching Frankfurt am Main.

Insofar as the capabilities of NTL radios are concerned, see Boatright, “Radio in the 1632 Universe” (Grantville Gazette 1) and “Radio in 1632, Part 3” (Grantville Gazette 9); Carroll, “Marine Radio in the 1632 Universe” (Grantville Gazette 52).

What we won’t have. There are some observational tools that twentieth-century weather forecaster had that we simply will not have in the 1630s. These include ground radars (for wind profiling and rainfall detection) and satellites.



Weather reports. Besides communicating the weather observations to the analysts, the analysts must also communicate the forecasts to the consumers. If the information is confidential (e.g., for military or private economic purposes), it is likely to be encrypted, or communicated by more secure means (telegraph lines, heliographs or semaphore lines, or messengers), or both.

In 1848, the London Daily News began reporting what the past day’s weather had been in many English cities, based on telegraph- (later railroad-) borne reports (Monmonier 154).

In the U.S., naval stations began broadcasting abbreviated weather bulletins in 1914. However, the limitations of radiotelegraphy (broadcasts in Morse code) also limited the demand for the product. As radiotelegraphy was replaced by radiotelephony (voice broadcasts), the picture changed; in 1922, 98 stations in 35 states were voice broadcasting Weather Bureau reports and forecasts (Fleming 51).



Weather Maps. Weather maps are used both by meteorologists and consumers, but their interests differ. Meteorologists want to know pressure distributions, whereas consumers care more about precipitation and temperature. Both care about wind strength, but only meteorologists and sailors are concerned with wind direction. Meteorologists have to look initially at all reporting stations, whereas consumers just care about the weather where they live.

Edmund Halley plotted the trade winds in 1686 (Moore 141), but that’s climatology, not meteorology. Daily weather maps were proposed by Brandes in 1816, and he published a “geographic table” in 1826 (Monmonier 18ff). The first true weather map was that of Loomis (1843), and it was color coded to show the weather type (clear, cloudy, rainy, snowy, foggy) in different regions. There were arrows for wind direction, and dotted lines to show points of equal pressure (isobars) and temperature (isotherms) (Moore 145). However, it was not a contemporary report; it showed conditions from a year earlier. In 1851, Glaisher produced daily weather charts that were put on display at the Great Exhibition (Gribbins 257).

The first daily newspaper weather map (showing yesterday’s weather) was published in 1875. A “drill-pantograph” was used for “transferring lines from a hand-drawn weather map to a printing plate” (Monmonier 156). Newsworthiness was increased in 1876. when the morning papers began carrying maps based on the observations at 6 PM the evening before (157).

In 1909, 112 U.S. weather stations were printing their own weather maps, but 79 of them did so by mimeograph (164).

Determining how soon facsimile machines can be built is outside the purview of this article, but in 1877, Caselli’s pantelegraph was used to transmit a weather map across a 120-mile telegraph line (The Manufacturer and Builder, 9:88, 1977).



Choice of Observation Locations


Whether a station is placed at a particular location will depend on its economic and military importance, the sensitivity of the local economy and military operations to local weather conditions, the proximity of the location to the existing communications network (preferably radio stations, telegraph lines, and railroads, but roads and shipping lanes are also of interest) and to geographic features that facilitate communication (e.g., hilltops to emplace optical telegraphs or radio transmitters, salt water for ground wave radio), the relevance of weather experienced at that location to weather later experienced at more important locations (e.g., it is on a “storm track”) , and finally, politics (Is it in an area friendly to the government that is planning the station?).

For the USE, I figure that the backbone of the network will be weather stations associated with the railroad stations. A telegraph line parallels part, but not all, of the first railroad line. Other sections are served by radio. A railborne messeger can be the backup for either.

It takes time and money to construct railroad and wired telegraph lines, so to cover other parts of the USE, we must rely on radio or on optical telegraph. Magdeburg of course has radio, and by the end of 1635 or early 1636 I would expect radio transmitters to be erected at the major ports, such as Stockholm, Copenhagen, Bremen, Hamburg, Lubeck, Wismar, Rostock, and Stettin.  The provincial capitals and the towns with major universities are also likely to be part of the radio network, which will range as far east as Prague (and, further north, Riga).

Some sense for the disparate elements of the USE’s meteorological network may be gleaned from Carroll, “Time to Spare, Go by Air,” Grantville Gazette 28: “A military plane on a high altitude flight came on the air and started relaying weather reports from far-flung postal stations, ships, hams, and the very few airfields where there was someone who knew anything about weather.” Reports come in from the Netherlands, Nordhausen, Wolfsburg. Hannover, and further north. “Then Magdeburg Tower started transmitting reports from railroad telegraphers, which the air force co-pilot dutifully repeated. . . .” These observers were at Halle, Feuchtenthal, Eisleben, Aschersleben, and of course Magdeburg. This reveals that the Netherlands are part of the USE network, and the Trans European Airways stories show that the Venetian Republic, Tyrol, and Tuscany are cooperating, too.

As to the density of the USE network, well, it depends. Along the rail lines, probably every 25-50 miles; see Carsten, “Railroading in Germany” (Grantville Gazette 7). Further west, probably every 50-100 miles, depending on antenna height and station power. Further east, scattered stations 100-500 miles apart, communicating by sky wave.

It would be nice to know common storm tracks into Europe, and the location of the semipermanent weather features that affect European weather.

Van Bebber (1891) identified five tracks for low pressure centers over Europe:

I: from the Atlantic, northeastward across the northern British Isles to northern Scandinavia (Ia), and thence southeast (Ib), east (Ic), or northeast (Id)

II: from the North Atlantic eastward over central and south Scandinavia to northeastern Europe

III: from the North Atlantic south-east over southern Scandinavia to Central Eastern Europe

IV: from the middle Atlantic across the southern British Isles and southern Scandinavia (IVa) or northern central Europe (IVb) to northeastern Europe

V: from the middle Atlantic across France of the Bay of Biscay to northern Italy (Va) and then northeast (Vb) to Finland, east (Vc) to the Caspian, or southeast (Vd) to the Mediterranean.ßwetterlage

Weather diarists in individual towns may have some sense of the direction that storms come from, and it may be possible to piece together this information to postulate typical storm tracks, at least over the USE.

Stations in North America are probably not going to be especially useful for forecasting European weather. While weather systems do generally move from west to east, extratropical storms exiting North America tend to veer poleward, paralleling the eastern coast of Greenland and perhaps hitting Iceland (Wing).

The 2002 CD version of Encyclopaedia Britannica is based on the 1998 paper encyclopedia. The article on wind provides maps of world distribution of mean sea level pressure, and primary and secondary storm tracks, for January and July. Insofar as Europe is concerned, the July map shows storm tracks from Newfoundland to Iceland, from Iceland to southern Scandinavia, and from west of Ireland to northern England. The January map shows storm tracks from the Eastern US to Iceland, from southeast of Iceland to northern Scandinavia, from east of Scotland to the Baltic, and from southern England to Italy.

Obviously, that doesn’t show all possible storm tracks. Occasionally fronts come down from the pole, up from the south (dropping desert sand on cars) or over from the east. But there are up-timers who had a tour of duty in Germany or Belgium, and would have some relevant recollections of pan-European weather reports and forecasts on the news.

The EB2002 CD article on Europe briefly discusses the roles of the Icelandic Low, the Azores (and Bermuda) High, the (winter) Mediterranean Low, the Siberian High, and the Asiatic Low. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any reference to the North Atlantic Oscillation (relating to the teleconnection between the Icelandic Low and the Azores-Bermuda High) or the Polar Oscillation, which would have been useful for long-range forecasting. But perhaps the pilots in Grantville would have heard of them.

The British Isles would be a possible early warning line for storms approaching Germany from the west, but the political situation is problematic. Jack Carroll has suggested a station at Cape Clear (southern tip of Ireland). I would also look closely at the possibility of establishing stations in locations not closely monitored by the London authorities; e.g., the Aran Islands or the Isle of Man.

Stations in the Hebrides, the Shetland and Orkney Islands, the Faeroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland would be very helpful in monitoring the approach of storms to Europe from the Northwest. Additionally, a station in Iceland would help monitor the strength of the Icelandic Low (one of the poles of the North Atlantic Oscillation), and a station on Svalbard or Jan Mayen Island would help to monitor the Polar Oscillation. All of these stations would necessarily be radio stations and would most likely be reporting at night by sky wave.

Some Europe-bound storm tracks do emanate from the Atlantic, 45-60oN, 45-30oW, and head toward England or Spain (Wing). We would be dependent on shipboard observations (and hopefully the ships will accurately report their locations).

It would be nice to get weather reports from the Azores, the second pole of the North Atlantic Oscillation. However, these are under Portuguese control. While the Azores were the last part of Portugal to accede to Spanish domination, the overt resistance ended before the Ring of Fire.

It is conceivable that weather reports from Cape Race, Newfoundland will be useful, as the jet stream often passes over it, and we would want to have a radio station there anyway.

What powers other than the USE will do is even more speculative, but they would have less access to vacuum tubes for building continuous wave radios. They may still build spark gap transmitters, but those have shorter ranges, and their broad spectrum means that they can’t be close to each other without causing interference.

Still, it is clear that France and even Spain and parts of Italy have radio “telegraphers” by 1636. See Hunt, “Prison Break” (Ring of Fire IV) and a number of passages in 1636: Cardinal Virtues. Russia, too: Flint, Goodlett, and Huff, 1636: The Kremlin Games.

The difference thus is one of degree; the non-USE radio networks are sparser. It is possible that they will be supplemented in some areas by optical telegraph or even post horse messengers.



In part 4, I will discuss what the options are for weather analysis and forecasting.


1636: Land Radio Communication in Europe

In “Marine Radio in the 1632 Universe” (Grantville Gazette 52) and “1636: Marine Radio in the Mediterranean” (Gazette 66) we explored the possibilities for communication across salt water. We also considered, briefly, a few overland paths of special interest to the Navy and commercial shipping interests.

Here, we’ll turn the focus to communication across land. As before, we’ll concentrate on reliable Morse code message-handling at commercial speeds and not other radio services such as broadcasting or navigation.

In the previous articles, there were certain routes of particular interest, for which we could calculate power requirements. It’s much less certain where military units will operate in the coming land campaigns, so instead we’ll estimate the distances achievable with the power levels and antennas most likely to be available. Where to apply those capabilities must be left to authors and their topographic maps.

Due to the complexity of the subject, this will be a simplified treatment of some representative cases. It would be impossible in a brief article to give thorough coverage to the motley menagerie of physical effects by which a radio wave can propagate across land. Not only are there entire books on the subject, but a thorough engineering analysis of any communication route requires topographic maps, ground conductivity maps, and local atmospheric data which neither we nor our fictional characters have.

Beyond those limitations, canon decrees a decades-long hiatus in the high frequency ionospheric skip by which hundred-watt ham stations in our own era are accustomed to reach halfway around the world. That leaves our down-time friends with a remaining menu of propagation modes for which there is little published performance data in the high frequency region. It’s possible to extrapolate from the handbook charts, but the uncertainties will be larger, and some useful physical effects may be overlooked altogether.

Fortunately, our purpose here is not to achieve the accuracy and certainty which professional communication systems engineers are called on to accomplish in the real world. That takes shelves of reference books, adequate time to collect and analyze field survey data, and years of experience. Our objective is to offer reasonable guidelines for plausibility in science fiction.

What we can do, then, is examine the major workhorses among the many land propagation modes and run the numbers for some representative cases. Those results can suggest when our characters could plausibly get a message through, when they couldn’t, and when communication could become marginal and intermittent.


Overview, for the non-technically inclined reader


Grantville Gazette readers and authors come from a wide variety of backgrounds. A few preliminary remarks may be helpful to orient those whose first language isn’t tech talk.

First, the folks who are faced with setting up radio communication, whether in the real world or in our fictional universe, have a variety of goals that revolve around what reliable range is achievable with what means and at what cost. The tradeoffs get tighter if the station must be mobile; limitations on equipment size, weight, and antenna height affect range. And, all of this is a moving target. The bounds of what is technically and economically feasible will expand, rapidly at times, as the electronics industry and the national economy mature.

Second, radio waves can travel from place to place by several different physical mechanisms, called “propagation modes” in tech jargon. They often occur in combination along different parts of a single geographic path. Each mode has its own quirks. The details of how a signal becomes weaker as it travels further from the transmitter determine what range is possible using a particular frequency, transmitter power, antenna design, and station location. We’ll examine three major propagation modes: ground wave, free space, and sky wave. We’ll also look at diffraction and reflection. Whether to think of the latter two as separate modes is as much a matter of semantics as anything else. They’re separate physical effects, but in practice they generally show up as part of a path that’s otherwise free-space.

Third, the variables that radio specialists juggle are station location, transmitter power, frequency, antenna design, the height of the antenna’s supporting structure, and the surrounding terrain. Location can be a compromise between where the communication is actually needed, and where it’s possible to get a signal out past terrain obstacles. Power and frequency both depend partly on the transmitter technology (tubes, electromechanical alternators, spark gaps).

The very longest ranges occur with night-time sky wave, largely limited by our period’s quiet sun to frequencies below 700 KHz (wavelengths greater than 428 meters). Consequently, maximum performance requires very tall and expensive antennas, and high power to overcome the strong natural noise at such low frequencies.

Conversely, mobile operations favor the smaller antennas that go with higher frequencies, and operate mostly by ground wave and diffraction-boosted free space modes. Ground wave ranges decrease with increasing frequency, but not in a linear fashion. Free space ranges depend almost entirely on antenna height above surrounding terrain, and diffraction is governed by bend angle over terrain obstacles.


Where we stand


By 1636, Grantville’s electronics industry is no longer strait-jacketed by the dwindling legacy of up-time parts. In the last year and a half, it has crossed the threshold of sustainability. It’s now manufacturing all the components for a simple but practical tube-based radio communication station. Production is still limited, but growing all the time.

The main focus here will be on the performance achievable with that equipment. However, we’ll also touch on the fairly numerous fractional-watt “tuna can” transceivers made earlier from salvaged up-time transistors.

Calculations will lean toward the conservative side. The criterion throughout is a reliable and predictable communication service for military and commercial needs, when conditions are at the unfavorable end of their natural range of variation. At other times, signals are likely to be stronger and easier to copy.


Supporting technical information


The Terminology section of the original article in the series “Marine Radio in the 1632 Universe” contains a good deal of background information, which readers may find helpful to review. Two of the definitions are ubiquitous in propagation and antenna calculations, and worth repeating here:

Decibels or dB: A logarithmic way to express a power gain or loss ratio P2/P1


The dB form of expression is very convenient. Gains and losses expressed in logarithmic form can be added up algebraically, instead of multiplying very large and small numbers. Gains are positive, losses are negative. For example, an increase in power by a factor of 10 is +10 dB, while a decrease by a factor of 1000 is -30 dB.

Absolute power levels can be expressed as dB relative to some stated reference level, such as one milliwatt or the thermodynamic noise floor of a reference antenna.

dBm: decibels relative to 1 milliwatt

1 W=+30 dBm


Fixed versus mobile stations

One very convenient way to classify radio stations and networks is by mobility.

1636 is a little early for the industry to achieve the miniaturization and the high frequencies best suited to mobile-in-motion operation.

In the context of 1636 logistics, a reasonable definition of a “mobile” land station is one that can be transported in any vehicle up to a horse-drawn heavy freight wagon or a river barge, and set up in the field in half a day or less. “Fixed” stations would be everything else.

Mobility has a major impact on the practical size of a station’s equipment and the amount of radio frequency power it can generate—and indirectly, on the frequency bands and propagation modes it can use most effectively. The lower the frequency, the longer the wavelength, and the larger an antenna must be if it is to deliver optimum results.

There are degrees of mobility. For a wagon-mobile station, the height of a tall tree is a practical limit for an antenna structure, whether actual trees or guyed poles are used to support the antenna. Sustained operation at up to fifty watts would be reasonably manageable for this kind of station. Anything more than that would present some difficulties.

Five watts and a wire antenna would be more reasonable for a station that must be transported in a mounted scout’s saddle bags.

A likely practical limit for a major fixed station in this period would be a single guyed tower 150 meters high, with steam or water power to run the transmitter. Depending on the transmitter technology and prime power source, a kilowatt or more would be possible.


Signal types and technologies


We can also classify communication stations according to the type of signal they can generate and receive. That, in turn, depends on the transmitter and receiver technology.

Tubes, transistors, and electromechanical alternators generate a fairly pure continuous sine wave, a “CW” signal. This concentrates the power into the minimum bandwidth necessary to contain the on-off keying of a Morse code signal—on the order of 100 Hz wide. Since the amount of natural noise that gets through the receiver is proportional to the bandwidth of the receiving filter, a narrow signal helps in maximizing the signal-to-noise ratio.

The CW signal has no modulation other than the keying. It must interact with a tube or transistor oscillator in the receiver to generate an audible tone. Again, this helps maximize the signal-to-noise ratio by not wasting power on a steady carrier wave that contains no information. On the other hand, it also means that Grantville-made components are required in the receiver as well as the transmitter.

Large fixed CW stations would start to appear toward the end of 1635. They would grow over the next few years into the backbone of Europe’s new communication infrastructure. Once that backbone is up and running, a mobile unit (or one station in a mobile net) would only need to set up where one of these big stations can hear it. From there, it could dispatch a message anywhere the net reaches. Think of the fixed stations as the late 1630s information superhighway.

Spark stations could be built nearly anywhere in Europe using down-time skills and materials, and they could be built long before Grantville learns how to make tubes. Rick Boatright has suggested that enterprising down-timers will get busy bringing up local spark nets and relay arrangements as soon as the cheat sheets appear.

Unfortunately, a spark transmitter’s output is a train of poorly-shaped short bursts of radio frequency power that repeat at an audio rate. This results in a low average power output and poor frequency control, spreading its limited power across a wide bandwidth.

Complementing the spark transmitter, a crystal set doesn’t require Grantville’s manufacturing facilities, either. It can receive the burst-modulated spark signal, but it has both wide bandwidth and no amplification. It lets a lot of atmospheric noise through, and it’s not very sensitive.

Consequently, spark stations make much less effective use of their power than CW stations. They’re far from useless, but their effective range is nothing like that of CW stations of similar power consumption and antenna design. Worse, far fewer of them can operate in a given frequency band without mutual interference, because of their broad signals.

Most of the calculations that follow will be for CW, which is much easier to describe mathematically as well as much more effective. We’ll get to spark, though.


Suitable frequency bands for land communication


For a given communication need, the choice of band depends on a variety of considerations. For any propagation mode, some bands work better than others, or reach further than others, or require less power than others, or are easier to build equipment for than others.

By 1636, we can expect a first-generation family of simple tubes that deliver reasonable efficiencies at frequencies up to perhaps 15 MHz, at power levels from under a watt to a few hundred watts. That isn’t everything the communication services would like to have, but it’s enough to accomplish quite a lot. It will be a couple more years before the industry can master the design, materials science, and manufacturing of the more complex and expensive tubes that will open up the higher frequencies.

Electromechanical alternators top out at around 600 kHz, but can reach tens of kilowatts.

On the other hand, 500 kHz is about as low in the spectrum as we can expect the early builders to construct full-size transmitting antennas, even at the largest fixed stations. A standard quarter-wave vertical antenna for that frequency requires a 150-meter tower centered on a radial-wire ground plane 300 meters across. (The radial wires need not impede farming or grazing if they’re buried or elevated.) Such an antenna could be externally tuned down to 400 kHz or so and still perform fairly well.

To get a feel for the size of this kind of structure at such a low frequency, look at this picture from the Wikipedia article on antennas: Even this example is slightly shortened from optimum height, with a small capacitive top hat.

Below that frequency we’d have to accept the engineering and cost tradeoffs of shortened antennas, which are both more expensive and less efficient. This picture from the Wikipedia article on T antennas is probably at about the maximum height that could be built with wood lattice towers:

Many low-frequency antennas are a lot more complicated and expensive than that. See this example: They’re technically possible, of course, but not likely to happen this early.

The cost and real estate of huge antennas isn’t the only obstacle to the early use of the favorable propagation characteristics at low frequencies, either. The atmospheric noise rises very rapidly below 500 kHz, requiring much more power to be heard at the greatest potentially possible distances. It’s doubtful that such super-powered transmitters would be feasible or affordable this early.

Bottom line: in this period, the most useful frequencies lie between about 400 kHz and 15 MHz.


Propagation modes


Propagation across land often doesn’t lend itself to straightforward rules and calculations, because land isn’t a uniform medium. It’s not flat, the ground conductivity varies from place to place, and some locations are covered by lakes and swamps instead of low-conductivity dirt and rock.

Multipath effects are common. Signals can arrive at a receiver by multiple propagation modes, and along multiple terrain paths by the same propagation mode. They can add in phase, enhancing the signal strength by 3 to 6 dB, or add out of phase, causing deep cancellations of 20 dB or so. As the temperature and humidity distribution of the atmosphere changes, the arriving signals can drift in and out of phase, sometimes as rapidly as a couple of times a second.

Different parts of a single path often involve different propagation modes, making calculations complicated even where the detailed data exists to estimate path losses. This article will focus on conservative estimates for several fairly simple but common types of land paths.

As before, we’ll concentrate on propagation modes that can provide reliable day-in, day-out service at commercial Morse code speeds. Exotic modes that provide only sporadic openings are of interest to hams, but usually not to military services and businesses, unless an author wants to use a freak band opening as a plot device. (There are ways that can happen, especially in summer.) We’ll also leave out of the discussion potentially useful modes that would require hardware not yet available.

With the tubes and other radio parts expected to be in at least limited production by 1636, the USE and its partners could reasonably expect to exploit (or wrestle with) the following modes for land communication:


  • Ground wave
  • Free space propagation
  • Diffraction
  • Reflection
  • Sky wave


Ground wave mode


Ground wave is an interaction between a radio wave and the electrical conductivity of the earth. The traveling wave induces currents just below the surface, which cause it to deflect downward toward the surface so that it follows the curve of the earth. The path losses and power requirements are fairly simple to estimate with the aid of the graphs in the Radio Propagation Handbook. Land is much less conductive than salt water, particularly poorly conductive European land, so the propagation losses are far greater than we calculated in the marine radio articles. Therefore, the usable ranges are much shorter.

We can generally ignore topography for ground wave; it doesn’t have a strong influence at the frequencies where ground wave is usable. For that reason, ground wave range offers a conservative minimum level of performance that we can be reasonably confident will be available along any route, regardless of the intervening terrain. If the terrain is favorable, other modes may allow communication with smaller antennas and less power, but if not, ground wave will still be there.

Frequency selection for ground wave is a complicated tradeoff. The lower the frequency, the lower the propagation losses, and the greater the potential range. Unfortunately, the lower the frequency is, the taller the transmitting antenna must be to get reasonable efficiency and the low radiation angle needed to launch its power along the surface. And, the lower the frequency, the higher the atmospheric noise is, so low frequencies require more power to take full advantage of the superior propagation. In the OTL world, very low frequency ground wave signals have traveled to the far side of the world, at the cost of enormous transmitting antennas and colossal power.

With the power levels and antenna heights likely to be feasible by 1636, it would be impossible to exploit low-frequency (under 300 kHz) ground wave to its fullest. As we’ll see, though, what can be affordably achieved at practical frequencies is of great value.

Under these constraints, 500 kHz is something of a sweet spot for long-range ground wave. Therefore, we’ll calculate poor-earth ground wave ranges at that frequency. We’ll also do the calculations at 5 MHz and 15 MHz. Those frequencies are within the capabilities of the first generation of down-time tubes, and they’re better suited to the antenna dimensions and power levels of a land mobile station.


Free space propagation mode


Mathematically speaking, pure free space propagation is the simplest to analyze of all modes, and is by far the least lossy. “Path loss” for this mode doesn’t involve actual power dissipation along the propagation path at all. It’s just a mathematical expression of the continuous decrease in power density as the spherical wavefront expands away from the transmitting antenna and grows in frontal area—the classic “inverse square law” that follows from simple geometry and the capture area of the receiving antenna.

Unfortunately, that ideal can rarely be achieved in practice anywhere near the earth’s surface. Even at microwave frequencies, antennas can’t be made sufficiently directional to avoid reflections off the earth along point-to-point routes. Consequently, wave interference between direct and reflected paths is unavoidable. About the only place it could be applied in pure form is in high-angle communication with aircraft. That’s outside the scope of this article.

However, an approximation to free space propagation can occur over much of a path, if at least one end of the link is many wavelengths above nearby terrain, and the reflections are off lossy surfaces. A common practical case is communication between a hilltop base station and a mobile unit on flat land. While most of that type of path might be unobstructed, the last part of almost any terrestrial path comes within a wavelength or less of the earth as the wave leaves or approaches an antenna near ground level. That terminal portion of the path transitions into high-loss ground wave. The Rural Electrification Administration’s publication Power System Communications: Mobile Radio Systems has loss curves for that type of mixed path down to 40 MHz. With an adjustment for the larger capture area of an antenna scaled for 15 MHz, we can extrapolate path loss at the frequencies our 1636-period tubes can handle.


Diffraction mode


Diffraction is an electromagnetic phenomenon that causes a small portion of a radio wave’s power to re-radiate from the edge of an obstruction and propagate into the shadowed space beyond. It’s the reason you can hear an FM broadcast station when you’re behind a hill. Given the bend angle needed to reach the antenna behind the obstacle, the diffraction loss can be calculated and added to the rest of the path loss terms. With that number, it’s possible to calculate the increase in transmitter power needed to overcome the diffraction loss.

Diffraction very conveniently complements free space propagation. In a situation where a fraction of a watt might be enough to reach a receiver up in the clear on a hilltop, several watts to several tens of watts might be needed to be heard in the valley beyond. The synergistic combination of free space propagation and diffraction is a major workhorse of land mobile communication in our own era, and it will be in the 1630s as well—just at lower frequencies for the first decade or so. Interestingly, it will often work better at these lower frequencies, because the longer wavelength results in a larger effective capture area at the edge of the obstruction. Thus, more of the transmitter’s power is available to be re-radiated into the shadow.


Reflection mode


Reflection can occur off any conductive surface. A bounce off a hillside can carry a signal around a mountain or down into a valley. In modern cities, the metal structures of buildings cause multiple reflections. The lead and copper roofs of large early modern buildings may offer some useful reflection paths at the higher frequencies, if the field teams can locate the hot spots by exploring for them. However, large expanses of metal can also cause radio shadows.


Sky wave mode


These first four modes are only modestly affected by weather, time of day, and season. With adequate receivers, transmitter power, and antennas, they offer very reliable full-time service over quite useful distances.

Sky wave, on the other hand, offers far greater range than any combination of these terrestrial modes, but only during the hours of darkness, and only below 700 kHz or so during the long quiet-sun decades of the seventeenth century. (At high latitudes, the summertime hours of darkness are very short, or even non-existent.)

In the marine radio articles, we looked extensively at sky wave at 500 kHz. For a single hop, it doesn’t make much difference whether the path is over sea or land, since the only bounce is off the ionosphere. As it happens, European land distances are mostly single-hop distances. We’ll repeat just a few key performance numbers here.


Power levels


The earliest NTL-built CW transmitters were the “tuna can” transceivers, made from salvaged up-time solid-state parts. A quarter watt is a reasonable guess for typical output. Using transistors originally intended for receivers, audio equipment, and power supplies, operation to 15 MHz is within reason. Some units might be able to reach 30 MHz or higher.

The new electronics industry would put early effort into a 5-watt tube, to drive a receiver’s speaker. This would make a very useful low-power transmitting tube. A 25-watt tube would follow soon afterward. We could expect these two power levels to be fairly common for mobile transmitters. Their power demands would be a reasonable fit for transportable storage batteries and foot pedal generators.

The next priority for power tubes would probably be at about the 250-watt level, intended for fixed stations. An amplifier built around four of those tubes could deliver a kilowatt. We found in the marine radio calculations that 1 kilowatt at 500 kHz is sufficient to achieve the maximum possible range of a single sky-wave hop (in European noise levels), while 100 watts is the bare minimum to use sky wave at all.

We can assume that a 500-kHz station will be optimized for either marine ground wave or sky wave, or both, since that’s where its expensive antenna really pays off. Whatever land ground wave service it offers in the daytime will be within that power range. Still, it’s easy enough to do the calculations for the lower power levels typical of mobile stations and see what the results are. A mobile station could conceivably loft a 500-kHz wire antenna on a kite or a balloon and lay out a few radials on the ground, though that’s unlikely to be a common practice.


Signals and noise


Electromagnetic noise is an unavoidable fact of life in radio communication. Signal-to-noise ratio is central to the calculations and estimates that follow. It’s what determines whether a radio signal will be heard.

The earth’s atmosphere is the dominant RF noise source below 10 MHz. The noise is generated mainly by thunderstorms, primarily in the tropics and in some continental interiors. The lightning bolt is both the RF source and the transmitting antenna, a miles-tall writhing filament of ionized air powered by megavolts and kiloamps.

Atmospheric noise decreases rapidly with frequency, giving way to cosmic sources somewhere above 10 MHz.

In the VHF and UHF bands, cosmic noise in turn gives way to noise sources within the receiver, leading to an entirely different set of engineering tradeoffs. But in 1636 the electronics industry won’t be ready to go there.

As in the previous articles, our criterion for an adequate signal-to-noise ratio for Morse code communication at commercial speeds is +16 dB in a 100 Hz bandwidth.

The European regions where we’re likely to see land action in the next few novels fall roughly from latitude 45 to 55 degrees north and 0 to 30 degrees east. The intensities for this region taken from the noise maps in the Radio Propagation Handbook are selected for summer, 8 PM to 4 AM. This is the most unfavorable season and time of day. That choice is appropriate to our objective, a reliable full-time communication service with minimal outages.

As with season and time of day, we will apply the graphs for standard deviation in the most pessimistic way. Authors needing uncertain communication in more favorable circumstances can make more optimistic estimates for distance or power requirements.

As noted in the earlier article, the handbook’s data and text dealing with atmospheric noise include no term for the gain of the receiving antenna. The assumption made here is that antenna directivity enhances noise pickup from the favored direction to the same degree that it suppresses noise from the insensitive directions, provided the noise is spatially uniform. Thus, the following table represents the noise received on any efficient antenna.

(An inefficient receiving antenna, such as a Beverage wave antenna, would attenuate noise and signal by the same amount, so the S/N would be unchanged, as long as the noise from the antenna remains greater than the receiver’s internal noise  At these frequencies, that would almost always be the case.)


Atmospheric noise in a 100 Hz bandwidth at selected frequencies, dBm


500 kHz5 MHz15 MHz


Basic land antennas


For each of these three bands, we’ll assume for simplicity that the transmitting antenna is a full-size quarter-wave vertical with a ground plane. There are several reasons for this choice.

A land station on the 500-kHz band in this early period would almost certainly construct this type of antenna. Anything with higher performance would be structurally unaffordable.

Furthermore, any station wanting to use ground wave requires a vertically polarized antenna. Ground wave and sky wave are the useful modes at 500 kHz.

A mobile unit, on the other hand, would usually prefer a vertical antenna because it’s omnidirectional and easy to erect. It could be a quarter-wave vertical with a ground plane, or an elevated half-wave antenna such as a coaxial sleeve vertical. For simplicity, the calculations will be for the quarter-wave case. A quarter wavelength at 5 MHz is 15 meters, and a quarter wavelength at 15 MHz is 5 meters. Either of these would be lightweight structures, easy to break down and transport. A unit traveling with a wagon could easily carry disassembled poles and guy ropes of those dimensions, or shoot cords over a tree limb with a slingshot to support a wire antenna. Or, a half-wavelength vertical wire antenna of similar performance could be hung inside a church tower, provided it’s higher than any nearby metallic structure.

We’ll assume that these communication stations use their transmitting antennas to receive. That will usually be true in the early years. Specialized 500 kHz directional receiving antennas that deliver improved signal-to-noise ratio may come later, but probably not in 1636.

This is not to say that our early modern radio technicians and operators couldn’t design and construct more sophisticated antennas. They certainly could, and the higher in frequency they go, the smaller the arrays would be, and the easier to manage. Grantville arrives in the seventeenth century with multiple editions of The ARRL Antenna Book, an excellent practical guide to the design and construction of antennas for 1.8 MHz and higher. The popular antenna analysis program EZNEC was available in the 1990s; one or more of the hams might have had copies. So, it’s possible that certain fixed stations intending to communicate with distant mobiles might install high-gain directional arrays for 15 MHz on tall poles, and even make them rotatable. Generally, the benefit would tend more toward working weak mobiles in unfavorable locations than toward dramatically increased range. For a mobile unit, though, it would usually be easier to set up on a hilltop than to cope with a bulky and awkward directional antenna.

As for the horizontally polarized antennas common in twentieth-century ham radio, they’re designed to make optimum use of ionospheric skip in the HF bands. There’s little sky wave skip in those bands during the seventeenth-century sunspot minimum. Therefore, we leave them out of consideration.


Ground wave communication ranges


For ground wave on European land we’ll use the published path loss curves for “poor earth.”

Ereqd in the following table is the calculated signal strength in dB relative to 1 microvolt per meter, required to produce a +16 dB signal-to-noise ratio in a 100 Hz bandwidth at the stated regional noise level, at the given frequency, using the theoretical antennas on which the handbook’s charts are based.

G is the total gain of the two quarter-wave vertical antennas at the two ends of the link, relative to the theoretical antennas. The quarter-wave transmitting antenna has a gain of +3 dB compared to a short vertical, and the same antenna used for receiving has a gain of +5 dB relative to an isotropic antenna. Thus, the total antenna gain G=+8 dB. This term increases the signal power at the receiver without affecting the noise power. Conversely, it reduces the transmitter power required to achieve the target S/N of +16 dB. With that correction added, we can then apply the ground wave curves to find the maximum range at the stated transmitter power.

One limitation is that the handbook’s noise maps and ground wave loss curves only go to 10 MHz. Therefore, the figures for 15 MHz are extrapolated, and contain more uncertainty than those for 500 kHz and 5 MHz.

One caution that should be kept in mind when applying the maximum range estimates to story plotting is that they assume a receiver with an optimized narrow passband filter. The filters in the receivers built in the first few years won’t be that good; therefore, their working range will be somewhat less. This is particularly true of the little tuna-can transceivers. Nevertheless, they will be very useful for tactical field communications. The whole tuna-can outfit can be carried in a cavalry scout’s saddlebag, and set up in a few minutes. And, a regimental headquarters station with a good receiver would be able to hear it at the calculated range and answer with a hundred times the tuna can’s power.


Value, Units500 kHz5 MHz15 MHz
Pnoise, dBm-68-90-116
Preqd, dBm-52-74-100
Ereqd, dB µV/m+18+18+0.4
Ereqd-G, dB µV/m+10+10-7.6
D1KW, km3507380
D100W, km2504555
D25W, km2003344
D5W, km1552231
D250mW, km8010.516


There are some interesting observations here. We see that lower frequencies give much longer ground wave distances across poor earth. Although the losses are much greater at the higher frequencies suited to mobile use, even modest power offers very useful ranges for tactical operations or village-to-village local nets. And power requirements go up rapidly as distance increases, because of the exponential factor in ground wave path losses. That’s why quite useful range is available even at very low power levels.

This suggests creating a general-purpose communication infrastructure consisting of many low-cost stations providing local access for end users, all connected together through a backbone network of much larger stations on lower frequencies.


Pseudo free space communication ranges


There’s a rule of thumb that says free space propagation occurs between a base station antenna on a hilltop or tower and a mobile unit at that base station’s geographic horizon. This type of radio path is extremely reliable; it’s more likely to be interrupted by artificial interference than by any natural phenomenon.

For spherical earth, the range calculation is a straightforward exercise in trigonometry. At ordinary hilltop heights, the horizon distance can be approximated accurately enough by a simplified equation in the REA handbook:



Dfree=free space path distance in miles

H1=height of base station antenna above ground level in feet

H2=height of mobile station antenna above ground level in feet

In kilometers and meters, that would be


There’s also a rule of thumb that the distance to the radio horizon is about 4/3 the distance to the geographic horizon. That’s because of refraction due to the density gradient in the lower atmosphere. However, that effect can vary a lot with weather conditions, especially at microwave frequencies. Relying on over-the-horizon tropospheric bending can result in random outages.

With the free-space geographic range calculated, the curves in the REA handbook can then supply the path loss. The curves assume an antenna height of 6 feet at the mobile end. That’s a reasonable assumption for our wagon-mobile units if they don’t find a convenient hill or a tall tree. We’ll do the path loss and power calculations for 15 MHz only, extrapolated from the 40 MHz loss curves. That’s less of an extrapolation than doing it for 5 MHz as well; also, the noise is much lower at 15 MHz, so that band is a good choice for land mobile use anyway.

The free space distance equation obviously includes the case in which both station antennas are elevated, as in hilltop-to-hilltop operation between relay stations. The range between them is the sum of their horizon distances. Of course, this assumes no terrain obstacles tall enough to obstruct the direct path between the stations, and no interfering bounces off highly reflective surfaces. For that case, where the wavefront continues to expand and the power density declines after the wave passes the transmitting station’s horizon, the path loss is not the sum of the losses of the two separate paths from each station to a 6-ft high station at their mutual horizon. Instead, the inverse square law applies to the second part of the path. For the case of two stations at equal heights, the additional path loss would be -6 dB due to the quadrupling of the wave front’s area in the second half of the path. Quadrupling the transmitter power would compensate for that. For example, taking the case in the table below where a 250-mW transmitter on a 1600-ft hill could reach a 6-ft high antenna 60 miles away, 1 W would be sufficient to reach a station on another 1600-ft hill 120 miles away.

The REA curves show path loss at distances continuing well beyond the horizon (for a mobile station on flat ground), at which point the free space wave transitions into ground wave, and the losses increase. In other words, with increased power it’s possible to communicate reliably for some distance beyond the geographic horizon. We’ll explore the distances where the received power falls to the desired +16 dB S/N, for 25 W, 5 W, and ¼ W.

The curves assume a half-wave vertical at the base station and a quarter-wave vertical at the mobile. That’s a reasonable setup for a fixed base station communicating with a mobile unit. A quarter-wave antenna at a mobile set-up on a hilltop might send 3 dB less power toward the lower elevations.

For this calculation, we’ll use the assumed antenna combination, and add a correction for the 15 MHz receiving antenna’s larger capture area relative to the same antenna design at 40 MHz. That comes out to G=+8.5 dB.

As with the ground wave case at 15 MHz:

  • Pnoise=-116 dBm
  • Receiver Preqd=-100 dBm

In the following table

  • Lfree is the path loss at Dfree
  • G=+8.5 dB
  • Pfree is the transmitter power required to achieve +16 dB S/N at Dfree

The published curves are drawn for eight base station heights given in feet, with distances in miles, so we’ll use those as the primary units and calculate the metric equivalents.


ft (m)
mi (km)
mi (km)
mi (km)
mi (km)
6 (1.83)6.9 (11.1)-124.8-116.30.04210.6 (17)20.5 (33)28 (45)
25 (7.62)10.5 (17)-129.5-1210.12612 (19.3)23.5 (37.8)32 (51.5)
50 (15.2)13.5 (21.7)-130-121.50.14115 (24.1)28.5 (45.9)38 (61.2)
100 (30.5)17.6 (28.3)-128-119.50.08920.5 (33)37 (59.6)47 (75.7)
200 (61)23.5 (37.88)-129.5-1210.12627 (43.5)45 (72.5)57 (91.8)
400 (122)31.7 (51.1)-130-121.50.14135.5 (57.2)57 (91.8)70 (113)
800 (244)43.5 (70)-130.5-1220.15947 (75.7)71 (114)90 (145)
1600 (488)60 (96.6)-132.5-1240.25160 (96.6)86 (138)105 (169)


In short, at any distance up to 60 miles, a quarter-watt tuna can transmitter is powerful enough to communicate by Morse code, as long as the station at the far end is on a high enough hill and has a receiving filter just wide enough to pass a CW signal.

With relatively simple first-generation tube equipment, five watts would be adequate to send messages over a 100-kilometer path, from even a fairly modest hilltop. Even a kilowatt wouldn’t be sufficient to do that by ground wave.

(Operators generally prefer not to select the narrowest possible filter that will pass the signal, unless they need it either to suppress noise or to separate closely-spaced signals in a crowded band. Given that mobile tube transmitters would usually fall into the 5- to 25-watt range, this propagation mode offers the less fatiguing sound of a somewhat wider filter.)

These examples demonstrate the great value of high locations for communication across land. With the coming of radio, mountaintops have become strategic terrain. That’s why the USE government maintains a major relay station on top of the Brocken in the Harz Mountains. Though canon doesn’t mention a permanent station atop the Großer Beerberg in the Thüringerwald, it’s reasonable to expect one there as well. Let’s look briefly at a few terrain altitudes of interest in the USE.


FeatureAltitude MSL
ft (m)
mi (km)

above 50 m
Approximate location
North German plain, typical80-250 (25-75)Most regions north of Grantville
Brocken3747 (1142)89 (144)118 km SW of Magdeburg

243 km S of Hamburg

132 km N of Grantville

Großer Beerberg3222 (982)82 (132)37 km W of Grantville

85 km N of Bamberg

140 km N of Nürnberg

216 km N of Ingolstadt

Aircraft at 5000 ft5000 (1524)101 (164)
Aircraft at 14000 ft
max altitude without oxygen
14000 (4267)170 (274)



Diffraction losses


Calculating the additional path loss due to diffraction over an obstacle can be very complex. The Radio Propagation Handbook devotes an entire chapter to it, and we can’t do full justice to the topic here. What we can do is examine a few simple cases that a mobile communication crew is likely to encounter.

If a radio path that’s otherwise free-space or close to it is obstructed by higher terrain near one end, it can be modeled mathematically to a good approximation as an additional loss term added to the free space path loss. The diffraction loss can be compensated by increasing the transmitter power. That loss is a nonlinear function of the frequency and the angle through which the path must bend to reach the receiver. The handbook provides a nomograph for the purpose.

If both ends of the path are obstructed, then two diffraction loss terms must be added to the free space path loss.

The handbook says that diffraction is likely to dominate the path over the obstacle if the bend angle is less than 0.02 radian. That’s equivalent to a 2% grade, if the wave arrives at the obstacle parallel to the horizon. For example, that would be the case if there were a 50-meter-high ridge line 1 km from the receiver. If the angle is greater than that, the handbook indicates that other less lossy propagation mechanisms such as forward scatter might deliver a stronger signal to the receiver. However, the chapter is written with UHF and microwave signals in mind. At the wavelength of a 15 MHz signal (20 meters) other modes are less likely to be of much help, so we’ll make the pessimistic assumption that an obstructed station depends on diffraction.


Diffraction Angle
50 m Obstruction Distance
15 MHz Diffraction Loss
Transmitter Power Multiplier


For example, a mobile unit communicating with a base station on a 30-meter hill 28 km away over an unobstructed path would require about 90 mW. But if the mobile’s path is blocked by a 50-meter ridge 1 km away, the route would require 12.6 times as much power, or 1.13 W. If both ends are similarly obstructed, 14.2 W would be needed.

50 watts should be sufficient to communicate over the majority of pseudo-free space paths where there’s a single obstruction at one end. Mobile-to-mobile paths where both stations have limited power and nearby obstructions tend to have significantly reduced range. That situation is common in hilly terrain. For that reason, there would be a tactical advantage to setting up a relay station or a command post on a high location, if one can be secured in the operation area.




Radio waves reflect from conductive surfaces and can bounce into shadowed areas. In up-time cites reflections off the metal structures of buildings are very common. In the seventeenth-century world it’s possible that 15 MHz signals might reflect from metal-roofed church spires or off steep cliffs. Otherwise, they’re not likely to be a frequent source of help to radio operators. The handbooks give little information on estimating their magnitude, except for billboard-sized metal mirrors used on microwave fixed routes and oriented with great care.


Sky wave


To recap very briefly the discussion in “1636: Marine Radio in the Mediterranean,” sky wave below the AM broadcast band is likely to be reliable while the ionospheric path is in full darkness. That lasts from about an hour after sunset at the west end of the path to an hour before sunrise at the east end. The range estimated in that article, using a standard full-size antenna on a single-hop path, came out to about 950 km with 100 watts, and 2000 km with 1 kilowatt.

Shorter ranges may be iffy. The published loss curves for 100 and 200 kHz show reasonable path losses down to 200 km or so, but this may not be reliable in the weak ionization conditions of the seventeenth century. A signal striking the ionosphere at a steep angle may not be bent enough to return to earth. The shallower incidence angles at longer ranges are more likely to be reflected back to the ground.

Thus, we could encounter a skip-over zone somewhere between 350 km where 24/7 ground wave becomes too weak to copy, and 500 km or so, where night-time sky wave first reaches the ground. Message traffic for that dead zone might have to be relayed by a station 1000 km away.

Interestingly, the “gray line” mode canonized in a number of places, beginning in 1632 itself, is a manifestation of sky wave, but at higher frequencies. The canon contacts made with this mode used unmodified up-time ham gear. Ham transmitters aren’t built to operate at 500 kHz and lower. Their lowest band starts at 1.8 MHz. At that frequency, the weak ionization of the seventeenth-century Maunder Minimum is barely enough to offer skip for a short period around twilight. Sky wave opens when the ionosphere’s high-loss lower layer fades shortly after sunset, allowing the signals to reach the higher layers where skip happens. But the higher-layer ionization degrades with time, too. The higher frequencies need stronger ionization to be bent back to earth, so the ham band opening fades quickly. The short duration of that opening limits communication to stations near the same longitude, hence the term “gray line.” But based on long historical experience, medium and low frequencies should be able to reflect off much weaker ionization than the ham bands need, and persist for many hours during the night.


Spark communication capabilities


Having covered with reasonable confidence what CW could do using the major propagation modes, it’s time to take a look at spark. Here, we’re on much shakier ground. In fact, any estimate of what could be done with spark verges on outright speculation. The problem is that most of the published material dealing with spark that can be easily found nowadays is more historical than technical. There are a great many unknowns.

We do have Rick Boatright’s spark article “Radio FAQ Part 1: Spark and Crystal Radios” posted at We also have “The History of Amateur Radio, Part IV” at They’re in good agreement that after the U.S. 1912 Radio Act pushed hams above 1.5 MHz (200 meters), the working ranges were typically between 25 and 75 miles. That’s with 600 watts input, on ground wave across North American “good earth,” with the equipment and antenna a ham could set up at home. So, what should we expect in our early NTL years in Europe?

It’s a fair guess that anyone who doesn’t have access to tube gear probably won’t be getting power from a commercial electric utility, either. That’s doubly true for a mobile station. So, 20 or 30 watts from storage batteries or pedal generators is a lot more likely than 600 watts. Not to mention, components for that power level would be a lot easier to fabricate from materials generally available in early modern times, and a lot more reliable as well. And, as noted above, European soil is typically considered to be “poor earth” in the absence of specific data.

Going from 600 watts down to 30 watts is a change of -13 dB. We can look up the loss for ground wave propagation across 75 miles on good earth at 1.5 MHz, and then look up the distance on the poor-earth chart for 13 dB less loss at the same frequency.

All other things being equal, we get 13 miles (21 km).

But all other things may very well not be equal.

For a typical early twentieth-century ham living in a suburban lot with trees for antenna supports, a full-size antenna for 1.5 MHz was impossible, let alone an optimally constructed full-size antenna. That would be 50 meters high on a ground plane 100 meters in diameter. The obvious solution would be a “T” antenna. But there usually wasn’t the space or budget for that either.

What a ham in that period could usually put up would be a single wire going up at a roughly vertical angle to somewhere in a tree’s branches. A single horizontal wire from the top to another tree would provide some amount of capacitive top-loading, but the more-or-less vertical wire would connect to one end, not to the precise center. Then, instead of multiple radial wires at ground level for the return current to flow into with low resistive loss, there would usually be a clamp on a single water pipe running out to the water main in the street. Lacking city water, there would often be nothing more than an eight-foot metal rod driven into the ground outside the window, which might or might not reach the water table.

Everything is wrong with this. It’s a random shortened vertical, which has a broadened vertical radiation pattern to begin with. The antenna current is less than optimally coupled to the electromagnetic field; that requires the electrical resistances elsewhere in the RF circuit to be very low if the antenna is to be at all efficient. But the ground resistance is high, so power is wasted. Because the horizontal wire isn’t centered on the top of the vertical wire, horizontally polarized emission isn’t cancelled out, so some of the power is wasted in a horizontally polarized signal that can’t couple into the ground wave. The random-wire top loading is generally insufficient to resonate the antenna, so inductance must be added, but an imperfect inductor adds more resistance to the circuit and wastes more power. The tilt of the vertical wire further de-optimizes coupling into the ground wave.

It does radiate. Any conductor that carries RF current will radiate something. It just doesn’t do an efficient job of converting RF power into a ground wave signal.

A military communications detachment in the field, or a commercial enterprise with money to spend and the connections to obtain an unobstructed site, need not accept these limitations. They could locate where there’s room to put up a proper antenna for the band they’re using. (This becomes easier if they select a higher frequency, where antennas aren’t so large.)

Another limitation of the early ham station was the crystal set. A crystal set’s only source of power to drive the headset is the radio wave. The signal-to-noise ratio was not the only determinant of whether the signal could be heard; it was the absolute strength of the signal itself. The capture area and efficiency of the receiving antenna had as much to do with that as the transmitting antenna. (Not only that, the passive crystal set imposes an unfortunate trade-off between selectivity and sensitivity. The more tightly the resonant tank circuit is coupled to the antenna, the more signal can be passed through to the headset, but the broader its bandwidth becomes, and less effective it is in separating signals on nearby frequencies.)

Those limitations would be the case for most of the crystal sets in our fictional universe, but it need not be true for all of them. One of the pieces of bypassed technology, which is certainly known to Grantville’s radio scholars, is the electromechanical audio amplifier. In principle, it’s an earphone mechanically coupled to a carbon microphone. Drive one or two stages of audio amplification from a crystal set, and a weak signal could be brought up to audibility. Noise would again become the limitation.

Combine optimally designed and installed antennas with crude audio amplification, and perhaps that -13 dB could be made up. That doesn’t take deep knowledge and years of experience, it just takes money, materials, and manpower. Any army that’s had a spy in the libraries could at least optimize its antennas.

Which bands would likely be used for spark radio is another major area of uncertainty. 1.5 MHz is inside the upper end of the AM broadcast band. All the thousands of legacy up-time broadcast band receivers cover 530 kHz to 1.710 MHz with 10 kHz channel spacing. That’s a large enough installed base of equipment to permanently nail down that band for broadcasting. Spark would be most unwelcome there. Besides, an optimum antenna for such a low frequency is inconveniently large for most users, especially mobile stations. Broadcasting stations are few in number and commercially funded, hence can afford good antennas and enough power to reach crystal sets.

The next band up in the spectrum is the 160-meter ham band at 1.8 to 2.0 MHz, which has been in use for vital government and military communication almost from the time the up-timers arrived. The spectrum plot of a spark transmitter in Rick’s article shows most of the power concentrated in a 10 kHz bandwidth, but with splatter spreading out for 100 kHz on each side.  That kind of interference would be even more unwelcome in this busy piece of spectrum.

Up-time band allocations place a marine band at 2.0 to 2.5 MHz, which appears in “Storm Signals” (Grantville Gazette 31). That’s a broad enough chunk of spectrum to accommodate at least one spark channel without seriously inconveniencing all the CW stations. The experimental spark transmitter Rick cites was tested at 2 MHz, so we know it’s feasible. It’s reasonable to expect some spark stations at somewhat higher frequencies as well, to take advantage of the smaller and less expensive antennas, the more modest demands on real estate, and the less demanding logistics.

Rational considerations don’t always govern in real life, though. A wide variety of individuals, associations, businesses, governments, and other entities are likely to get involved with radio in the early years. They’ll have wildly varying resources, sources of knowledge, locations, and willingness to cooperate with others. Given all that, spark stations are liable to show up anywhere in the low, medium, and high frequency bands. The efficiency and radiation pattern may be abysmal, but any antenna will put out some kind of a signal. Even if a random length of wire isn’t tuned to resonance, it will radiate something, if there’s any RF current flowing in it at all. Depending on the need of the moment, it might be enough.

So, things could get quite messy for quite a long time, until tube gear becomes a lot more plentiful. The hash and splatter from spark stations could be showing up in more places and on more frequencies as time goes on. CW operators with good receivers are likely to be very grateful for their narrow filters and noise blankers.





Saveskie, Peter N. Radio Propagation Handbook. Blue Ridge Summit, PA: Tab Books, 1980. ISBN 0-8306-9949-X, ISBN 0-8306-1146-0 pbk.

Rural Electrification Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture REA Bulletin 66-8 Power System Communications: Mobile Radio Systems. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1978.

American Radio Relay League The ARRL Antenna Book. Various editions.

Boatright, Rick. “Radio FAQ Part 1: Spark and Crystal Radios”

Boatright, Rick. “Radio FAQ Part 3: RF Environment”

Unidentified author. “The History of Amateur Radio, Part IV”

Department of the Navy, Naval Electronic Systems Command. Naval Shore Electronics Criteria: VLF, LF, and MF Communication Systems. Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1972. FSN 0280-901-1000 through -08.pdf

Payne, Craig. Principles of Naval Weapon Systems. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2006. USBN 1-59114-658-5

British Broadcasting Corporation, Research Department. “Low-frequency sky-wave propagation to distances of about 2000 km”, Report No. 1971/8.

Maritime Radio Historical Society. “Reports from NMO”

Wikipedia “Antenna (radio)”

Wikipedia “T-antenna”


Fair or Foul: Part 2, Observing Pressure and Wind

Barometric Pressure


The barometer measures air pressure. A local fall in air pressure can indicate the approach of a frontal system with associated bad weather.

Pre-RoF Baroscopes. While the down-timers do not have barometers, they do have a baroscope (which shows pressure change without quantifying it). The earliest form was actually Drebbel’s perpetuum mobile; it featured a glass tube half-filled with water, partitioned at the top with one side communicating with a spherical reservoir, and the other being perforated and thereby exposed to the atmosphere. A lowering in air pressure would cause a drop in the water level. (A change in the temperature of the air in the reservoir would, too, so the device was also a thermoscope.) (Zittel 101). The earliest evidence of the device is from 1604, and it was presented to James I in 1607 (103). Drebbel was aware that the “perpetual motion” was attributable to the air, but didn’t suggest that the device had any value other than entertainment.

However, in 1619 the wife of the engineer Ghijsbrecht de Donckere sold to Ghent an instrument invented by her husband, “with which it is possible to see every day, through the rising of the water, bad weather, through the falling of the water, instead, the weather calming down, and, when the water rises very high and drops come out, that there will be storms at sea.” (Note that this design must have differed from Drebbel’s, because the direction of movement is inverted.) Similar devices were used by Henri de Heer and Jan Baptista van Helmont in the 1620s (Zittel 114-5). They came to be known as weather, storm, or thunder glasses, but these terms also are applied to true barometers (and at one time also to thermometers). It is also called the “Goethe Barometer.”

One form that I have seen is a pear-shaped glass bottle with an up-curving open spout. The water level in the bottle is above the bottle end of the spout. The spout being narrower than the bottle amplifies the effects. The device needs to be shaded to minimize temperature effects.

Mercury Barometers. There are two basic types of liquid barometers, cistern and siphon. In the cistern barometer, the lower end of a vertical tube is within a cistern holding the liquid. Air presses on the surface of the liquid and forces it up the tube, whose upper end is sealed. Mercury barometers need to be fairly large since the density of mercury is such that average sea level air pressure will force the liquid up to about thirty inches (760 mm) above the basin level. (But a barometer based on any other liquid would have to be much larger.) Historically, the first barometers, built in the 1640s by Evangelista Torricelli (1608-47) or Vincenzo Viviani (1622-1703), were of the cistern type.

In the siphon barometer, the tube is bent into a J-shape, sealed at the end of the long limb, and the barometer reading is the difference between the mercury heights in the two limbs. (EB11/Barometer).

There was also a hybrid, invented by Lavoisier; essentially a “siphon barometer with the addition of some sort of reservoir of mercury by means of which the level in both limbs of the siphon can be simultaneously varied.” (Middleton 228).

Efforts to improve on the mercury barometer addressed three aspects: readability, portability, and accuracy. There is likely to be little guidance in Grantville literature on how to improve these aspects, but I will briefly outline the more interesting of the post-Torricelli expedients that might be reinvented.

The world record high and low pressures differ by about five inches of mercury, and a normal range is more like three inches. For greater readability, inventors sought to increase the movement caused by a change in pressure. Hooke’s wheel barometer (1664) was in use for more than two centuries; a float in the mercury was attached by a cable that ran around a pulley to a counterweight, and the axis of the pulley was attached to the pointer of a dial (Middleton 94). There was also the “diagonal barometer” that employed an obliquely bent tube; this evolved into an L-shaped instrument that could be mounted into a corner of a mirror frame. It was more stylish than accurate (112). Both are alluded to by EB11/Barometer.

With regard to portability, the concern was not so much with weight or size, but rather fragility. The major demand for more portable barometers were from those who intended to take them up into the mountains and use them as altimeters, or from mariners. Carried while climbing, they were subject to shocks and even drops. Use at sea posed the additional problem of coping with the motion of the ship as a result of the wind (or the firing of the guns) during use.

With cistern barometers, there was the further problem of keeping the mercury from spilling while still permitting air to have access. By 1688 it was known that some woods (boxwood) are permeable to air and not to mercury, and thus may be used to make a closed cistern (145). A 1695 barometer used a screw to reduce the open volume of the cistern, causing the cistern and tube to be completely filled with mercury; the filled tube was less likely to break when jostled (151).

Blondeau (1779) designed a siphon barometer for marine use with an iron (unbreakable) tube. This had an ivory float, attached by a wire to a scale pointer. The wire passed through a bushing on the top of the short limb of the tube (158). The problem of tilting was addressed by Nairne (1773); he fixed his instrument in a gimbal, a technique also used for ship lighting (163). Fitzroy (1860) shock-mounted the barometer tube in rubber (164).

Improvements in accuracy generally were achieved by improving the vacuum at the top of the closed end of the tube, increasing the bore size of the barometer (reducing the capillary depression of the meniscus at the periphery), making the level easier to read, and supplying a mechanism to maintain the level of mercury in the cistern at the zero level.

In theory, you can obtain a vacuum in a cistern barometer by turning the tube so the open end is up, pouring in some mercury, then inverting it over the cistern. The level of mercury in the tube will descend until its weight is balanced by the air pressure on the exposed mercury, leaving a vacuum in its wake. But “as early as 1649 Zucchi noted the difficulty of filling a tube with mercury without introducing bubbles.” (Middleton 241). Boyle tried to clear out bubbles with iron wires, with imperfect success. Moreover, the tube would be cleaned with some solvent (ethanol) before filling, and the solvent could be entrained.

A big improvement was achieved by boiling the mercury (first described in 1723 and universal by 1772) to remove air and other gaseous impurities. The sealed end of the tube was held over a small stove, and an iron wire jiggled in the tube to expedite the bubbling of the air. Once there were no more bubbles, the tube was repositioned to heat a different part of the tube.

The reader will surely realize that this process produces dangerous mercury vapors. The Cardinal de Luynes warned colleagues to do it in a large room, with no gold or silver about (thus protecting the gilded furniture if not the artisan). In 1935, Patterson combined the purification of mercury with this outgassing process; the tubes, connected to the mercury distillation column, were placed in a heated vacuum chamber (248).

Insofar as readability is concerned, one expedient was providing a ring-shaped index that could be moved to be level with the top of the meniscus, to facilitate reading off its height relative to the external scale. Another was providing a fine scale (vernier) that could be slid up or down the tube to align with the top of the meniscus.

With regard to the cistern level, there would be a means of indicating a departure from the zero level (overflow, a fixed index, a floating index, a scale on the cistern), and a means of adjustment (pouring, putting a supply of mercury in a leather bag, a plunger in the cistern, a screw for moving the cistern relative to the tube or moving a plunger within the cistern). Or one could make the scale rather than the cistern adjustable.

The Fortin barometer (1809), later known as the “weather service” barometer, was a cistern barometer with the mercury reservoir taking the form of a leather bag (inside a boxwood or glass container) that could be raised or lowered from below by a screw. Above the bag is an ivory pointer; before taking a reading, the bag is adjusted so that the point just touches the mirror image of the point on the surface of the mercury ( The glass tube is enclosed in brass tubes with a reading slit for protection. The fixed tube carries the scale on an adjustable brass plate, and the movable tube has the sighting ring and vernier for reading the mercury level (Brombacher 6). This was an extremely popular, accurate, and durable design. In 1856, Green devised a way to minimize leakage of mercury at the cistern joints, replacing cement with clamping screws, leather washers, and boxwood specially selected from the center of the wood and specially treated (saturated with shellac in a vacuum) (Middleton 346). The accuracy is dependent on the bore size (0.25-0.8 inches). Two of the ten Fortin-type barometers imported by the Signal Service in 1878 were still being used as working standards by the Weather Bureau in 1962 (Middleton 350).

There is a reasonable possibility that if an up-timer who majored in physics had to do a course lab experiment that involved measuring air pressure, that the instrument used was a Fortin-type barometer (UQ Physics Museum).

(Elastic) Barometers. An aneroid barometer, by definition, is merely one that doesn’t use a liquid as a sensor. However, in practice the term signifies a particular mechanical sensor. The basic concept, proposed by Leibnitz, is that a hollow capsule with an interior vacuum has at least one flexible (elastic) wall, and this will deflect to a greater or lesser degree depending on the outside air pressure. Of course, this tiny deflection would have to be magnified by mechanical linkages so it can be read out and quantified. Elastic barometers were designed by Zeiher (1763) and Conte (1797), but the approach that caught on was that of Vidie (1844). The flexible wall was supported by internal helical springs (otherwise the capsule would be crushed) and, in the readout mechanism, there is a bimetallic strip for temperature compensation.

With the bimetal, there is perfect compensation at only one temperature. If a small amount of gas is left in the capsule, it is possible to make the compensation perfect at two temperatures (412). It also helps to keep the capsule volume very small.

But if the metal used is one in which Young’s modulus has no temperature dependence (thermoelasticity) in the meteorological range, then the mechanism can be engineered to provide perfect compensation at all temperatures. NISPAN-C (patented 1955) has essentially no thermoelasticity for -50 to +150oF (Hamden). Unfortunately, I haven’t found any indication that either its composition or its properties would be known in Grantville. Before NISPAN-C was available, one could make the two sides of the diaphragm out of different metals, one with positive thermoelasticity (modulvar) and the other with negative (beryllium-copper). But those alloys are also problematic for NTL 1630s.

The metal used to make the capsule in the nineteenth century was brass or German silver, and they were soldered together (Srivastava 56). (Nowadays, a 0.002″ thick sheet of copper-beryllium alloy (a corrosion-resistant material) is stamped out to form two thin diaphragms, and their edges are electron beam-welded in a vacuum to form the capsule (McClung). Steel may be used instead, and there can be a series of capsules in a single barometer (for greater total movement). Usually, the diaphragms are corrugated for additional strength, and the supporting spring is now likely to be external. One diaphragm is clamped and the other is free to move. The vacuum is about 95% (Srivastava).

The mechanical linkages have to be accurately machined, to tolerances similar to those used in watchmaking. Friction must be minimized so that they are responsive to small changes in pressure. The encyclopedias don’t provide much detail, but it is reasonable to expect that there are aneroid barometers in Grantville—it’s a rural area, and the barometer has some value for short-term weather forecasting. Hence, one of these can be disassembled and studied.

Precision electronic aneroid capsule barometers feature contact-free measurement of the displacement of the aneroid capsule. There are several different means of achieving this, including capacitive and potentiometric displacement detectors, but there is probably nothing in Grantville literature about this (WMO2008 3.3.1).

Miscellaneous Electronic barometers. There are also piezoresistive (these need a monolithic silicon crystal element) and cylindrical resonator (pressure variation changes strain in a nickel alloy cylinder and thereby changes its resonant frequency) barometers (WMO2008). I think Grantville information on these approaches is minimal if not nonexistent and the required infrastructure well beyond that is achievable in the foreseeable future of the new time line.


Deadweight Barometer. This is “weird tech.” Blaise Pascal invented (~1650) a barometer which Middleton (396) describes as a sealed “concertina bellows” attached at its upper end to a roof beam and at its lower end having a chain that reaches and is partly coiled up on the floor. As air pressure changes, “various amounts of the chain will be lifted from the floor.” (The chain is analogous to the drag rope used by balloonists; as the lift on the balloon changes as people get on or off, or temperatures inside and out change, the amount of drag rope lifted changes, and thus changes the weight that the balloon is lifting.) The problem with Pascal’s barometer is the difficulty in making the bellows airtight.

Boyle (1660) proposed “hanging a dead weight on the piston of his air pump.” The air pressure on the piston would be opposing the weight of the piston. The idea has had legs; a fancy piston barometer was described by Indrik in 1959 (397). The cylinder was evacuated by a high-vacuum pump, most of the upward force of air on the piston was balanced by weights, and the remainder by a weak spring. (The accuracy was equivalent to that of the best mercury barometer, and the temperature correction smaller by a factor of 18. Unfortunately, the design is not suitable for use as a primary (calibrating) barometer because of the difficulty in exactly measuring the piston area.)


Mercury barographs (Middleton Chap. 11) may record the column position intermittently or continuously. Hooke adapted his float-based wheel barometer into an intermittent barograph (the mechanism moved a punch).  A float may also be used to guide the movement of pens vertically across paper carried by a rotating vertical axis drum, producing a continuous record, as in the Dines barograph (1904). Barographs have also been based on the mercury movement causing a shift in balance.

A crude photographic barograph was built the very year (1839) that Talbot published his photogenic drawing method. In the years that followed, natural lighting was replaced by artificial lighting, and the simple imaging of the shadow of the column with a sharper image created by a lens system.

Wheatstone’s intermittent electric barograph (1845) lowered a pair of platinum wires into the short limb of a siphon barometer, and raised them again, driven by clockwork. The immersion created a circuit and the emersion broke it. When it broke, a hammer fell on carbon paper. The printing could be at a remote location if there was suitable intermediate wiring.

Aneroid barographs. The mechanism that moves the dial on the conventional aneroid barometer is readily adapted to moving a pen across paper on a rotating drum. The drum of course is moved at a constant time rate by clockwork and in Breguet’s barograph (1867) it drives a separate clock face, too, so the barograph is also a clock (Middleton 426).

As you might expect, there have also been aneroid barographs in which the mechanical movement is converted to a transmittable electrical signal.


Correction and Calibration. All mercury barometer readings must be corrected for temperature (which can cause expansion of the glass, the mercury, and of any air above the mercury), air pressure changes with altitude, and the change of local gravity with altitude and latitude (remember, the earth isn’t quite spherical).

Errors can also be introduced by individual defects, e.g., in the vacuum, the purity of the mercury (Middleton 246), the variation in the size of the bore with length, and imperfections in or misalignments of the attached scale. A cistern barometer is also susceptible to the errors of capillarity (the mercury level is convex not flat) and capacity (a change in the mercury level in the tube causes a change in the level in the cistern, which then no longer corresponds with the scale zero) (EB11/Barometer). While the siphon barometer is free of these errors (the capillary depressions in the two limbs cancel each other out, and there is no cistern), “impurities are contracted by the mercury in the lower limb, which is usually in open contact with the air . . . .” All of these errors are addressed by periodic calibration.

Aneroid (elastic) barometers have some degree of internal temperature compensation, and do not need correction for gravity, but still need the correction for direct pressure change with altitude (NPL). That may make them sound more accurate than mercury barometers, but in fact at the time of RoF they were less so because of “irregularities in the elasticity of the metal of the pressure capsule, and those introduced by mechanical linkages” (Srivastava 59). And some older aneroid barometers (certainly the household models in Grantville) do not have temperature correction graphs. Typically, mercury barometers are used to calibrate aneroid barometers, not the other way around. However, aneroid barometers are very suitable for nautical use where the fragility of the mercury barometer is a serious issue.

It is possible to design a so-called primary barometer that can be used to calibrate an ordinary barometer. It’s essentially a barometer of high accuracy (and weight and cost). The field barometer is placed alongside it, and the difference in reading is applied to the field barometer as a scale correction. It is then taken back to the field and need only be corrected for gravity (to mean sea level pressure—a one-time correction, unless it is moved) and temperature. Periodic recalibration is advisable.

Required Accuracy. In 1960, primary barometers had an accuracy of 0.001-0.005 mm (Brombacher 8). WMO in 2008 expected station barometers to have an accuracy of 0.1 hPa (0.075 mm or 0.003 inches mercury). For marine barometers, 0.5 hPa was tolerated.


Barometers in Grantville. Next to the thermometer, the barometer is the meteorological instrument that is most likely to have been found in a Grantville home at the time of RoF. The barometer that David de Vries took with him to Suriname in fall 1633 “had once hung on the roof post of a Grantville porch” (Cooper, “Beyond the Line,” in 1636: Seas of Fortune).

There are certainly aneroid barometers in Grantville; I am not sure about mercury-based ones. Attempts have been made to limit mercury use since the 1970s. The amount of mercury in a liquid barometer is typically 400-620 grams. In 2001 (one year after RoF), the total mercury in barometers sold in the United States was 353 pounds (NEWMOA). With 454 grams to the pound, if we say 500 grams per instrument, that’s 321 instruments sold throughout the United States, so the chance of a brand-new one being in Grantville is not high. Of course, there could be barometers in Grantville that were bought earlier, and even before mercury became a concern. But some old mercury barometers would have been disposed of and replaced by aneroid ones before RoF.

Frankly, it is more helpful that we have aneroid barometers, because the down-timers will quickly understand how to build a mercury barometer, even without a sample, whereas aneroid barometers are of a more complicated and unfamiliar nature.


There are several references to the barometer in canon. What is more difficult to ascertain is when production of new barometers commenced. In Roesch & Hidaka, “The Things We Do for Love” (Grantville Gazette 46), Logan brings Sorrento an up-time barometer which she has calibrated against the mercury barometer in the physics lab. That suggests to me that her barometer is an aneroid barometer. She proposes in turn to use it to adjust the “down-time altimeters.”

These altimeters almost certainly are judging altitude by measuring air pressure; i.e., they are really barometers. (It is possible to measure altitude by bouncing a radio wave off the ground, but that’s more advanced than a barometer).





I have grouped wind with pressure because, in essence, wind is air moving down a pressure gradient from high to low pressure. For wind meteorology, see Cooper, “Untying the Wind” (Grantville Gazette 35).



Wind Direction


Wind direction is indicated by the wind vane, which is already known to the down-timers. In essence, a vane is pivotably mounted on a vertical shaft, balanced so there is equal weight, but unequal profile area, on either side of the shaft. For outdoor readings, directional indicators marking the compass directions surround the shaft. The vane should be observed from close to directly below the vane to minimize perspective errors.

When a wind vane is not available, the wind direction may be estimated by comparing the movement of drifting smoke or a flag on a flagstaff with the compass.

The pre-RoF wind vane may be improved upon in several respects. First, if the tail vane is given an airfoil shape—a “vertical wing”—it will follow the wind better (MiddletonMI, 137). Second, one can make it possible to read the wind direction from indoors, or better yet, to record changes in wind direction with time. In 1695, the shaft of the wind vane at Wallingford House was coupled through a system of rods and cams to a large wall dial. Wallingford House was later integrated into the Admiralty building, with the dial being a prominent feature of their Lordships’ board room (Pope 22). There was also a wind vane repeater in the ceiling of the east portico of Jefferson’s Monticello (Peterson 393).

Mechanical connections are fine when the wind vane is mounted on the roof above the observer’s room, but for more remote connections, an electrical system is desirable. Either AC or DC transmission is possible. In the AC form, you have two small motors. The rotor on the transmitter is attached to the wind vane shaft and that of the repeater to the pointer of the readout dial. The stator field windings (forming an equilateral triangle) of the transmitter are connected to the corresponding windings of the repeater, and they are both fed the same AC source. The result is that the rotor on the repeater motor will tend to assume the same angular position as the rotor on the transmitter motor. (Srivastava 188).

Wind directions are reported as the direction the wind is coming from. Prior to the twentieth century, the points of the compass were used. In modern practice, the direction is given in degrees from true north, to the nearest ten degrees, with an accuracy of five degrees (WMO2008).

A wind vane used on shipboard (or any moving vehicle) indicates the direction of the apparent wind, not the true wind. However, if the ship’s true speed is known, the true wind may be calculated. For logging ship speed, see Cooper, “Soundings and Sextants, Part One, Navigational Instruments Old and New” (Grantville Gazette 14).


Wind Speed


Wind Scale. Without a device for measuring wind, the strength of the wind can only be described consistently by different observers (or the same observer at different times) if there is some sort of objective scale. As of RoF, the down-timers lacked such a scale.

The Brahe wind scale (1582) ran from dead calm, through two categories of light winds, five of strong winds, and finally three of storms (De Villiers 61). However, the descriptions of his categories lacked any objective standard (Huler 82).

Captain John Smith, in his Sea Grammar (1627) defined the customary sailors’ terms for the winds. Most of these definitions weren’t that helpful, but his “Loome Gale” was one in which the ship could carry all its sails, and the “Stiff Gale” one that was the most that the topsails could endure to bear (Huler 85). Keep those terms in mind.

The first objectively defined numerical scale was perhaps that of James Jurin (1723). It began well with zero as “perfect calm” and one as “the gentlest motion of the wind, which scarcely shakes the leaves on the trees” and culminated in four, “the most violent wind.” I do not know the definition of the intermediate levels. In 1780, the Palatine Society (Mannheim, Germany) adopted a similar five-point scale, defining two as “small boughs move,” three as “large boughs move,” and four as “boughs are torn off.” Anders Celsius also devised a five-point scale, though his required that grade two “move a heavy weathervane,” and grade four cause the trunk to “sway vehemently.” A 1779 Swedish scale distinguished among several different degrees of “topsail gales,” and it is suspected that the intent was to correlate with how much the topsail needed to be reefed (single, double or triple) (84). Beaufort took this a step further, characterizing the lighter breezes (forces 2-4) by the speed in knots of a man-of-war with all sails set, and the stronger winds (forces 5-12) by which sails had to be taken down or reefed (Huler 121).

The displacement of sailing ships by steamships rendered obsolete the definitions based on sail carried, and Simpson proposed (1906) a scale based on the sea state. (Explicit wave heights were added in 1960.) And of course, sea state isn’t useful for land observers, so Simpson also proposed one that categorized the effect of the wind on smoke and trees (NMLA).

Strictly speaking, the Beaufort wind scale categorizes wind force, not wind speed, and the force is theoretically proportional to the square of the speed. The International Commission for Weather Telegraphy’s empirical equivalent wind speed formula (1946) is v = 0.836 B1.5 m/s; B, scale number (Wikipedia). Yes, I know the exponent is 1.5, not 2.

The wind scale may be used to estimate the wind speed if the anemometer fails.

Anemometer. A deflection anemometer was invented by Leonardo da Vinci. “The flat plate, hinged at the top, is blown up along the curved scale in proportion to the speed of the wind” (Keele 135). (In proportion, but not linear proportion. Strictly speaking, wind pressure-based anemometers measure wind force, not wind speed, and even then, the scale of a deflection anemometer is not linear because the force on the inclined plate is proportional to the square of the cosine of the angle of deviation of wind incidence from the perpendicular.) A deflection anemometer was used on a Swedish warship in the late 1700s to take wind readings (Huler 89).

The four-cup (Robinson) anemometer (1846) is essentially a miniature windmill with a vertical axis. Robinson erroneously assumed that the cup speed would be one-third the wind speed, but the ratio is dependent on the dimensions of the cups and arms (EB11/anemometer). But at least there is a mostly linear relationship between wind speed and the rotation speed of the cup center (Pindado). Unfortunately, cup anemometers accelerate faster than they decelerate, so they tend to overshoot.

There has been experimentation with respect to the number of cups, the cup shape (cone, hemisphere, combination), the length of the arms, the means used to minimize friction (ball, tapered, and roller bearings), and the manner of reading the number of rotations (Choon). Patterson found that a “two-cup rotor runs very unevenly, while a three-cup rotor in this respect is actually superior to a four-cup rotor and also has a more linear calibration . . . and gives a larger torque . . . .” (Kristensen). More recently, a six-cup rotor (two tiers of three) was developed, and increasing the drag coefficient of the reverse side of the cups dealt with the overshoot problem. (Frenzen). Designers should also consider that a short shaft or large, sharp-edged body will create flow disturbances (Hunter).

One can instead use a horizontal axis, but then a wind vane must be used to keep the axis parallel to the direction of the wind. Also, instead of cups, one may use a propeller.

No anemometers are mentioned in canon. Anemometers are described in EB11, and in an Amateur Scientist column of Scientific American (1972 Jun, 122). Crude four-cup anemometers are featured in several pre-RoF books on science fair experiments (e.g., Janice VanCleave’s Weather, 1995).  Even without that guidance, the cup anemometer is something that some of the up-timers have surely seen, and a good mechanic can surely come up with a practical design. There may even be an exemplar at the high school science department.

The anemometer will have to be calibrated (so we know the relationship between rotational speed and wind speed), and the simplest way to do it is to mount it on a car and drive the car at a set speed on a day the air is still. In modern practice, anemometers are sometimes calibrated in a wind tunnel. The performance of an anemometer can degrade with time as a result of wind damage, corrosion, dust infiltration, etc.

It is possible to read the anemometer remotely if an electrical generator is connected to its axis. Rotation of the axis creates an electric current which can be measured at the observer end of the wire with an ammeter. The electrical readout also facilitates recording the wind speed as a continuous graph by an electromechanical linkage that moves a pen across a scrolling paper in response to the change in current.

The cup or propeller anemometer is not accurate for measuring low wind speeds. For this purpose, one can use a hot-wire anemometer (measures how ventilation cools an electrically heated wire).

Operation. In modern practice, the wind vane and anemometer are supposed to be mounted at a point well exposed to the wind from all directions (distance from any obstruction should be at least ten times its height), and at a height of ten meters. An anemometer on top of a building should be raised at least one building width above the top. For ship-based measurements, good exposure is considered more important than fixing it at a height of ten meters, and a correction is made for height (WMO2008).

Reporting. The anemometer reports, with a short time lag, the instantaneous wind speed. Usually, what consumers are interested in are the average wind speed and the maximum gust speed over a set time interval. This can be estimated by study of the recorded wind trace from an anemograph, or by taking a series of observations manually from an anemometer over the course of ten minutes. In modern practice, the desired accuracy is 0.5 m/s for speeds under 5 m/s, and 10% for higher wind speeds (WMO2008).


Now that we know how the basic meteorological instruments can be made in the new time line, we are ready to talk about the development of an observer network, the propagation of weather maps, and weather forecasting. Stay tuned to this channel . . . .


Freemasonry in the World of 1632

Almost since the beginning of the Ring of Fire Universe, readers (and writers) have speculated about potential activities by social and fraternal organizations in Grantville and how they might continue to operate in the seventeenth century. In particular, the Masonic Fraternity could have made the journey back in time and sought to function in the down-time environment.

There are a number of obstacles to fraternal activity in the form in which it would have existed up-time, and these place significant constraints on stories set down-time. I have been a writer in the universe for a few years and have had the benefit of excellent advice and editorial direction regarding a large number of subjects; now, as an active Freemason who serves as Grand Historian for the oldest Grand Lodge in North America and as librarian at its library, I have the opportunity to provide my own exposition which I hope will be useful for any writers seeking to work Freemasonry into stories set in the world of 1632.


Freemasonry in Up-time Grantville


Grantville, West Virginia is closely based on an actual town, Mannington, which up-time had a local lodge—Mannington #31, originally chartered (brought into existence) under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Virginia; it was inactive during the Civil War and was reformed and chartered in 1867. While not among the lodges that helped create the Grand Lodge of West Virginia in Fairmont in 1865, Mannington Lodge was still one of the earliest lodges created in the new state, and is still on West Virginia’s rolls today.


Lodges and Grand Lodges


Since the early eighteenth century, a distinct geographical area—a country or region or, in the United States, a state or territory—will have a supernumerary body called a grand lodge. This organization, governed by a grand master, performs the following functions exclusively within its territorial jurisdiction:


  • It issues and controls charters: official documents that permit a lodge to perform Masonic functions and admit new members
  • It directs the performance of Masonic rituals and determines official protocols under which lodges operate
  • It collects fees for new and existing members of lodges.

Though they have done so in the past, Grand Lodges in the United States do not generally confer membership (“the degrees”) on applicants; this is generally reserved to the lodges.


Lodge Organization


Lodges in the United States vary somewhat in their exact organization, but every lodge—the local, constituent body that actually performs the Masonic ritual—will have a number of officers, either elected by the membership or appointed by the governing officer, who is universally called the Master (or “Worshipful Master”). The next two officers are called Wardens, Senior and Junior; that is the minimum number of officers absolutely required to conduct a meeting. There are varying numbers and types of other officers depending on jurisdiction—Deacons and Stewards to help perform the Masonic rituals, a Marshal (or Master of Ceremonies) to conduct processions, a Chaplain to offer prayers; a Secretary and Treasurer to manage the business of the lodge, a Tyler (who generally remains outside the room to receive visitors and “guard the door”), and even an Organist, if the lodge has an organ or piano, as music has been a part of Masonic meetings for centuries.

The primary function (“work”) of a Masonic lodge is to confer the “degrees”—a series of presentations that teach moral lessons and impose obligations upon candidates. Each degree includes an oath, generally sworn on bended knee at an altar, which includes the obligation to keep secret the “modes of recognition”—signs and handshakes (“grips”) that permit Masons to “recognize” each other. (In modern times, Masons tend to recognize each other by lapel pins, belt buckles, and baseball caps, but that’s beside the point.) It is worth noting that all presentations in lodges are done from memory, and in West Virginia (as in many other jurisdictions) the “work” is taught from mouth to ear, that is, without any sort of textbook. Officers learn their words sentence by sentence from a teacher. This is aided (in West Virginia) by “schools of instruction,” where a teacher might have a printed text of the ritual, but it is not permitted to copy it for personal use. However, much of the “secret work” has been available in one form or another, particularly with the advance of the Internet; it is unclear what might have been available in that form in 2000.




West Virginia lodges generally meet once or twice a month on the same night (“First and Third”); if multiple times they would meet once for business and once to confer degrees. According to the current West Virginia Grand Lodge list, a few lodges meet according to the phase of the moon; this practice was much more common when members needed to find their way home from meetings at night by moonlight.

Most lodges in West Virginia hold special meetings on one or both “Saint John’s Days”—June 24 (Baptist) and December 27 (Evangelist).




While the exact conduct of Masonic meetings might be kept somewhat secret, the Mannington lodge met—and still meets—in a publicly identifiable location at a well-known time; in this case, at 107½ Clarksburg Street on the first and third Tuesdays.


Effects of the Ring of Fire


The single most important effect of the event would be to isolate the Grantville lodge from the rest of the up-time Masonic fraternity. For all intents and purposes, the only Masonic lodge—in the up-time sense—that would exist would be Grantville Lodge. There would be no Grand Lodge to govern it, no neighbor lodges to share duties. It would be effectively alone.

There would be additional complications, not the least of which would be that the first year or two might leave little time to keep up meetings of the lodge.

But there would be an even greater obstacle to conducting Masonic work if some – or most—of the active officers were not in Grantville when the Ring of Fire took it away. If the Master and Wardens lived a few towns away, they would simply be absent and unable to give the memorized lectures that are essential to the conferral of degrees. This might be ameliorated if some of the people who happened to be there on the day of the event—say, one or more male members of the wedding party—happened to be Masons, but if they belonged to a lodge in another jurisdiction, even if they were officers they might be familiar with a completely different version of the lectures. Modes of recognition are fairly universal within the United States, but protocols and practices might be completely different.

For convenience, it might be assumed that at least one of Grantville Lodge’s senior officers came through the Ring of Fire, and if we decide to be generous, that one of the members of the lodge—perhaps a past Master (one who had previously been the presiding officer)—served as a lecturer or instructor and happened to have a copy of the ritual text book. Given those modest assumptions, Grantville Lodge might be able to return to operation a few years after the Ring of Fire. It would effectively be its own Grand Lodge, but depending on the temperament and judgment of its members, it might face insuperable challenges in continuing to function. It could make its own rules—but while that dispenses with many problems, it creates almost as many more.


Freemasonry Outside the Ring of Fire


Here we reach the heart of the difficulty regarding the future of Masonic activity and stories that might be written about it. Well-defined history of the Fraternity dates from the year 1717, when the first Grand Lodge (the “Grand Lodge of London and Westminster,” which ultimately became the Grand Lodge of England, the ancestor of all “regular” Freemasonry in the world) was organized by four lodges in London. The oldest Grand Lodge in the New World, Massachusetts, was created by this Grand Lodge in 1733, with many others not far behind.

However, it is well-known—just not well-documented—that there was considerable Masonic activity, with at least some of the forms and ceremonies resembling the modern ones, well before 1717. This took place all during the seventeenth century, and possibly during the sixteenth century as well. Anecdotal accounts freely mix with legend, and what you believe has a lot to do with what you believe about the origin of the fraternity itself.

Most traditional histories suggest that the “speculative” form of Masonry—the philosophical and benevolent society that doesn’t actually work in stone—grew out of the medieval stonemasons’ guilds, which had codes of behavior, modes of recognition, traditions of charity, and a strong predilection for keeping secrets, including in some cases the identity of its members. At some point these guilds began to admit non-operative members, particularly those who would give the society a cachet.

There is, however, a poorly-supported theory that the Freemasons are, in fact, the descendants of members of the Templar order, who were forced to “go underground” after the order was betrayed and banned by the Church in the early fourteenth century. This theory began to gain popularity in the early- to mid-eighteenth century, and while romantic, it does not stand up to close scrutiny.

Finally, the principles and beliefs of the Masonic fraternity are closely aligned with the Enlightenment—equality, fraternity, freedom of thought—and the modern-day society derives much of its true philosophy from the beliefs of that era; all of that precedes the seventeenth-century incarnation of Freemasonry. In short: whatever the form of the fraternity in the seventeenth century, it will be a lot different than the twentieth-century form. It will be secretive, charitable only within its membership, jealous of its privileges, and—unlike the up-time version—doctrinaire and likely hostile to “outsiders”—even people who know the modes of recognition. Up-time Freemasons will have a tough time cracking the shell of down-time ones.

J. G. Findel’s History of Freemasonry gives an account of the development of the Steinmetzen, a society of stonemasons in the Holy Roman Empire. Findel identifies the headquarters of the organization as Strasbourg, with subordinates—Bauhütten—which might compare with lodges, with the oldest ones in various cities in the Empire dating from the thirteenth century. He notes that there was some decline in the Bauhütten over the next two centuries, but in 1459 a confederation of nineteen Bauhütten formed a new confederation. They gathered in Ratisbon to write a set of Ordinances to govern it, and these statutes became the standard throughout the Empire, confirmed by a series of Emperors. These Steinmetzen—actual operative stonemasons—used recognition modes (Wahrzeichen) and initiation ceremonies that were similar to those used by Freemasons in modern times. The Thirty Years’ War seriously disrupted the fraternal activities of the Steinmetzen, as well as putting many builders and craftsmen out of work.

Understand, however, that the Steinmetzen in the Empire were operative Masons—they actually worked with tools and built things. They were bound together by more than fraternalism; they were professional colleagues.


Interaction Between Up-time and Down-time Masons


Properly treated, the interaction between up-time Freemasons and down-time Steinmetzen would be a good source of interesting stories. The Steinmetzen would by their nature be more secretive and more jealous of their relationships; any chance encounters would be the result of some accident, like an up-time Mason seeing a recognition sign or overhearing a password and then seeking to greet the down-timer. These are unlikely to be received well, at least at the outset. But if a trusting relationship could be established, it would give the Grantville Masons access to a wide network of intelligence and local knowledge.


Fair or Foul: Part 1, Observing Temperature, Humidity, and Precipitation

Our up-time characters are in Little Ice Age Europe now, and hence neither their experience with twentieth-century American agriculture nor their limited literature on twentieth-century European agriculture are a completely reliable guide as to what crops will grow where. The effect of the Ring of Fire on climate is also somewhat uncertain.


Airship lift depends on the difference in density between the lift gas and the ambient air, and thus in part on their respective temperatures. So temperature is relevant to airship pilots, not just farmers.


We need to start making accurate records of weather conditions, and we will certainly be looking at temperature, humidity, and precipitation.






In Grantville, the most common form of outdoor thermometer is the liquid expansion thermometer. Most such thermometers will probably use, as the “thermometric liquid,” an organic liquid with a red or blue dye, but it will be common knowledge that mercury may also be used.


Mercury has the advantages of being opaque, easily purified, chemically stable, not wetting or chemically attacking glass, liquid over a wide temperature range (-38.8oC to 356.7oC, thus unlikely to evaporate at the top of the column), and having clearly defined meniscus, a high thermal conductivity, low specific heat (making it rapidly responsive to changes in temperature), and a fairly linear coefficient of thermal expansion. Unfortunately, it is poisonous, the expansion is small compared to alcohol, and in very cold climates it can solidify.


Several different organic liquids have been used, but the most readily available in the 1632 universe is ethanol, with a liquid range of -114 to 78oC. My prediction is that mercury will be used for a small number of precision reference thermometers and the actual weather stations will use ethanol thermometers.


Glass composition is also significant. It is not just the liquid, but also the glass, that expands as the temperature increases, and not entirely linearly (or at the same rate as the liquid). Also, after being first heated and then cooled, the glass bulb of some compositions did not return to its original dimensions, leading to a slow rise in the zero of mercury thermometers. In the late nineteenth century, Schott developed a series of more stable glasses, notably borosilicate (Pyrex(R) glass) (Vogel 21). Hard glasses are generally preferred (EB11/Thermometry).


Most modern meteorological thermometers have the stem, with engraved scale markings, inside a protective glass sheath, and there is a white enamel backing on the stem to make the liquid movement more visible. (Srivastava 96). My “hardware store” thermometers are unsheathed, and the scale is on a separate attached metal frame. The attached scale will “inevitably move slightly with time.” (Burt 116).


The first thermometers sensed air rather than liquid expansion. The first known drawing of a thermometer is from 1611. It shows an inverted flask with a long narrow stem, fitting into the neck of a short-necked flask, the latter partially filled with water. The bottom of the stem of the first flask is below the liquid surface. A rise in temperature caused the expansion of the air in the short flask, pushing the water up the stem. Alongside the stem there was a scale divided first into eight degrees and these each into six ten-minute intervals. Its inventor, possibly living in Rome, is unknown (Middleton 11).


The basic problem with unsealed air thermometers was that the expansion of the air was a function of pressure as well as temperature. In 1632 Jean Rey (1583-OTL c1645) dispensed with the second flask, and turned the first flask stem upward, creating a liquid expansion thermometer. However, the tube was unsealed so errors could arise from evaporation of the water (27). The sealed spirit-in-glass thermometer is attributed to Ferdinand II, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and most likely invented in 1654. The first experiments with mercury were in 1657, but the Tuscan academicians deemed it inferior in performance (28-37).


Before leaving the subject of early temperature measurement, I wish to call the reader’s attention to Fitzroy’s chemical weather glass (1862), as is it the sort of curiosity that a resident of Grantville might have inherited, or picked up at a craft fair, before the Ring of Fire. It “consisted of a solution of camphor and certain inorganic salts in aqueous alcohol, sealed in a glass tube.” Negretti & Zambra used potassium nitrate and ammonium chloride. The salts formed crystalline dendrites, and Fitzroy claimed that when the crystals built up, the weather would get colder and stormier, and if they disappeared, it would be dry and clear. Studies by Mills have shown that the chemical weather glass is sensitive both to the current temperature and “any preceding regime of temperature changes.” It is thus a thermoscope. Mills comments, “A rapid fall in temperature associated with an approaching vigorous cold front could conceivably trigger … rapid crystal growth if observed at a fortuitous time, but in general any correlation between appearance and future weather patterns would be purely coincidental.”


Manufacture. In 1612, Giovanfrancesco Sangredo (d. 1620) made several thermoscopes, at a cost of four lire each. These had no scale, but the column height could be measured with a caliper. He apparently made use of “a wine glass with a foot, a small ampoule, and a glass tube,” and he could make ten in an hour.


The Grand Duke’s glassblower, Mariani, had incredible skill and was able to manufacture thermometers with a “50 degree range” (corresponding to the modern -18.75 to 55oC) with great consistency. He admitted, however, that he could not do this for the Medicean 100- and 300-degree range thermometers, because “inequalities could more easily occur in the larger bulb and longer tube” (Middleton 34-5). On the other hand, Middleton asserts that “workmen north of the Alps found it difficult enough at first to make a plain bulb and tube and fill it with spirit of wine” (132).

Roemer proposed that after forming the tube, it be examined for uniformity by examining the length of a drop of mercury as it passed down the bore. If the tube was found to be irregular, it was discarded, and if conical (the length increased or decreased at a constant rate), he took measurements and divided the bore into four equal volumes (67).


While in many thermometers the bulb was blown on the capillary tube, EB11/Thermometry recommends that it be formed of a separate piece of glass fused onto the stem.


Bimetallic Thermometers. In Grantville, there should also be thermometers with a dial readout. These have a strip with two different metals layered together, usually brass and iron. The metals have different coefficients of expansion and thus the strip bends toward the less responsive metal. The deflection is proportional to the temperature change and to the square of the length; winding the strip into a helix allows a long and thus more sensitive element to be relatively compact. A pointer is connected to the center. Generally speaking, they are less accurate than liquid expansion thermometers, and require weekly (if not daily) recalibration (Thermoworks), but they are the basis for the most common kind of thermograph.


Platinum Resistance Thermometers. These, known as RTDs (Resistance Temperature Detectors) rely on the change of electrical resistance with temperature. EB11/Thermometry provides formulae, circuit schematics, and comments on errors and corrections. The current levels must be kept very low (<1 ma) to minimize self-heating (Srivastava 135, 137).


In the twenty-first century, RTDs are available in two grades, “standard” and “industrial.” RTDs will not be found in Grantville homes or schools, but it is conceivable that the power plant has them (most likely “industrial” grade). The standard RTDs are used as primary reference thermometers. They have platinum wire of 99.999% purity wound in a strain-free configuration (MINCO). Unfortunately, the strain-free resistance element is extremely delicate (Ripple), so SPRDs are used in laboratories.


The industrial grade RTDs use platinum of lower purity and also have a simpler construction in which the resistance element is supported (or thick enough to be self-supporting). When calibrated, they have an accuracy of perhaps 0.01oC, an order of magnitude less than the SPRTDs. But they are also cheaper to make and calibrate (Fluke).


There is a small quantity of platinum available in Grantville in the form of jewelry, and it may be sufficient for experimentation. Commercial development of RTDs will have to await platinum mining (see Cooper, Mineral Mastery, Grantville Gazette 23) and purification. Developers will have to worry not only about platinum purity, but also about mounting the wire so as to minimize the strain caused by thermal expansion and contraction (Price).


Even if the wire is not subject to chemical attack, it is mechanically fragile, and the wire is typically protected from the medium by encasing it in a glass, quartz, porcelain, or metal tube (Patranabis 223). A plastic cladding might also work. In any event, the sheathing increases the lag time (Srivastava).

Platinum’s advantages are that it is a noble metal, with a high melting point, and that it has a very linear response over a wide temperature range. Copper is more responsive, and linear over the range -50 to 150oC, but subject to chemical attack. Nickel is even more responsive, and is chemically resistant, but there is no simple formula for calculation of its resistance (MINCO). One can scavenge the nichrome wire heating element from a defunct toaster or heating pad. However, nichrome actually has a rather low temperature sensitivity (Lemieux). My expectation is that the first NTL resistance thermometers will use copper wire.


Thermistors. In an automated weather station, there’s no one to go out and read the mercury (or spirit) level on a conventional thermometer. Hence, some sort of electrically based temperature sensor is needed, and the platinum resistance thermometer (RTD) is too expensive for most meteorological applications.


A thermistor is a resistor whose resistance is temperature-dependent. In 1833, Faraday discovered that the electrical “resistance of silver sulfide decreased dramatically as temperature increased;” i.e., it is a negative temperature coefficient (NTC) material (Wikipedia). The first commercial thermistor was Ruben’s (1930).


There are thermistors in Grantville; they are the sensing element in the digital clinical thermometer. They are ten times as sensitive as an RTD but their temperature response is highly nonlinear (exponential). Also, a single thermistor has a useful temperature range of not more than 100oC and their maximum temperature of operation is 110oC(Ripple) (so don’t take them into the desert). (Industrial RTDs can be used outside the thermistor range.)


I assume that one of the electrical engineers in Grantville has Dorf’s Electrical Engineering Handbook (2d ed., 1997). It discloses that NTC thermistors are “ceramic semiconductors made by sintering mixtures of heavy metal oxides such as manganese, nickel, cobalt, copper and iron” (14). It is known that the automation engineering department in the power plant and public works department have copies of Instrument Engineer’s Handbook Third Edition, edited by Béla Lipták, and The Instrumentation Reference Book, Third Edition, edited by Walt Boyes. Both have extensive sections on thermometry and temperature measurement instrumentation. So that gives us a starting point, but I suspect that these must be purified to very high purity and we must also experiment to find which combinations provide strong temperature dependencies. The simplest type of thermistor to make is probably a bead; the metal oxide powders are combined with a binder (to be determined!) to make a slurry and this is applied to a pair of platinum alloy wires held parallel. The beads are dried and then fired in a furnace at 1100-1400oC to sinter the particles (Lavenuta). Given the infrastructure and experimental requirements, I am doubtful that a practical thermistor can be built before the NTL late 1640s.


Scale, Range, and Calibration. For the thermometer to be useful in meteorology, we needed to have a way of assuring the comparability of observations made with different thermometers.


If the scale were an arbitrary one, then the only way of calibrating the scale of a new thermometer would be to place it next to a reference one, expose them to several markedly different temperatures, and then mark the tube of the new one to correspond to the temperatures displayed by the reference one.


It was realized at a quite early stage that the temperature scale should be defined according to reference points corresponding to readily reproducible laboratory conditions. Then a reference thermometer is not needed at all. By 1702, Roemer proposed a scale in which 7.5 was the melting point of ice and 60 the boiling point of water. A decade later, Fahrenheit experimented with several scales, of which the final one had 32 as the melting point of ice and 96 as human body temperature (now known to be 98.6oF). He extrapolated that on that scale, the boiling point of water would be 212oF, and it was only later that others adopted that as the “hot reference” for his scale (Middleton 78-9). Celsius, in 1742, proposed the melting point of snow as the cold reference and the boiling point of water when air pressure was 25.25 Swedish inches as the hot reference, with 100 degrees in between. Other inventors proposed other scales, and a mid-eighteenth century thermometer featured eighteen scales.


The modern thermometers found in Grantville are likely to be marked in both Fahrenheit and Celsius, and it is very likely that the scientists and engineers in Grantville will push very hard for one or both of these scales to be universally adopted.


The portion of the standard temperature scale that is marked on the thermometer is its range. Typically, the bigger the range, the less accurate the reading; for ordinary thermometers, an error equal to 1-2% of the maximum range is not unusual. The outdoor thermometers I own have a range of -50 to +50oC.


Calibration has three aspects: (1) marking the thermometer scale so as to correspond exactly to the reference scale at the two points and at least roughly at in-between points, (2) tabulating the remaining errors in the thermometer scale, and (3) checking the thermometer from time to time to determine the necessary adjustments for physical changes in the instrument.


When matter is changing phase (between solid and liquid, or liquid and gas, or solid and gas), as long as both phases are present, the temperature should remain constant. Hence, the melting point of ice and the boiling point of water are, at least theoretically, “fixed points.”


In 1777, the British Royal Society reported on “the best method of adjusting the fixed points of thermometers.” They had found that depending on the manufacturer, thermometers could differ by 3.25oF in their measure of the temperature of steam. Accordingly, they gave specific instructions as to the design of the vessel (a cylindrical pot with a cover and a chimney, the latter covered with a loose-fitting tin plate), the placement of the thermometer inside, the application of the heat, and the correction for atmospheric pressure. For the ice point, the Society called for the crushed ice to reach almost to the top of the column, and for provision to made for drainage of the meltwater (Middleton 128).


The vessel used in the boiling point determination is called a hypsometer, and there is a diagram and brief description in EB11/Thermometry. The boiling point needs to be corrected for differences in pressure from the reference pressure. Characters should not use the correction set forth in EB11, but rather one based on modern steam tables. (The power plant should have them.)


Some of the precautions recommended by the Society are now known to inhibit superheating, a phenomenon in which liquid water exceeds its nominal boiling point (Chang).


Modern ice slush and steam calibration baths can achieve accuracies of 0.002oC and 0.1oC respectively (Moore 614).


Even though we can use the Celsius reference conditions to define a scale from first principles, for meteorological purposes, the range -50 to +50oC is much more useful than one of 0 to 100. For that range, other reference points may prove helpful. (The accuracy that can be expected “without extraordinary attention to purity” is typically about 1oC for most of the transitions (although it is 0.05oC for melting gallium) (Moore). Unfortunately, only a few of the “standard” phase transition baths have temperatures in that range, and we don’t have access to gallium (melting point 29.7646oC) or indium (159.5985oC). Mercury is available and melts at -38.8344oC. We might be able to obtain p-xylene (13oC); this would involve isolating it from a natural source (perhaps wood tar) or synthesizing it from readily obtained chemicals. Most syntheses also produce its two isomers, which have different boiling points, and the separation isn’t trivial despite that difference.


Studying physical data on organic compounds (The CRC Handbook should be in Grantville), I have noted some common chemicals with phase transitions in the meteorological temperature range: the boiling points of acetone (56.2oC) and benzene (80.1), and the melting points of tert-butyl alcohol (25.7) or glycerol (17.8). In each case, you must be sure that the chemical is pure (so you can rely on the reporting values) and that both phases are present. In general, melting point determinations are better than boiling point ones, because the latter are also affected by atmospheric pressure.


I have also found reference to the use of crystal transition temperatures, at which a crystalline salt changes form (perhaps as a result of the loss of water of hydration). For example, the transition temperature at which both sodium sulfate decahydrate and anhydrous sodium sulfate coexist is 32.383oC (Middleton 57). Sodium sulfate (Glauber’s salt) is commonly used because its transition temperature is close to room temperature and it is easily purified by successive recrystallization. Another possibility, once we have access to chromium ores, is sodium chromate decahydrate, which transitions to the hexahydrate at 19.529oC (Magin; Richards).


Once the two reference points are marked on the scale, the intermediate points can be marked manually by geometric dividing methods (these are known to the down-timers) or ultimately mechanically by a “dividing engine.” Either way, a uniform division is achieved.


Unfortunately, the behavior of liquid expansion thermometers is not entirely linear. The liquid and glass may change expansion rates with temperature, and the bore might not be uniform.


Modern precision meteorological thermometers are calibrated by putting the thermometer in an alcohol, water, or paraffin bath that is heated to a series of set temperatures, say 10oC apart (Srivastava 108). Naturally that means that you need a calibrated and even more accurate thermometer for monitoring the bath temperature. The platinum resistance thermometer is excellent for this purpose. (Platinum resistance is highly linear over the meteorological range, Middleton 180) The NWS in 2014 uses an SPRTD (NWSRS 8), but our characters would have to settle for less. Even better, this thermometer is incorporated into a thermostat so that the heat is turned on or shut off as needed to maintain the set point temperature. A table is prepared showing the correction needed by the test thermometer to match the reference thermometer at each of these calibration marks, and the observed applies the correction as appropriate.


On early thermometers, the scale was drawn on paper that in turn was mounted on a wood board. Scales have also been engraved on metal, glass, or ivory back plates, or directly onto the thermometer tube (etched with hydrofluoric acid).


Even a calibrated thermometer needs to be recalibrated from time to time. For example, the residual strain in a glass thermometer eases slowly, causing the glass to shrink. Most of the change occurs in the first year (Bentley 2:98).


Recalibration involves carrying an “inspector thermometer” (precisely calibrated in the laboratory) to each weather station. The station thermometer and the inspector thermometer are exposed to an ice bath (the single calibration point is good enough for a liquid expansion thermometer, see Ripple) and the station thermometer’s correction table updated.


In twentieth-century practice, inspector thermometers are mercury-based. It may have a narrow bore, so the change in length of the column is greater for a different temperature change. The downside is that the inspector thermometer must either be longer than the norm, or have a restricted range (say 30oC) (Srivaslava 103).


Accuracy. Spirit thermometers typically have an accuracy of 1-2 degrees Celsius in the meteorological temperature range (Facts).


In 2014, for NWS land stations, current and maximum temperature must be measured with 1oF accuracy in the range -20 to 115oF, and 2oF in the extreme ranges -40 to 20oF and 115-140oF. Minimum temperature accuracy is 1oF for -20 to 110oF, and 2oF for -80 to -20 (NWSRS 7). The data is nonetheless reported to the nearest 0.1oF (9).


Interestingly, this performance standard is inconsistent with the WMO recommendation that in the central range the maximum error be less than 0.4oF; NWS comments, “in practice, it may not be economical to provide thermometers that meet this performance goal.”


The accuracy with which temperature is measured can be increased by using a panel of several thermometers. If the thermometers are equally inaccurate and there is no systematic bias, the average of four thermometers will be twice as accurate as just one. (The standard error is proportional to the individual standard deviation and inversely proportional to the square root of the sample size.)


Maximum and Minimum Thermometers. These indicate the extreme value since they were last reset by the observer.


EB11/Thermometry (836) describes three different kinds of maximum thermometers: the Rutherford (1790) type, in which the mercury in a horizontal tube pushes a steel (originally, glass) index and leaves it behind when the temperature drops; that of Negretti and Zambra, with a constriction in the horizontal tube past the bulb (the mercury expands past the constriction but the “column” breaks there when it contracts); and that of Phillips (1832) and Walferdin (1855), where the horizontal “column” is divided by a bubble of air that acts as an index. Note that the physician’s thermometer is really a maximum thermometer of the constriction type. The Rutherford type was “little used” by 1911; the problem was that the mercury tended to seep past the index (Middleton 152).


Rutherford also invented the favored minimum thermometer; again, a horizontal tube, but the liquid is amyl alcohol (originally, ordinary alcohol) and the index is made of porcelain (or glass).


There was also Six’ combination minimum/maximum thermometer (1782), a U-tube with a bulb at both ends. There is mercury in the middle and spirit in the legs, but one bulb also contains spirit and the other a mixture of air and alcoholic vapor.  The mercury merely serves as an indicator, the “thermometric fluid” being the spirit, and unfortunately the alcohol can wet the glass and pass by the mercury. (Middleton 161).


Thermographs. These provide continuous records of temperature, and thus reduce the utility of minimum and maximum thermometers. Note, however, that they tend to be less accurate than thermometers.  In essence, they couple a thermometer to a readout mechanism.


If the internal thermometer is of the liquid-in-glass type, the liquid must be mercury rather than alcohol, as the latter is too sluggish. The dominant design used a photographic readout; light shining around the mercury column onto photographed paper moved by clockwork (193). The temperature record was thus a negative image (black except where the paper was shadowed by the mercury), and the device evolved, taking advantage of improvements in light sources and paper. There were ingenious alternatives of uncertain practicability; one design balanced the thermometer horizontally on a knife edge; the temperature change shifted the center of gravity, and the tilt was recorded.  It is uncertain how this would fare in a strong wind.


The other major type was that in which a bimetallic strip is deformed in response to temperature change. The strip moves a stylus that draws on paper carried by a rotating drum; the rotation is driven by a clock mechanism inside the drum and thus protected from the elements (201-4).


I was surprised to discover that in general there wasn’t much meteorological use of thermographs featuring electrical thermometers.


Thermometer Exposure. It is not easy to expose the thermometer in such a way that it displays the true air temperature; the heat exchange between the thermometer and its surroundings is complex. The down-timers know that it is warmer in the sun than the shade, and in the mid-seventeenth century Medicean meteorological network it was initially standard for thermometers to be placed at the north and south windows of each station (Middleton 208).


For its Cooperative Observer Program, the National Weather Service advises that a temperature sensor be mounted four to six feet off the ground, in a level open clearing and away from obstructions and paved surfaces.


It is also customary for meteorological instruments to be housed in an elevated shelter (“Stevenson screen” or “Cotton Region Shelter”) that shades the instruments while providing ventilation. One shelter design appears in Popular Science (May, 1935). Typically, the shelters have louvers that slope downward and outward, are painted white to reflect solar radiation, and, in the northern hemisphere, the door faces north.


There have been a couple of thermometer designs intended to increase ventilation beyond that provided by passive air movement through louvers. One is the sling thermometer; a thermometer mounted on a frame pivotably connected to an axle that terminates in a handle. This evolved into the sling psychrometer, using two thermometers (one with a wet bulb), and used to measure humidity. The other is the aspirated thermometer; with forced convection from a suction fan. This, too, evolved into a psychrometer.


Temperature readings can be perturbed, not only by solar radiation and precipitation, but also by the observer’s own heat. Hence, readings must be taken expeditiously.


As of 2014, NWS Cooperative Observer Stations were equipped with a spirit-based minimum thermometer and a mercury-based maximum thermometer, and/or certain models of thermistor-type electronic thermometers. After the maximum thermometer is read, the tube can be spun in its mount to force the mercury in the stem past the constriction, joining the mercury in the bulb, and then it indicates the current air temperature (NWCSOM A-24).






Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. The warmer the air, the more water vapor it can hold. Somewhat non-intuitively, increasing humidity decreases air density (because the water vapor molecules replace heavier air molecules). So humidity is relevant to airship operations.


Absolute humidity is the exact water vapor content of the air, whereas relative humidity is the current content compared to the maximum possible at the current temperature and pressure. The “dew point is the temperature at which airborne water vapor will condense to form liquid dew” (Wikipedia). The higher the relative humidity, the closer the dew point is to the current air temperature. The difference between the two is called the “dew point depression.”


To measure dew point depression (from which we can calculate relative and absolute humidity if the pressure is known), we need both an ordinary (dry bulb) thermometer and a “wet bulb thermometer.” The latter, which approximates the dew point, is a thermometer that “has its bulb wrapped in cloth—called a sock—that is kept wet with distilled water via wicking action” (Wikipedia). (Some inventors replaced the water of the classic wet bulb thermometer with a more volatile liquid; Daniell (1820) used ether.) The combination of the two matched thermometers is called a psychrometer, a type of hygrometer.


The thermometers can be ventilated by whirling (sling psychrometer) or by a fan. The so-called psychrometer coefficient (which relates the vapor pressure to the dew point depression) is 0.0008 for a naturally ventilated psychrometer inside a Stevenson screen, and 0.000667 for a force-ventilated one (Harrison 117).


Accuracy is typically equivalent to 5% relative humidity and response time to get a reliable reading is about a minute (122).


Crude gravimetric absorption hygrometers were designed by Nicolaus Cusanus (1450), Leo Battista Alberti (1470), and Leonardo da Vinci (1490). In essence, this was a balance with a hygroscopic substance (cotton, wool, sponge) in one pan and a water-repelling substance (wax) in the other. Under dry conditions, the pans are at the same level, but if humidity increases, the cotton absorbs water and that pan sinks lower (Robens 556).


Condensation (on the outside of a vessel containing snow or ice) was weighed directly by Grand Duke Ferdinand in the 1660s (Bentley 181).


Mechanical hygrometers may be constructed using a substance whose mechanical properties are altered by humidity. Such materials include hair, goldbeaters skin (also used for airship gas bags), and animal horn or antler (109). In 1614, Santorio Santorre (1561-OTL 1636) stretched a center-weighted cord between two fixed points; absorption of water vapor caused the cord to contract and lift the weight (Wiederhold 4). In 1664, Francesco Folli (1624-85) made similar use of a paper ribbon, but the weight was connected to the center of the ribbon by a cord running over a pulley, and the pulley was connected to a dial pointer. Later, ivory (de Luc 1773) and goose quills (Buissart and Retz, 1780) were used as humidity sensors (Zuidervaart).


A hair tension hygrometer was proposed by de Saussure in 1783 (Wikipedia/Hygrometer); hair increased length by 2-2.5% for a 100% change in RH. The response is not linear (but still better than the sensors used previously) and depends on the type of hair. At subzero temperatures, response time and responsiveness are reduced. The hair length changes more when humidity increases than when it decreases. Hair is very sensitive to contamination (dust, finger oils, etc.). A hair hygrometer is usually calibrated with an aspirated psychrometer. But in a pinch, you can wet the hair bundle to reach 100% RH (JMA). Likewise, to get to 0% RH, find an up-timer with a blow dryer. Trowbridge (1896) showed that the RH error didn’t exceed 3% if the true RH was 20-85%.


In the late twentieth century, hair hygrometers were still in use. In these modern iterations, a bundle of human hair of different types is used, the hairs are carefully cleaned, and in some instances the scale is nonlinearly divided (Belfort; Ambient Weather).


In a metal-paper coil hygrometer, the paper is impregnated with a hygroscopic (water-absorbing salt) and laminated to the metal. Its absorption of water changes the curvature of the coil in a manner analogous to how temperature changes the curvature of the strip in a bimetallic thermometer. Accuracy is perhaps 10% RH.


Electrical hygrometers detect the change in electrical capacitance or resistance of a sensor element as a result of the change in humidity. Typically, capacitance changes are easier to detect. The capacitance-type hygrometer (developed in the 1930s, Wiederhold 5) features a thin film of polymer or metal oxide (the dielectric) deposited between the electrodes. The change in capacitance is about 0.2-0.5 picofarads for a 1% RH change (JMA). I am doubtful that the electrical hygrometer can be made in the NTL 1630s.


Hygrometers are typically calibrated by sampling the humidity above a saturated salt solution (Potassium nitrate and chloride, magnesium nitrate, sodium and lithium chloride are all used.) within a sealed container at a controlled temperature (121).  An older method was placing the hygrometer inside a container with a known mixture of dry air and saturated air, or in air saturated at one temperature and pressure and then increased in temperature or reduced in pressure (Middleton 1960, 116).







Rain gauges date back at least to fourth-century BC India, where rain was collected in a bowl. A cylindrical shape facilitates the estimation of the volume of rainfall; such a shape was used in the Korean iron cheuguggi used from 1441 to 1907 (Strangeways). (I believe the volume was estimated by inserting a ruler and measuring the level of the rainwater.) A further improvement was made by Castelli (1639); he used a glass cylinder. The accuracy of the deduction of rain volume from level measurements of course is dependent on the goodness of the cylindrical figure, and the accuracy of the diameter and level gradations. Rain gauges of the recording type may use a float (connected to a pen), which moves with the water level in the gauge.


Rather than reading the level, one may place the rain gauge on a balance of some kind and weigh the rain. The pan in turn can be connected to a pen for recordation, or, as in the Fischer Porter rain gauge, to a punch that puts a hole at a corresponding location on a “ticker tape” at intervals.


With a standard rain gauge, if rainfall is heavy, you have to go out, measure the rain, and empty the bucket before it fills up. A single “tipping bucket” rain gauge was developed by Wren and Hooke in the late seventeenth century as part of a “weather-wiser” (a multiple element meteorograph!). The “tipping bucket” makes possible automatic operation; each time the bucket tips, the event is recorded in some way. Another self-emptying gauge design uses a siphon.


The modern NWS non-recording precipitation gauge comprises a large (8″) diameter overflow can with a small diameter measuring tube inside, and a funnel connecting the two. These are sized so that 2 inches of rain entering the funnel will occupy 20 linear inches in the measuring tube, making it practical to measure rainfall amounts to the nearest hundredth of an inch (A-6). The Fischer & Porter recording rain gauges used to have a mechanical weighing sensor and paper-tape recording assembly, but by 2014 all of the mechanical gauges were replaced with electronic ones (A-8). The NWS expects rain to be measured with an accuracy of 0.02 inches, and (melted) snow and sleet to 0.04 inches (11).


The biggest source of error for rain gauges is the wind catching droplets and wafting them away before they fall into the receptacle (or even causing eddies that remove them after they are below the lip of the container). This was combated by giving the container a funnel top (trapping the droplets) and surrounding the gauge with a wind shield. The NWS recommends that precipitation gauges be placed in a location “where the gauge is shielded in all directions (i.e., a clearing in a grove), but “the distance of the gauge to the nearest obstruction should be at least equivalent to twice the height of the obstruction” (A-5).


Snow is more difficult to measure than rain because (1) snow is more readily deflected by the wind and (2) snow compacts with time. Ideally, snow is melted by the gauge. It is not strictly true that ten inches of fresh snow is equivalent to one inch of rain. That is correct only if the temperature is 30oF, and all of the precipitation is snow (Schwartz).


The NWS requirements for measurement of rain is 0.02″ or 4% hourly accuracy, and 0.01″ resolution. For snow, it is 0.5-1″ accuracy, 1″ resolution




In part 2, I will look at measurements of pressure and wind (which is the result of pressure gradients).



Time May Change Me, But I Can’t Trace Time

Time May Change Me, But I Can’t Trace Time

By Charles E. Gannon, Ph.D., and David Carrico

(with props/apologies to David Bowie for the title)



(This is the first of several possible articles that will grow out of a series of discussions among the members of the Grantville Gazette extended editorial board.)


One of the interesting things about playing in Eric Flint’s 1632/Ring of Fire sandbox lies in thinking through all of the changes that can happen and will happen in the New Time Line (NTL) post-Ring of Fire (ROF) and how they will occur both earlier and differently than in the Original Time Line (OTL). Writers get rather excited about those kinds of story possibilities. There’s just one little hitch: most of the various 1632 writers are Americans, and we have a tendency to think that the changes are going to happen both more quickly and more easily than they probably will.


Unfortunately, they probably won’t. There are several reasons for this, the thorniest of which is cultural inertia (for lack of a more precise term).


Any of you who have overseas diplomatic experience, overseas military experience, or overseas NGO experience outside of Europe can testify to the incredible (to the American mind) tendency of other cultures to resist anything that is a “core” change. This is a fact of life in most cultures, and it’s one that will be in place in the NTL. Eric Flint and the Grantville Gazette editors are aware of this, and as a consequence rather firmly resist a lot of story ideas that are presented that ignore it.


In the OTL, the U.S. and its four primary Anglic allies (the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—sometimes referred to as the Five Eyes) are very deltaphilic: they tend to embrace change. (Interestingly and revealingly, the old world primogenitorial source, the UK, is often the one most likely to drag its heels.) The West, in general, has that tendency, but we would say that the US view is Futurist, while the continent is Modernist.


But in 1630, that Modernist trend was essentially a very narrow edge of very radical change that would not only widen in the decades to follow, but would ultimately transform European culture.


And yet . . . if that powerful anchor/inertia against change wasn’t still present, you wouldn’t have the basis of almost all the major nineteenth-century English novels (Oliver Twist, Far from the Madding Crowd, Jude the Obscure, etc.—as well as pretty much all of Blake’s and Wordsworth’s poetry). The drama and tension in each was a cultural push-me/pull-you: the impulse toward change was the source of the society’s energy vs. traditions as the source of its definition. Lots of humans got ground up in the process, and the way forward was never smooth, easy, or straight. These played out over decades in an already more-industrialized England that had been one of the major cultural imbibers of the various transformative concepts of the Age of Reason.


Now, jump to the continent, 1630 NTL. None of the cultural elasticity of Dickens’ and Blake’s England (as limited as it was) is present in any widespread or deeply-rooted sense. People are changing because they must, but culture doesn’t follow along.


To illustrate with an OTL example, one word:




In the mid-twentieth century, disease is fought, infant mortality plummets, lives are saved, happiness ensues—until culture-driven disaster strikes. Despite everything the sub-Saharan populations were told, were taught, were exhorted, they maintained the same birth rates and valued family size just as they have for centuries. And it really hasn’t budged much since.


It didn’t matter that 10-20% heard, learned, and believed that smaller family sizes made more sense now and would allow more emphasis on infrastructure, better education, etc., etc. They kept the same farming techniques, the same birth rate, the same cultural template—and their swift population increase overtaxed the land, led to widespread erosion, water shortage, and desertification.


We use that example because almost everyone is familiar with it to some degree. It’s still going on across the world, where what futurists call “culturally selective adoption” of technologies or methodologies continues to confuse and confound our planners. (You see this in the Secretary of Defense’s blue-sky direct report group, the Office of Net Assessment, all the time.) We Americans are profoundly driven by utility; receptivity to change is one of our legacy (albeit by no means ubiquitous) social values. We just have a higher proportion of it, and in our nation, forces of change tend to be strong enough to drag along those parts of the nation that are not so enamored of it.


But in Malaysia, India, Angola, Chile, etc.? No, not so much (understatement fully intended). Adoption of advanced techniques is a matter of cherry-picking, and the connection between those adoptions and a concomitant adjustment to culture is slim to non-existent. Which is why so many Western (and particularly U.S.) foreign aid projects and assistance programs generate skewed, sometimes disastrous results that utterly bewilder our ‘experts.’ The same ‘experts’ who rarely appreciate that the problem is not in what we deliver, but the cultural filters through which it will be received. We constantly apply projective models of how aid will improve another culture: models that are, in sad fact, based on what we see in the mirror, not the other nation. We rarely appreciate just how ingrained culture is, or how, in the face of obvious proofs, people will still press on with traditions that will kill more of their kids and will kill themselves earlier, all the while living lives of privation and uncertainty—because they will choose the certainty of the definition they feel in their old culture over the possibility of betterment that might reside in new change.


The British cultural scholar/analyst Raymond Williams retooled Antonio Gramsci’s cultural hegemony theories to represent this dynamic this way:


Culture is always a dynamic synthesis of three impulses:

  1. the emergent (change)
  2. the dominant (contemporary cultural formations)
  3. the residual (traditional components which hang on even if they are somewhat outdated or anachronistic in relation to the dominant)


The power of the residual in the countries we’ve been mentioning is, to our minds, a very close cousin to the forces that made the adoption of new ideas and technologies so gradual in the 1630s OTL. Many, many things are possible in the post-Ring of Fire 1630’s NTL—but many may be left lying fallow along the cultural roadside, just as they were in the OTL.


One of the reasons the Ring of Fire is such an exciting series for us to write in is the powerful tension and drama created by introducing ideas and technology from the late twentieth century into this environment, with several thousand persons present to not only export them, but to “live by example.” This is a tremendously powerful narrative and dramatic device. This process is also tremendously destabilizing to a culture. And widespread adoption will be slow and uneven—particularly if/where the leaders of these highly authoritarian conservative monarchies and guild structures see a threat to the status quo in these changes. And they’d be idiots not to. As Eric said early on, part of this story (and Mike Stearns’ objectives) is to do away with the tyranny of aristocracy, of some people feeling they are inherently better simply because of their lineage.


A world capable of rapid change, rapid adoption—even when driven by express, desperate need to embrace it—would be a world that no longer needed Mike Stearns’ crusade, the one that Rubens tellingly and shrewdly depicted in his painting of Mike, not as a peace-bringer, but a darker figure. (See 1634: The Baltic War, Chapter 10.) Because Rubens, with an artist’s oblique and instinctive perceptivity, partially sees and partially feels the storm of change following behind the man and what he represents. When the storm has passed, will it be a better world? In almost every objective measure, yes—but there will be losers along the way, and many innocent bodies from both sides whose blood is part of the palette from which Rubens worked his imagery unto the canvas.


This is not a particularly cogent bullet-point discussion, but that is, in part, a consequence of the topic: culture. And that’s where the series really does—and ultimately must—focus. The resistance to changes and innovations proposed by (understandably enthusiastic) newer authors is not a matter of engineering. (Although frankly, we don’t think you can quickly train the labor pool of the 1630s to the tasks being proposed—and shift so many out of food production into that industrial role—to be able to create the factories and mines and transshipment matrix that would be required to work so many changes in a single generation. The diversion of labor from agriculture in a low-tech culture needs its own discussion.) But to return: even if you could find enough workers, even if they were willing to leave the land that their families have worked upon for many, maybe dozens, of generations, even if you could push aside the guilds who see their end writ large in the onrushing leviathan of industrialization, there is this: most people won’t feel comfortable with it. It’s like a cuisine that might be far more healthful for them, might ensure stronger children and longer life, and yet—it just plain tastes funny. It’s not what they’re used to.


It’s not as wacky an analogy as it sounds. As this is being written, Charles is 56 and David is 65. Charles remembers when sushi arrived in this country (late 70s/early 80s in a few cities). In the mid-80s, when he was working TV in NYC, it was very chic and daring to eat sushi. (We kid you not.) Today, kids think nothing of it—and even if they don’t like it personally, they mostly don’t think their peers weird or questionable or alien for liking it. (Although you can still find plenty of pockets in the US where those reactions are alive and well—David has friends who still refer to it as ‘bait.’) The point is: you couldn’t find sushi as an option outside of a few cities until the early 90s. It expanded dramatically in that decade. And by 2000 it started showing up as a “take out” item in a few of the more daring supermarkets. Now, it’s a routine part of our foodscape. But that’s the progression of forty years—a full generation to simply implement a minor dietary change in one country.


Granted, there is so much more at stake with industrialization. But there was a lot at stake in Sub-Saharan Africa, too—and still, change lagged, and the Sahel spread south to create a persistent belt of misery. The odd, maddening, thing about culture is that while it is the solidity that anchors us in place, there is a flip side to that coin: it is also the weight that holds us back—and in both cases, that is an impulse that is strangely, even uniquely, resistant to appeals based on reason.


This is something that American writers—and readers, for that matter—have trouble getting their own heads around. (Arguably, that is yet another case of “cultural habit” seeming so inevitable that, to those in it, it feels like a law of physics, not a socially-ingrained habit of thought/perception.) We have a particularly hard time when it comes to tempering the expectations that arise from possibilities of engineering with an acceptance of the innate resistance of culture . . .and that may largely be because our own culture has embraced change like no other in recorded history.


The difficulty, of course, is that engineering responds wonderfully to quantification. Cultural assessment and analysis—eh, not so much. These are shades of grey. And ‘experts’ usually go wrong when they try to create explanations via tortuous theories of cause and effect—which usually don’t hold up. But if you put causality (and its natural affinity with quantification) aside for a moment, and just look at correlation, you’ll find that the examples we’ve used here are the tip of an iceberg. And just because we can’t resolve it to hard numbers doesn’t mean that, like the “weak” force of gravity, it shouldn’t still be one of, if not the defining force in the Ring of Fire universe/scenario.


Indeed, it not only gives the series its unique appeal and dramatic tension, but conforms to a realism that transcends mere numbers and metrics: it not only tracks with precedent, but acknowledges the diverse impacts of culture as a genuine and very powerful force.


From our perspective, that is the “other half” of the impediment to speedier change: there is techne, and then there is temperament. And you can change the former a whole lot faster than the latter—simply because temperament is where the will to change is vested.


Life at Sea in the Old and New Time Lines, Part 4: Lights Across the Waters

In part 3, I talked about deck, cabin, and hold illumination. But there’s also a need for lighting by which the ship sees what lies around it, and is seen in turn. Lighting may also be used for communication, ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore.


Running lights


Stern Lanterns. When ships were traveling in formation at night, there needed to be a way for the helmsman on one ship to see the ship in front of him (rear-end collisions and meandering off both being frowned upon). Hence, sailing ships carried stern lanterns (Laughton 159). This practice was not limited to warships as, in the seventeenth century, European trading ships often sailed with escorts.

In Edward III’s navy, the number of stern lanterns indicated the status of the commander; three or more for the King, two for the admiral, and one for the vice-admiral (Traill 186). On sixteenth-century Venetian galleys, those commanded by a squadron commander had a single stern lantern, and the flagship of the Capitano Generale da Mar or the Provveditore Generale da Mar had three. Indeed, the flagship was sometimes referred to as a lanterna (Motture).

The 68-gun warship La Couronne (1626) had three lanterns above the taffrail; the center one was 12 feet high and 24 feet in circumference illuminated by twelve pounds of candles. (Sephton). On the Sovereign of the Seas (1637) there were five lanterns on the stern (Sephton 57, 61) , two apiece on the port and starboard quarter galleries, and the fifth and largest on the aft end of the poop above the taffrail. It was six or seven feet high, and four to four and a half feet wide. In 1661, Samuel Pepys, then clerk of the Naval Board, gave a tour of the Sovereign to his patron’s wife, Lady Sandwich, the Lady Jemimah, and their seven companions and servants, and persuaded this tour group to join him in squeezing inside the stern lantern (Dill 12)—plainly the seventeenth-century equivalent of squeezing into a phone booth.

While a single stern lantern reveals the position of the ship, it says nothing about its heading. But if you were looking at the stern of Sovereign, you would see three lights in circumflex (^) arrangement, whereas broadside you would see a rotated “L”. Nonetheless, this does not seem to have initiated a general trend toward use of multiple lights to show orientation.

In the early eighteenth century, all British first-, second-, and third-rates carried three lights, and this privilege was extended to fourth-rates in 1722. In 1804 it was decided that only a flagship would carry two lights, and all others just one (Willis 56). However, I believe that the second light in question was a top-lantern (see next section).

At least some early lanterns had panes of green-tinted mica, but these were displaced by glass, which rendered the light easier to see. Hexagonal and octagonal designs were the most common, but the lantern on the Merhonour (1622) was seven-sided (Howard 114). It cost over eleven pounds, not even counting the glass plate, but almost half of that was attributable to gilding (Laughton 142).



Top-Lantern. When William, Duke of Normandy, sailed across the English Channel, he “had a lantern placed at the top of his ship’s mast, so that the other ships could see it and hold their course behind him” (Musset, 196). On the 1564 Legazpi Pacific expedition, a ship in need of assistance at night would place a lantern in the main mast and fire a shot, and if it were an emergency, it also hung a lantern in the foremast and fired two more shots (Licuanan 64). In 1595, Drake ordered his fleet that if they had to unexpectedly make sail on a night that it had previously shortened sail, it would show “a single lantern with a light at the bow, and another at the fore-top” (Maynarde 64).

Later, it became customary that a British navy flagship leading a squadron would display a lantern at the aft edge of a masthead: the main top (full admiral), fore top (vice admiral), or mizzen top (rear admiral) (Lavery 255). It was supported on each side by iron braces (Falconer 294).

In 1762, Admiral Howe ordered that a ship tacking at night was to hoist a light and keep it visible until the maneuver was completed (Willis 56).

Lightships of course also displayed lanterns on high, but early lightships suspended small lanterns from a yardarm or dedicated crossarm. Robert Stevenson proposed a lantern that surrounded the mast of the vessel, and could be lowered to the deck to be trimmed and then raised back. (Stevenson 39). Presumably, the vertical traversal of that lantern would be limited by the yardarm above. It is conceivable that the lantern had a dedicated mast; i.e., one that did not ever carry sail.

In 1838, the US Congress enacted legislation providing that between sunset and sunrise every steamboat must carry one or more signal lights that can be seen by other boats navigating the same water. A three-light system was privately adopted by the Liverpool steam packets. In 1847, a different system—red on the port bow, green on the starboard bow, and a bright white light on the foremast head—was adopted for the mail steamers on the west coast of England. Finally, in 1848, a similar system was applied to all British steam vessels between sunset and sunrise. (Grosvenor).

By the 1870s, it was proposed that the masthead light be electric (Trowbridge 723). This was met with numerous objections—the ships met would be blinded by the light, the carrying ship’s side lights would be rendered inconspicuous by comparison, the ship would be mistaken for a lightship, etc. (Thomson 190).

The Titanic carried a single electric masthead light on her foremast, 145 feet above the water. It was 32 candlepower, and its Fresnel lens concentrated the light into a horizontal arc with a vertical amplification factor of 25. It thus would have been as bright as a first magnitude star at a distance of 17 miles(Halperin).


There is an obvious downside to the use of any lights on shipboard, let alone lights intended to reveal one’s presence to other vessels.. Drake ordered, “you shall keep no light in any of the ships, but only the light in the binnacle, and this with the greatest care that it be not seen, excepting the admiral’s ship . . . .” (Maynarde 64). And even today, there are waters where small boat captains don’t switch on their mast lights (Liss 62).

On the other hand, in 1800, Thomas Cochrane in the brig sloop Speedy was able to evade a frigate at night by placing a lantern on a barrel and letting it float away (Wikipedia).


Lighting the Waters: Star Shells


Sometimes it is desirable to illuminate the surrounding waters at night, in order to spot navigational hazards or enemy craft.

The star shell (“light ball”) is fired by a mortar (high trajectory gun) and contains a small explosive charge and a time fuse. The charge in turn ignites the illuminating composition. Early compositions included mixtures of sulfur, saltpeter (potassium nitrate), and realgar (arsenic tetrasulfide), orpiment (arsenic trisulfide), or antimony (Griffiths 91)

Appier’s La Pyrotechnie (1630) gives a formula for “fire balls . . . so white that one can scarcely look at them without being dazzled,” that comprises saltpeter, orpiment, gum arabic, and, strangely enough, ground glass and brandy (Skylighter).

In its original form it was not very useful at sea as the “stars” would fall into the water, and be extinguished within a few seconds. And even in land warfare, the enemy could be expected to throw water or sand over it.

Edward Boxer (1819-1898) proposed modifying this shell to be composed of two hemispheres, one containing the illuminant (“stars”) and the other a calico parachute connected to the first by ropes or chains. The explosion of the charge not only ignites the illuminant, it separates the hemispheres, but only insofar as the connector permits. The parachute slows the descent of the illuminant (Ibid.). Boxer was probably unaware that there had been experimentation during the time of Louis XIV with rockets equipped with parachute flares (Faber 181). For that matter, Congreve had a rocket light ball with a parachute (Sterling 401).

I have documented use of magnesium flares in photography of the Comstock Lode mine (1868) and the Great Pyramid (1865). I wasn’t able to determine when magnesium, aluminum, or magnalium ribbons were first used in star shells, but the first reference I found was from just before World War I (US Army, 2-11). The parachutes were also minimized, so that six or eight parachute-illuminant combinations could be fit inside a single shell.


Lighting the Waters: Searchlights


Searchlights are essentially a military development of the spotlight—that is, they combine a highly luminous source, a light concentration system, and a pivotable and tiltable mount.

In the new time line, there isn’t yet a military need for a searchlight: engagements are mostly as short range (a few hundred yards) and during the daytime. Flint and Gannon, 1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies, chapter 48 is the first step toward changing that; the Resolve begins firing at a range of 1800 yards, and actually scores a hit after it closes to 1100 yards.

Still, the Resolve attacked in the daytime. The biggest reason for equipping naval warships, especially capital ships, with searchlights was the introduction of the motor torpedo boat, which could launch a night attack either stealthily or at high speed.

No foe of the USE has yet (1636) built powerboats or self-propelled torpedoes. But the USE navy did have to face a smoke-screened spar torpedo attack by Prince Ulrik’s galleys during the Baltic War in 1634. Moreover, the ironclads and timberclads are intended for riparian and coastal warfare, and they could encounter mines or massed rockets.

So there is an incentive to at least start thinking about military searchlights . . . . And conceivably small searchlights would be advantageous for nighttime civilian use, too: spotting navigational hazards, rescuing men from the water or a disabled craft, and signaling.

There is a strong kinship between ship searchlights and lighthouse lights. Of course, the latter can be much larger and heavier.


Light Sources. Electric searchlights, with light generated by a carbon arc, were used at the siege of Paris (1870-1). In a carbon arc, a strong electric current is made to flow across a short air gap between two carbon electrodes. The proof of concept was made by Davy in the early nineteenth century. Grantville literature provides some design guidance (EB11/Lighting, 659-66).

The arc can be started only by bringing them in contact with each other, but then the electrodes are slowly separated. Since the rods burn away you need a mechanism to maintain the arc gap. The stability of the arc is improved by putting a ballasting resistance in series with it (which increases the power requirement).

Direct current is preferred as it causes the anode to form a crater, which gives off most of the light. The intensity is greatest at a 30-45o angle from the anode axis, and this facilitates capturing the light with the reflector (Baird). High currents (130-300 amperes in 1917) are used in military searchlights so the source must be close by.

To provide the direct current, the carbon arc light would be powered by a dynamo (a type of generator). The first dynamo was built in 1832 but major industrial use (e.g., in carbon arc furnaces) didn’t come until after improved designs were patented in 1866-7. Electrical engineers in Grantville would know how to design a good dynamo.

In NTL, carbon arc lamps are in use in Grantville in October 1633; see Offord, “A Season of Change” (Grantville Gazette 50), and at Rasenmühle in April 1634, see Prem, “Ein Feste Burg, Episode 7” (Grantville Gazette 46),

The first carbon arc lamp emitted over 10,000 lumens (Banke), and I found an ad for a 60-inch WW II carbon arc searchlight that put out 525,000 lumens (candlepowerforums). Carbon arc lamps have low luminous efficacy (2-7 lumens/watt) and efficiency (0.3-1%). Hence, they generate a lot of heat; consideration must be given to providing proper ventilation.

Now, it is worth noting the power requirement for a searchlight-scale carbon arc lamp. The US Navy Model 24-G-20 24-inch searchlight used in WW II was operated at an arc current of 75-80 amperes and an arc voltage of 65 to 70 volts. However, the line voltage was 105-125 volts, so almost half the power was absorbed by the rheostat/ballast (General Electric). That corresponds to a power draw of 7875-10,000 watts. If we assume 80% efficiency in the generator and distribution system again, then we would need as much as 12,500 watts, and thus a steam engine of about 17 hp. That seems doable.

In fact, the Royal Anne, an airship built in Copenhagen and first flying in September 1636, has six steam engines (Evans, “No Ship for Tranquebar Part Two” Grantville Gazette 28), and I suspect that these steam engines correspond to those that Evans proposed for a medium-sized cargo airship in his “Wingless Wonders” (Grantville Gazette 19). Those engines were nine-cylinder, single-acting, “with 300 hp generated when running at full speed (2200 rpm, 400 psi).”


If electricity is unavailable, there is a chemical alternative. Limelights, invented by an ordnance survey officer in 1822, were first used theatrically in 1836. They relied on the reaction of oxygen and hydrogen gases with quicklime (calcium oxide). That reaction is potentially explosive, and the safest format is one in which the two gas jets meet at an angle where the lime cylinder is located (Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Photography 303).

Limelights were used by the Union Navy during its bombardment of Charleston in September, 1863 and to spot blockade runners in early 1865 (IATSE, KCWB, Navy 1). Drummond used the lime light (supposedly equivalent to “about 265 flames of an ordinary Argand lamp used with the best Sperm Whale oil”) in conjunction with a 21-inch parabolic reflector for geodetic purposes; the combination produced about 92,000 candlepower. While he urged its use in lighthouses, the American Lighthouse Board reported in 1868: “The Lime light required much labor, there was danger associated with the production of the gases used, it required expensive apparatus, and the liability of the lime to become deranged far outweighed any advantages in the way of superior illumination, which could be derived from it.” (USLS).

Some sort of chemical-based searchlight was still available for military use in the early twentieth century, but its useful range was something like one-eighth that of the 36-inch electric search light (Ordnance, 37).

The navy would likely rather use carbon arc searchlights, on both safety and performance grounds.


Light Concentration. Note that the “candlepower” (light intensity in the direction of the target) of a light increases if its light is more tightly focused, even though the total light output is constant. A searchlight may have millions of candlepower in its beam. Light may be concentrated by mirrors, lenses, or combinations of the two.

Reflectors. The earliest documented use of a polished metal reflector to concentrate candlelight was in 1532, at the lighthouse of Gollenberg. In 1669, Braun used a cast steel reflector with an oil lamp at the lighthouse of Landsort, Sweden (USLS). American Civil War searchlights used crude mirrors made of an unspecified metal that absorbed one-third to one-half of the incident light (Nerz 713).

Reflector shape. The ideal shape (figure) for a reflector is parabolic; if the light source is at the focal point, then all of the reflected rays will be parallel to the optical axis of the reflector. There were occasional experiments with spherical reflectors at lighthouses, since the spherical shape was easier to achieve. These proved to provide little concentration (USLHS).

For the techniques of grinding a mirror to a parabolic shape, see Cooper, “Seeing the Heavens” (Grantville Gazette 14),

Reflective Material. The ideal reflective material would be highly reflective across the visible light spectrum, easily formed into the parabolic shape, resistant to corrosion (tarnishing), easily cleaned and polished, low in density, and inexpensive. Most modern mirrors are composites—typically a metal coating on a glass or plastic substrate.

For metals, the reflectivities at 400 (blue) and 700 nm (red) are as follows: gold* (39%, 96%), copper* (51%, 95%), silver* (87%, 97%), aluminum (92%, 91%), iron* (48%, 54%), tungsten (46%, 52%), tin* (75%, 83%), chromium (69%, 64%), and rhodium (76%, 81%). Only the asterisked metals are known to European metalworkers at the eve of the RoF. Plainly, silver and aluminum are the best from a purely optical standpoint.

Silver of course is expensive and so there is some advantage to combining the high reflectivity of a silver coating with a lower-cost metal. A silvered copper parabolic reflector was fitted to the La Heve lighthouse in 1781 (Marriott 25). Robert Stevenson combined an Argand lamp with a silver-clad copper parabolic reflector and, installed at the Bell Rock lighthouse in 1811, it produced 2500 candlepower (USLHS).

Silver, however, is subject to tarnishing as a result of hydrogen sulfide in the atmosphere (or in perspiration if the mirror surface is touched). The resulting silver sulfide is black. The tarnishing is more rapid if the air is humid.

Costs could be reduced further by use of speculum metal (45% tin, 55% copper). Its reflectivities are 63% at 0.45 and 75% at 0.65 (Tolansky). Unfortunately, it, too, tarnishes, and it is also somewhat brittle.

The first telescope with a parabolic mirror was built by Hadley in 1721. It was a six-inch diameter piece of speculum metal. The Royal Society praised his achievement, but expressed the hope that someone would either figure out how to keep the metal from tarnishing or how to make a silvered glass mirror (Pendergrast 161). This proved to be a difficult proposition, and speculum continued to be used well into the nineteenth century.

When a metal mirror needed to be cleaned it also had to be repolished and often refigured. The Rosse telescope (1845), the largest in the world until 1917, had two six-foot speculum mirrors, one would be in use while the other was being refigured (Pendergrast 176-80).


For those for whom cost was an issue, Fitzmaurice invented platinum-glazed porcelain reflectors. They cost one-quarter of the equivalent silvered metal reflector but were inferior in performance. They were used at Sunderland Lighthouse (1860).


Various methods of “silvering” glass were discussed in Cooper, “In Vitro Veritas: Glassmaking After The Ring Of Fire” (Grantville Gazette 5).

Down-time glass mirrors weren’t actually silvered; rather a tin-mercury amalgam was applied to the rear surface of the glass.  After 1732, James Short tried and failed to use this method to make a paraboloid mirror; he switched to speculum metal (Pendergrast 161). In 1788, Rogers made lighthouse reflectors of “silvered” glass, but they proved to be too fragile USLHS).

Advances in the arts of silvering glass and of grinding glass to paraboloidal shape made possible the silvered glass paraboloidal mirror.

In 1835, von Liebig discovered how to deposit pure silver on glass by chemically reducing (with sugar) a boiling silver nitrate solution. Drayton patented several cold processes in the 1840s but the mirrors so manufactured were unsatisfactory (e.g., developed brownish red spots after a few weeks—”measles!”) (Chattaway).

Liebig came to the rescue in 1856 with the first truly satisfactory method, which used caustic soda and ammonia to accelerate the reduction. In 1856, Steinheil used it to silver a four-inch diameter telescope mirror (King 262). Foucault likewise made a silvered glass receptor in 1857, but used one of Drayton’s silvering methods (Chattaway). There were further advances in the silvering art that came later (Common). One such was Cimeg’s (1861), with Rochelle salt as the reducing agent. EB11/Mirrors describes the Brashear method (1884) in great detail.

In 1858, Foucault devised the knife-edge test, which could be used to determine how much a glass surface departed from spherical. Hence, you could make an accurate paraboloid surface by an iterative hand grind-and-check process. The same year, he made a 40-centimeter silvered glass paraboloid telescope mirror. The method was perfected by Draper in the 1870s, who preferred the Cimeg silvering process (Lemaitre 20).

Nonetheless, governments contented themselves in the 1880s with inferior catadioptric reflectors of the Mangin type (see below) for military searchlights (Burstyn). In 1885, Schuckert “invented a machine that could accurately grind glass into a parabolic” curve (USLHS) and quickly put this to work in making searchlight mirrors. These Schuckert searchlights were used in 1887-8 in the Italian campaign in Ethiopia (Rey 97), and a Schuckert searchlight was exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Schuckert mirrors of 30-inch diameter were used to make forty million-candlepower searchlights for the Heligoland lighthouse in 1902.

Articles in the electrical and military literature credit him with being the first to make “paraboloid glass mirrors with a sufficient degree of accuracy for searchlight work” (Murdock 359). Were they simply ignorant of the existence of telescope mirrors of that type? Or was the hand-grinding done by telescope makers prohibitively expensive for military and lighthouse use?

In 1909, the mirror alone for Lowell’s 42-inch reflector cost $10,800 ($209,200 is the 2001 equivalent) (Cameron 117); a Model-T Ford in 1910 cost $950 (135). (It is conceivable that the high price was necessitated by the degree of accuracy demanded for astronomical work, rather than the hand-grinding.)

What about tarnishing? On a telescope, the silvering must be applied to the front surface, to avoid ghost reflections from the glass. Hence, the silver is exposed to the atmosphere. It does tarnish, but it was discovered that the old coating could be removed and a new one applied without loss of the parabolic figure.

On a searchlight reflector, the silvering can be applied to the rear surface, where it is more protected from the atmosphere. However it will still deteriorate with time.

With large carbon arc searchlights, the heat generated may be such that one cannot use ordinary glass, but rather thermal shock-resistant borosilicate glass (Pyrex).


In NTL 1636, aluminum may be available, but only in experimental quantities. For the necessary raw materials and processes, see Cooper, “Aluminum: Will O’ the Wisp” (Grantville Gazette 8).

Aluminum is highly reflective and only a little denser than glass. Aluminum reacts with oxygen in the atmosphere, but the resulting aluminum oxide is clear and hard, protecting the aluminum from further attack. A mirror was first aluminized in 1932 and an aluminized glass reflector was first used in a telescope in 1935. Aluminization of glass requires a high vacuum, but the film is more durable (Yoder 62). Mirrors may also be made entirely of cast aluminum (264).

For the sake of completeness, I note that other metals have also been used as reflective coatings. Rhodium plating has been used for dental mirrors and chromium for the rear view mirrors in cars.


A continuing concern with silvered (or aluminized) glass searchlight mirrors was vulnerability to breakage—the enemy had a tendency to shoot at searchlights. Two types of coated metal mirrors were tested in World War I; one had its coating destroyed after a few hours exposure to the carbon arc, and the other was of inferior illuminating power to a silvered glass mirror (Baird 10-11).

In World War II, we had 60-inch, 800,000 candela carbon arc searchlights that used a rhodium-plated parabolic mirror (Wikipedia/Searchlight).



Segmented reflectors. Hutchinson built faceted reflectors in 1763-77. Some of his designs were tin plates soldered together, but the largest, twelve feet in diameter, was of wood with pieces of mirror glass (clear glass coated with a tin-silver amalgam) attached to approximate the parabolic shape. It was coupled to an oil lamp and reportedly could be seen ten miles away.

Another glass-faceted reflector was produced by Walker (18-inch parabolic reflector for the Old Hunstanton Lighthouse, 1776). The facets were set in a parabolic plaster shell in a metal frame. Reportedly, its beam of 1000 candlepower was two-thirds the intensity of a one-piece parabolic reflector of the same diameter. Thomas Smith similarly built an 18-inch parabolic reflector with 350 pieces of mirror glass. Used with a lamp having four rope wicks, the combination produced 1000 candlepower at the Kinnaird Head lighthouse in 1787.

A modern twist on this old idea would be to use spin-casting to create the shell. In essence, when a liquid is spun, its surface takes on a concave paraboloid shape because of the combination of the gravitational and centripetal forces acting upon it. All we need, then, is a substance that will harden into that shape. Appleyard reports that both gelatin and melted wax work. De Paula used plaster. The resulting figures are adequate for solar heating, and hence also for searchlights.

Spin-casting can be used in place of grinding to create glass paraboloid mirror blanks for telescopes, but you need a rotating furnace, and the molten glass must be cooled slowly (over several months). For telescope use, there is further milling and polishing to make the surface as accurate as possible (Mirror Lab). We don’t need this!



Lens. Big telescopes use mirrors rather than lenses of the same diameter because the latter are much more expensive. However, Fresnel invented a lens composed of separate concentric annular sections, whose surfaces approximate that of a simple lens of the same focal length. Since it is only using the part of the glass that contributes to the proper refraction of the light, it is much lighter and less costly than a simple lens.

The more sections there are, the less degradation in performance relative to a one-piece lens, but the greater the cost. The sections may have curved (better concentration) or flat (cheaper) surfaces. A Fresnel lens was first used in a light house in 1823 (Wikipedia/Fresnel Lens). The largest (“hyper-radial”) had a height of 148 inches and weighed 18,485 pounds. For a ship’s searchlight we would probably use one of “third order” (62 inch height, 1984 pounds) or smaller (USLHS).



Mirror-Lens Combinations. Robert Stevenson invented (1849) the holophotal reflector. This combined a central spherical reflector, a peripheral parabolic reflector and a Fresnel lens, and the point was to capture essentially all of the light from the source (USLHS).

Mangin reflectors were invented in 1876 for use with the carbon arc (Navy 1). This was a lens having two concave surfaces of different radii, the front surface having the shorter radius, and the back surface having a reflective coating (thus constituting a spherical mirror). The radii were chosen so the spherical aberration produced by the lens was exactly opposite to that produced by the reflective coating.

The Mangin reflector had the disadvantage that it had a longer focal length and therefore a smaller effective angle than a parabolic mirror of the same diameter; if the diameter were 60 centimeters, the angles would be 83o and 123o respectively, and as a result the parabolic reflector would gather 2.11 times as much light (Nerz 715) .



Weight. Can a NTL 1630s ship accommodate the weight of a searchlight and its power source? Insofar as the steam engine (including boiler) is concerned, I discussed the issue a bit in “Airship Propulsion: Part Three: Steaming Along” (Grantville Gazette 43). The big uncertainty is the weight of the condenser. For use on shipboard, bringing down the weight of the condenser is less critical, so let’s just say six pounds per horsepower—that’s 102 pounds for the 17 hp steam engine postulated above.

I don’t have figures for the weight of a 24-inch searchlight, but for a sixty-inch one (delivering 800 million candlepower!), with the six-cylinder gasoline engine, 16.7 kW generator, carbon arc, metal mirror, protective glass, and aiming apparatus all mounted on a small four-wheeled trailer, the combined weight was six thousand pounds. (Fort Macarthur). That may seem like a lot, but it was not unusual for a mid-nineteenth century naval gun to weigh 150-200 times the weight of its shot (Ward 30), which would make the 60-inch searchlight equivalent to a 30- to 40-pounder. (And in the late seventeenth century guns were heavier, 175-250 times shot weight (Glete 516).) If weight scales with beam area, then the 24-inch would weigh only 1,000 pounds, and a 12-incher would weigh 250 pounds.


Nighttime Light Signals


A ship might need to communicate with a friendly ship or with the shore. Daytime signaling with mirrors or smoke is ancient, but those aren’t useful at night. Until radio communications become readily available, light signals may be useful. Bear in mind that light communications may be more difficult to intercept than radio ones once the enemy has radio receivers.

It is worth noting that it takes “5 to 20 times as much light to distinguish the color of a light than to simply distinguish” its presence or absence (Lewis 34).


Pyrotechnics may be handheld (like sparklers), attached to a scaffolding, or fired into the air by rockets, mortars, or signal pistols. The last of these was found to be particularly convenient. Pyrotechnics provide an intense but brief illumination.

The first firework colors were ambers and off-whites (Plimpton 161), and it is possible that those were the only ones available in 1630s Europe  Babington’s Pyrotechnia (1635), chapter VIII claims to be able to make “stars” of “a blue color with red”, but the ingredient list is suspect: saltpeter, sulfur vive, aqua vitae, and oyl of spike. More plausibly, Wright’s Notes on Gunnery (1563) and Appier-Hanzelet’s La Pyrotechnie (1630) proposed adding verdigris (copper sulfate) to obtain green, but this green was deemed unsatisfactory by later pyrotechnicians (Werrett 160-2, 230, 281 n. 117).

My expectation is that shortly after the Ring of Fire there would have been research in Grantville as to how to attain red and blue (for the Fourth of July, of course!).

For red, one may use calcium, from the calcium carbonate of chalk, eggshells, or seashells. But this would be rather orange-y, and would be replaced as soon as possible with strontium salts. Strontianite was available from lead mines in Braunsdorf near Freiburg in Saxony, and from the marls of Munster and Hamm in Westphalia (EB11/Strontianite).

Blue could come from copper salts, several of which had long been known to the alchemists. The “resin of copper,” copper chloride, was first synthesized in the old timeline by Robert Boyle in 1664; it was easy enough to make from copper and corrosive sublimate, as Boyle had demonstrated, or by other methods.

By the mid-nineteenth century, the preferred green was from barium salt. Barite (barium sulfate) can be found in mines in the Black Forest and in Saxony and is reasonably likely to show up in a “canned” mineral collection sold to the high school for use in geology classes.

All of these colorants are disclosed in EB11/Fireworks.


Pyrotechnic signal codes. A two-color pyrotechnic signal system was conceived by Benjamin Coston in the 1840s, and a three-color one was developed and patented in his name (USP 23,356, 1859) by his widow, Martha Coston. According to this patent, the numerals 0 to 9 were represented by red, white and blue flares, either individually (for “1” to “3”) or a sequence of two (e.g., white then red for “4”) or three different colors (white then red then blue for “9”). The signals were fired from a signal gun. There were three different sizes of paper boxes that could be set off (either by hand percussion or by the percussion cap of a signal pistol), the larger sizes contained two or three different pyrotechnic compositions that would be burnt through in succession, corresponding to the key for that numeral. This was intended of course for use with a signal code book in which words or phrases were represented by numerical codes.

It was not possible to achieve a bright blue, and in American Civil War implementation, green was used instead. Short white, red and green represented 1-3; long red, 4; long green, 5; white-red, 6 green-red, 7; white-green, 8; red-green, 9; and green-red-white, 0. There was also a “P” (white-red-white) meaning “preparing to send a signal” and an “A” (red-white-red) to acknowledge the preparatory signal.

In 1878, the US Navy began using the Very code, which used a pattern of four bursts, each of which could be red or green, to encode numbers. Despite being a binary code, it did not correspond to Morse code in its original implementation (Wrixon 430).


Signal lamps. In 1617, Raleigh used a fire signal aboard his flagship to send commands to the other ships in his squadron. Given the general availability of lanterns on ships, I would imagine that he was not the only naval commander to do this (Wrixon 417).

A kerosene lamp with a focusing lens (Begbie lamp) came into use in the 1880s and was used until World War I (QSCVC). Subsequently, signal lamps were of the handheld incandescent (Aldis) or pedestal-mounted carbon arc type. Of course, signal lamps would require less power than searchlights of the same effective range.

In the NTL Baltic War, all of Simpson ships had signal searchlights converted from mining truck headlamps (Flint, 1634: The Baltic War, chapter 37).

It may be of interest to note that over the horizon communication is possible if there are cloud bases that can be illuminated.

Also, passing into the weird tech department, it is possible to transmit speech rather than Morse code at short ranges, with the appropriate receiver. Photophony was demonstrated by Simon in 1901 over a 0.72 mile distance using a Schuckert 90-centimeter searchlight as the transmitter and a 30-inch parabolic mirror with a selenium cell at the focal point as the receiver. The major limitation on photophony range was the combination of the divergence of the beam and the intensity of the light source. With a three degree divergence, a 30-centimeter beam would spread out to 150 meters at a range of three kilometers, and the intensity is reduced to four-millionths of the source (Burns 202-4).

Selenium is available according to canon; in October 1633, a radio with a selenium photo-resistor amplifier is being installed in a village, see Huff and Goodlett, “Credit Where It’s Due” (Grantville Gazette 36). Selenium is usually obtained as a byproduct of refining copper, being associated with copper sulfide ores (chalcocite, chalcopyrite). There is reference to electrorefining in Carroll and Wild, “The Undergraduate, Episode Two” (Grantville Gazette 50).


Signal lamp codes. In 1616, Franz Kessler proposed a binary code for use with a shuttered lantern for encoding letters of the alphabet and thereby sending messages (Ibid.). In 1862-3, Colomb used the combination of limelight and a shutter to send signals by Morse code (Sterling 209).

An alternative approach, used by Preble in 1803, relied on the spatial arrangement of three or four lanterns to encode numbers and a few special signals (Wrixon 419).

Colored light systems were proposed, too. In the 1850s, Ward proposed signals using combinations of red, white and no light (422). The Berg system used red, white, and green.

In 1891, the US Navy adopted the Ardois system. It used a cluster of four double lamps read top to bottom or sender’s right to left; within the pair, the upper light was red (Morse dot) and the lower light white (Morse dash); the light sources were 32-watt incandescents (424).


Combination Signals. The Royal Navy’s Night Signal Book for the Ships of War (1799) used a combination of lanterns, rockets, and “blank” cannon fires to encode numbers, which in turn had meanings specified in the code book (Wrixon 418).

Sometimes the Coston flares were combined with rockets. For example, the force blockading Charleston in 1864 used a rocket followed by Coston No. 0 for “blockade runner going out.”

Combinations signals were made easier to interpret by Greene, who advocated timing the intervals between signals, making it easier to figure out when one signal sequence ended and the next began.



Warships with sufficient electric power are likely to get equipped with a carbon arc searchlight. While it should be possible to prepare a silvered glass mirror by the Liebig process, my guess is that the first NTL searchlight mirrors will not be one-piece mirrors, but rather faceted mirrors in order to improve durability.

I would also expect them to use star shells, Until magnesium is available, these will probably use down-time “white star” compositions. However, I expect that some inventor will figure out how to add the parachute.

Fiat lux!


About the Faces on the Cutting Room Floor Number Eight: Authenticity, Site Surveys, and Blind Serendipity

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I have been asked a number of times how much research I did in order to invoke the sense of place that often pervades 1635: The Papal Stakes. The answer is, “Lots.” And there are two parts to that answer.

The first part is the frank admission that strong reliance upon good libraries, wary utilization of Wikipedia, and—above all—deep forays via Google Earth were indispensable in acquiring a good sense of the land and architecture of the various locales depicted in Papal Stakes. That being said, those sources often came close to leading me into error, as well. For instance: there is a scene early in the book where Estuban Miro is leading the Wrecking Crew over the alps in a dirigible and they come across a “duck pond” called the Marmelsee.  Harry Lefferts is surprised that it is not a larger expanse of waters, given how vast it looked on their Fodors maps. Well, in the E-arc, I believe you’ll find that it is shown to be just that large—because the small duck pond was turned into a vast alpine lake by a damming project in (I believe) the early twentieth century. But that was not flagged in any of the references I had and was, I believe, pointed out by a reader familiar with the region’s history. Google Earth doesn’t lie, but we do occasionally change the planet (and sometimes it changes all by itself, as I learned when trying to locate the seventeenth-century shoreline of Louisiana versus the modern one as I commenced writing 1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies).

The second part of the answer is that I have actually visited a number of key sites in Papal Stakes. Certainly Rome, but more especially Mallorca, where, over the years, I’ve probably spent a cumulative total of about four months. During some of my final visits there, I was fortunately under contract for Papal Stakes and so had the opportunity to go armed with a camera and conduct what, in the film business, we call “site surveys.” What I found, and its value to enriching the narrative, are for you to judge. However, not all of these photos were snapped by your humble narrator, and for every one that you see here, there were twenty passed over for one reason or another.

So to end this series on the same cinematic theme with which we began –”faces on the cutting room floor”—here are some of the site survey (and other helpful graphics) that went into the making and visualizations of 1635: The Papal Stakes.

01 Monte Cristo resized

#1 The Island of Monte Cristo. This is the view entering the bay into which Miro and Harry Lefferts led the pirate xebec beneath the ambushing guns of North’s Hibernians and then the boarders under Owen Roe O’Neill’s Wild Geese. You will note the scrub cover, the crags that provide stony foxholes and the murderous downward angle of fire and commanding view of the battlespace. A narrow inlet any other day, at that point in the book, it was nothing less than a kill zone.

02 Bay of Canyamel

#2  The Bay of Canyamel. The view here is from the crest of the Cap des Pins looking across the bay at Cap Vermell. If you look closely, you will see a triangle of shadow approximately one third of the way in from the extreme right hand of the image, set in the face of the stony spur of land and relatively close to the water. This is the entrance to the Caves of Arta, known as a pirate lair since Roman times and a tourist attraction today. But trust me, a firefight in there would be not merely a gothic horror show, but deafening. This was, of course, the site of the second attack Miro’s band made upon pirates, grabbing another hull (a llaut, a Balearic boat still used today) and much-needed supplies with which to begin their covert stay upon Mallorca.

03 Palma map

#3 A period map of Palma de Mallorca, first city of the entire Balearic Island chain. Although the map was drafted approximately one hundred years after the events in Papal Stakes, it is inspired by the layout of the city as it was in 1644 (hence the strangely anachronistic mix of ship types). Even as an “epochal fusion” map, it still offers an excellent sense of the layout and scope of this picturesque and strategically important provincial capitol. Long a point of contact between Moors and Spanish, as well as Carthaginians and Romans, trade and piracy are integral parts of the island’s heritage. The Castell de Bellver, the site of Frank and Giovanna Stone’s final imprisonment and one of the two pitched, final battles in the novel, is located well to the west/left of the map edge.

04 1895

#4 Convincing description must extend to artifacts as well as architecture. In the case of all the boats depicted, considerable examination of deckplans and accounts (unofficial as well as official) was exhaustive. Weapons and equipment were handled similarly; if you are going to convincingly depict any device, one must have a sense of its physical properties.

In the case of the hallmark weapons of this combat-intensive novel, the signature rifle of the Hibernian Mercenary Battalion was the Winchester Model 1895 lever action in .40-72. A black powder weapon (in 1635), it was an excellent compromise between simplicity of design, portability, rate of fire, and stopping power (it was used with reasonable success as a big game rifle). Nowhere near as affordable or easy to manufacture as the standard shoulder arms of the USE, having a model of the weapon from which to build copies allowed it to become a practical “special equipage” model for small, elite formations such as the Hibernians.

05 sks

#5 The other shoulder weapon used by some of the elite forces in the second half of The Papal Stakes—an “equalizer” to make up for the heavy losses suffered in Rome—was the Russian SKS. As shown here, most models (like the top one) are loaded via ten-round stripper clips. However, as shown below, certain variants are able to use an AK-47 magazine (it fires the same 7.62 x 39 mm cartridge). However, the SKS arguably enjoys greater accuracy due to superior ergonomic design (my personal experience aligns with this opinion). Remember this gun when we get to the pictures of the lazarette/tower at the Castell de Bellver…


07 Hibernian helmet

#6 and #7 A few more pieces of standard Hibernian Mercenary equipment: the top revolver (shown for comparison with a modern model) is a close approximation of the Hockenjoss & Klott .44 cap and ball pistol, and the “lobstertail” helmet, which offers good protection and excellent field of vision. (Made famous by Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads, but it was in broad use on the continent as well.)

08 Castell de Bellver

09 Castell de Bellver

#8 and #9  The Castell de Bellver. A singular architectural wonder and largely held to be impregnable prior to the advent of seventeenth-century artillery, the layout reflected the mathematical metaphysics of Ramon Llull. As is visible in the photo with the Bay of Palma (and city) in the background, it is a tight, circular structure, with one attached outlying tower (the “lazarette,” although this was usually used for visiting dignitaries requiring high security) and a single drawbridge access over an empty moat. The perfect geometric symmetries of the structure are more evident in the other image, as are the outlying revetments that guard the approaches to the fort, and by the seventeenth century, were its primary artillery stations.

10 lazarette

#10 The Lazarette. Accessible only by a very narrow walkway (accessed by single file) suspended high above the moat, this was an extraordinarily defensive position even if only defended from the ground. However, with marksmen on the roof . . .

11 overlook

#11 The approach to the lazarette and its commanding presence. This narrow spire of a tower (with fifteen-foot-wide round rooms and a single tight staircase) was clearly designed to provide a clear field of fire for either musketeers or crossbowmen not only across the broad expanse of the top level of the castell, but also of the opposite galleries and a good part of the arms court. As can be seen from . . .

12 snipers view

#12 The overlook from the top of the lazarette. To coin a phrase, this was obviously designed quite intentionally to provide “a view to a kill.” With marksmen on either side of the stone cupola protecting the roof access point of the lazarette’s staircase, this view, in stereo, provides complete coverage of the entirety of the upper level of the castell, and is designed to enable murderous crossfire concentration upon the approaches to the single-stone bridge linking it to the lazarette. If anyone ever wondered if Harry Lefferts and his Hibernian partner could rip apart two dozen Spanish soldiers with their extended-magazine SKSs (thirty rounds, no waiting) . . . think again.

13 upper level view

#13 View from the upper level. In addition to offering a commanding view of (and artillery trajectory toward) the Bay of Palma to the east, the other points of the compass allowed direct, uncovered fields of fire upon the artillery revetments that were the forts’ outer works.  Another scene of (in this case, implied) carnage from the pages of Papal Stakes.

14 arms court

#14  The interior of Castell de Bellver. Comprised of an “arms court” and two circular vaulted galleries, any conventional intruders would find themselves in one of the world’s most striking crucibles of defensive small arms fire.  The taller upper gallery affords defenders waist-high stone cover in a 360-degree encirclement of the court. Access is by two staircases accessible directly from the lower gallery.

15 lower gallery

15a room

#15 and #15a  The lower gallery. Devoted mostly to the practical, day-to-day needs of the fort, these rooms were somewhat more rude in construction, but also quite sturdy, with heavy door and iron hardware. The site of housing, kitchen, storerooms, and privies, it was the working level of Castell de Bellver. One of the nicer rooms on this level (a commander’s office and marshalling area, apparently) recalls the more refined features and architectural interest (groined vaulting) of the chambers that ring the more airy and bright upper gallery.

16 stairway

#16 The ascending stairway to the upper gallery. Narrow and steep, with stout doors, an upwards assault against well-prepared defenders was sure to be a costly matter. Even with the superior firepower, surprise, speed, and training of the Wild Geese and Hibernians, reaching and breaking out into the second level was a difficult task and ultimately, where the majority of casualties were inflicted upon them.

17 upper gallery

#17 The upper gallery. With taller doorways, more windows, and graceful stonework throughout, the ceiling of the second level soars and also receives some cooling sea breezes scalloping down and in through the circular opening to the roof and the sky beyond. Despite its refinements, the upper gallery is also designed for murderously effective defense against any intruders who might fight through the single, double-portcullised entrance into the arms court. And for any attackers who might (improbably) get this far, access to the roof level was only to be had through three stairways protected within rooms lining the promenade.

18 Fort Carlos

#18 Fort Carlos. Not seen in the narrative per se, but a location of grave concern to the attackers who escaped by boat, Fort Carlos is a bastion of a later age. Built specifically both to house and resist the fire of cannons, it shows the squat, “star fort” walls with raked glacis outer surfaces and wider and more functional interior marshalling areas for mustering troops and repositioning heavy equipment. In the final stages of construction at the time of the novel, it had already become the “serious” harbor defense, with Castell de Bellver being relegated to the equivalent of a second governor’s residence, garrison, and maximum security prison—a role in which it continued for almost another two centuries.

19 Tramontera

#19 The Tramontera. These scrub-covered mountains predominate along the northern fringes of Mallorca, becoming more steep and inhospitable as one progresses from these western slopes to the towering easternmost extent of Formentor.  These are the low peaks between which the rescuers’ dirigible fled at the end of the extraction mission—and which, navigating on a dark night, were objects that posed their own dangers.

20 secret tunnel

21 secret tunnel

22 secret tunnel

#20, #21, #22   The secret tunnel up into Castell de Bellver. These three pictures warrant a story that goes a long way to illustrate how persistence and blind luck can often combine to be an author’s best friend.

As I evolved the story of the rescue of Frank and Giovanna Stone, I saw a variety of ways for the strike team to get into Castell de Bellver, but an exit was less clear. Any number of ruses could have inserted a team within its walls—and indeed, Owen Roe O’Neill and one of his Wild Geese employ one such trick to sneak inside. However, once there, even opening a door for a larger waiting force was problematic: how would so large a force be waiting close enough, undetected, and then not become hopelessly bogged down engaging the troops whose duties and billets were outside the walls in service of the batteries in the artillery revetments? I thought about postulating the existence of a secret tunnel, but, while many such fortifications often had these hidden escape routes, it seemed unfair and just a bit too authorially convenient to invent one.

Except, as it turns out, I didn’t have to.

I visited Castell de Bellver three times. On the last and final occasion, I called ahead and made an appointment with a curator to get a guided tour. We walked nearly every linear foot of the place and I learned many things about it I had not before. However, I was no closer to finding my answer to a reasonable method of mass attack—and certainly, mass escape. On our way to the exit, as we passed by the storeroom immediately to the left of the entrance (from the internal perspective), I noticed that it had a light barricade in front of it, proclaiming it temporarily closed to visitors. What was going on there, I asked.

“Oh, that’s where we found a hidden tunnel,” exclaimed my guide. Stunned, I asked if I could see what they had unearthed.

Buried beneath two courses of stone flooring, what you see in the first picture is the claustrophobic descending cleft, from the perspective of someone about to head down into it. The other two images are taken from the side of the aperture and show the staircase, which was fashioned from stone risers laid across grooves cut into stepped ramps carved from the limestone that predominates beneath the fort’s foundations.

At the time of my last visit, the history of the tunnel was still a mystery. It had been explored enough to determine that it connected with subterranean galleries from which much of the finer-grained stone of the castell itself had been quarried. However, time and water had eroded some of the limestone chambers and passages and it was unclear when (or even if) the other end of the tunnel would ever be found. However, given its unswerving eastward course and steady if gentle declination, all conjectures pointed to an egress point well down the slope and probably halfway to the shore: a logical escape route for a party of besieged personages of high station. Which is just how the passage is depicted in Papal Stakes.

So, truly, the third time was the charm in my three visits to Castell de Bellver—and if you find yourself in Mallorca, I urge you to take a tour and explore this piece of living history yourself.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse behind the scenes, and among the faces on the cutting room floor, that went into the making of 1635: The Papal Stakes. Although science fiction, and more specifically alternate history, I hope this imparts some of the effort and diligence with which authors in the series pursue authenticity and factual details of locales, organizations, objects, and individuals which were the living (and often breathing) realities of that epoch. We might not get everything right—who could?—but it’s never for lack of trying.

Thanks for coming along for the trip—and for having read 1635: The Papal Stakes.


Art Director’s Note: With the exception of the title banner, all of the images in this article are courtesy of the author, Charles E. Gannon. I tried to stay as close to the author’s original concept of presentation throughout the piece as I could, within the limitations of our software. If the reader wishes to, they can click on any image here in the Gazette’s online version for a larger view.

Hungary and Transylvania, Part 4: High Politics of Hungary at the Ring of Fire

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Here is the list of persons either living in the Ring of Fire period or who directly impacted the political scene leading up to the Ring of Fire:


HT4bksstvnIstván Bocskay, Prince of Transylvania (1557-1606)

He was a very important figure leading up to this period: learning about his person and his achievements is essential to understand the situation in 1630. Many people, active at the time of the Ring of Fire, had fought under Bocskay and Bethlen, two heroes of Protestantism. You can see his statue on the Reformation Wall in Geneva, Switzerland, next to Luther’s.

Bocskay was an extremely wealthy nobleman of Royal Hungary and Transylvania. He had played important roles in previous Transylvanian politics and eventually gained more lands and power. He was also a skilled general and in 1595, the Transylvanian army under his command advanced into Wallachia and together with the Wallachian voivode defeated the Ottoman army nearby. The young Gábor Bethlen, the next prince of Transylvania, served in his army and was his advisor.

Later the Habsburgs cast their eyes on his vast lands and accused him of treason in order to confiscate his possessions. He had no choice but to lead a revolt against the Holy Roman Empire.  He established an alliance with the Ottoman Empire and, supported by the Hajdus (emancipated peasant warriors or armed herders), compelled the Viennese court to reaffirm and guarantee the religious freedoms of and his right to his lands.

Bocskay also succeeded in gaining the support of the middle and partially the upper classes of the Hungarian nobility for his struggles. More and more rebels flocked to his forces, and as a result of this, Bocskay’s army won two critical battles against the Habsburg armies. In 1605, István Bocskay was elected to be the ruling prince of Hungary and Transylvania and by the end of the year, Bocskay gained supremacy over Transylvania and the entire part of the Kingdom of Hungary which was not under Ottoman control and eventually forced Archduke Matthias to open negotiations on recognition.

Prince Bocskay granted titles of nobility to 9,254 Hajdus and settled them on the northern part of River Tisza. He allowed tax benefits for their towns which provided them the economic ability to serve militarily. They had the personal obligation to defend the country, thereby becoming the principality’s favored social class.

At the same time, the Ottoman sultan sent a magnificent jeweled crown to Bocskay to make him king for Transylvania and Hungary. It is important to know that the Turks never gave anyone a crown and it was not their intent at this time, either. It was Bocskay’s diplomatic success to achieve it and as it turned out, it was just part of a magnificent political show.

The Turks received Bocskay in Pest and under great celebrations he was belted with a decorative saber and dressed in a cloak embroidered richly with gold and silver. Then, the second mightiest man of the Ottoman Empire placed the Turkish crown, sent from the Sultan, onto Bocskay’s head. This crown was said to have belonged to the last Byzantine Caesar, a masterpiece of a Persian goldsmith, it had been highly esteemed in the Sultan’s treasury.

At this point, the coronation took an unexpected turn: Bocskay profusely thanked them for the gift and suddenly took it off his head, saying that he could not accept this crown’s authority above the Holy Crown of Hungary. “As the Holy Crown is on Emperor Rudolf’s head, I cannot be the crowned king of Hungary, according to the Hungarian laws,” he declared and handed the Turkish crown over to one of his men, Homonnai Drugeth, to guard it. The Turks and the assembled people were astonished but it may have been possible that the present Great Vizier and Pasha Lalla Mohamed of Buda had known what would happen. The Turkish crown remained with Bálint Homonnai Drugeth and later it was confiscated from his heirs by the Court of Vienna where you can see it in the museum.

We can see how Bocskay refused the royal dignity, but made skillful use of the Turkish alliance.

The Habsburgs, who wanted to save the Hungarian provinces and set aside the unstable Rudolf II, entered into negotiations with Bocskay and concluded the Peace of Vienna in 1606. The peace guaranteed all the constitutional and religious rights and privileges of the Hungarians both in Transylvania and Royal Hungary. Bocskay was acknowledged as Prince of Transylvania by the Austrian court, and the right of the Transylvanians to elect their own independent princes in the future was officially recognized. Simultaneously, the Peace of Zsitvatorok was concluded with the Ottomans, which confirmed the Peace of Vienna: it ended the Fifteen Year War between the Habsburgs and the Ottomans. It is worth noting that at the time of the Ring of Fire many Hungarians in their forties or fifties had military experience from either this long war against the Turks or from Bocskay’s campaigns.

Bocskay survived this diplomatic triumph for only a few months—on 29 December 1606 he was allegedly poisoned by his chancellor, who was then hacked to bits by Bocskay’s adherents (or enemies?) in the town’s marketplace. It was never learned which empire had been responsible.



HT4gbrbthlnGábor (Gabriel) Bethlen (1580-1629)

He was a Protestant uncrowned King of Hungary (1620-21) and a Prince of Transylvania (1613-29) and Duke of Opole (1622-25) who led an insurrection against the House of Habsburg in Royal Hungary. He was the one who turned Transylvania into the famous “Fairy Garden” as it was called at that time.

Bethlen was born in Transylvania and served in the court of Zsigmond (Sigismund) Bathory, a Transylvanian prince, and accompanied him on his campaign to Wallachia. Although he was a Calvinist, he helped György Káldy, a Jesuit, translate and print the Bible. He also composed hymns and from 1625, employed Johannes Thesselius from Erfurt, as kapellmeister (composer).

As many Ring of Fire stories deal with musicians, some facts about musicians in Bethlen’s court seem worth mentioning. Bethlen loved music and in addition to eight previously-hired German musicians he had six harpists and violinists and invited more from Silesia. He also had Italian and Polish musicians as well as eleven Turkish players. There were additionally twelve trumpeters and when Catherine of Brandenburg, his second wife, arrived, she brought along the organ player Michael Hermann who later became the city judge in Brassó (Kornstadt). Bethlen also invited organ builder masters from Germany in 1629. The last group of ten musicians arrived in January, 1628, led by the dance master called Diego del Estrada.

As previously stated, in 1605 Bethlen supported Prince István (Stephen) Bocskay and his successor Gabriel Bathory (1608-1613). Bethlen later fell out with Báthory and fled to the Ottoman Empire where he made excellent connections.

In 1613, after Báthory was murdered, the Ottomans installed Bethlen as prince of Transylvania and this was also endorsed by the Transylvanian Diet at Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg). Taking advantage of the chaotic situation after the previous prince’s murder, Bethlen was able to get into power by relying on his diplomacy at the Sublime Porte. After using the Turks’ military assistance so openly, he tried hard to improve his reputation because he was accused of “Turk friendship,” and Transylvanians in general were mockingly called “Turks with hair on” by other Hungarians.

The Transylvanian-Turkish relations were far from peaceful; it was an alliance born under pressure and the parties didn’t trust each other at all. Bethlen tried to manipulate and use his Turk “allies” as much as he could. Transylvania was still too far from both Vienna and Istanbul and Bethlen had to pay the Turks only symbolical taxes to keep them out of his country. The Turks said about Bethlen that “. . . even those who show friendship toward us, do not wish the victory of the Muslims.” Nevertheless, in 1615, after the Peace of Tyrnau, Bethlen was also recognized by Matthias, Holy Roman Emperor.

Bethlen’s rule was one of patriarchal enlightened absolutism. He developed mines and industry and nationalized many branches of Transylvania’s foreign trade. His agents bought goods at fixed prices and sold them abroad at profit. In his capital, in Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), Bethlen built a grand new palace. Bethlen was a patron of the arts and the Calvinist church, giving hereditary nobility to Protestant priests. He also encouraged learning by founding a college, encouraging the enrollment of Hungarian academics and teachers, and sending Transylvanian students to the Protestant universities of England and the Low Countries, as well as in the Protestant principalities of Germany. He also ensured the right of serfs’ children to be educated.

Bethlen maintained an efficient standing army of mercenaries. While keeping relations with the Sublime Porte, the Ottomans, he sought to gain lands to the north and west. During the Thirty Years’ War, he attacked the Habsburgs of Royal Hungary (1619-1626). Bethlen opposed the tyranny of the Habsburgs and the persecution of Protestants in Royal Hungary, as well as the violation of Bocskay’s Peace of Vienna, 1606.

In August, 1619, Bethlen invaded Royal Hungary for the first time and took Kassa (Kosice) in September. His Protestant supporters declared him the leader of Hungary and protector of Protestants and thus he gained control of Upper Hungary. Three Jesuits were mercilessly executed in Kassa that same month, under his authority but without his knowledge. Later these victims, one of which was a good friend of Péter Pázmány, became known as the Martyrs of Kassa and were canonized by the Catholic Church.

In October, 1619, Bethlen took Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg), where the Palatine of Hungary ceded him the Holy Crown of Hungary. He was able to take the Royal Hungarian territories quite easily because the local landlords and the warriors of the Frontier sided with him at once. Skeptics may say that the nobility swore fealty to him because they didn’t want armies marching through their lands.  After all, at that time it was only Bethlen who could guarantee the territorial status quo and the nobility’s unperturbed continuity of their feudal rights. Also, Bethlen’s quick success somewhat resembled the glorious age of King Matthias. On the other hand, the petty nobility appreciated that Bethlen had the money to offer an honest rate of pay for both the warriors of the Frontier and the Hajdus, the free soldiers. He encouraged them to join him, and they flocked to his flag: a foot soldier was paid three florins and a rider received four per month. It was very little, but at least it was paid regularly.

In November, his army took the suburbs of Vienna. Unfortunately, they did not take Vienna, and soon the forces of George Druget, Captain of Upper Hungary and Polish mercenaries forced Bethlen to leave Austria and Upper Hungary.

In 1619 everything was ready for Bethlen to be elected and crowned King of Hungary, but if he had taken the title and the Holy Crown at that point, he would have made any further talks with Ferdinand II impossible. In the summer of 1620 Bethlen refused the Holy Crown like Bocskay had in 1605 but later negotiated for peace at Pozsony and in Kassa. He finally received ownership of thirteen counties in the east of Royal Hungary in that same year and was elected King of Hungary at the Diet of Besztercebánya (Banská Bystrica). As a result the war with the Habsburgs resumed.

In his 1620 campaign, Bethlen was successfully able to call the Hungarians to his flag again. He entered Royal Hungary with only three thousand Transylvanian soldiers, but when he arrived in the Trans-Danubian region, all the warriors of the frontier castles, from Tata, Pápa, Veszprém, Várpalota, Sümeg (mentioning just the biggest ones of the fourteen strongholds that changed sides) gladly joined forces with him after a very short time. They reasoned this way: “We have made this turn over neither in hope of booty nor for aspiring after someone’s property: but it was out of true love of our homeland and our agreement in defending the freedoms of our country and to safeguard and restore justice, and above all, it was out of the desire of the right to freely live to our faith and religion that had driven us in our actions.” Bethlen appreciated that they were the best warriors, experienced and hardened through the wars with the Turks for many generations. The Austrian general Buquoi and Miklós (Nicholas) Eszterházy tried to force them back to the Emperor’s service in 1621, but in vain; the warriors followed Bethlen’s call and in January they gathered near Szombathely (Savaria) to oppose General Collato’s army. It was interesting that these warriors fought not only against Bethlen’s enemies but also against Bethlen’s Turkish “friendly” auxiliary forces which were pillaging the Hungarian countryside.

In 1621, Ferdinand II regained Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg) and the central mining towns. Now it was Bethlen who asked for peace, and in December, 1621, the Peace of Nikolsburg was made. Bethlen renounced his royal title on the condition that Hungarian Protestants were given religious freedoms, and in return he was given the title of Imperial Prince of Hungary and Transylvania, seven counties around the Upper Tisza River, the important fortresses of Tokaj, Munkács (Munkacsevo), and Ecsed (Nagyecsed), and a duchy in Silesia. The Peace of Nikolsburg was a result of Bethlen’s realization that he alone didn’t possess sufficient power to reunite Hungary against the Habsburgs and that trying to do so without getting rid of the Turkish yoke would lead to great peril.

In 1623, 1624, and 1626, Bethlen, allied with the anti-Habsburg Protestants, made campaigns against Ferdinand in Upper Hungary. The first campaign ended with the Peace of Vienna in 1624, the second by the Peace of Pozsony (Pressburg) in 1626. After the second campaign, Bethlen offered the court of Vienna an alliance against the Ottomans and offered himself in marriage to Renata Cecilia, the Archduchess of Austria, but Ferdinand rejected it. Instead, on his return from Vienna, Bethlen wed the young and beautiful Catherine of Brandenburg, the daughter of John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg and the brother-in-law of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. Catherine’s sister was the wife of Christian IV of Denmark, who had just attacked Ferdinand.

After Bethlen’s death in 1629, it was his wife, Catherine of Brandenburg, who became the only female crowned ruler of Transylvania in 1629-1630. She is the connection between the Swedes and the Hungarians.

Swedish-Hungarian diplomatic relations began with negotiations, and when King Gustav Adolph’s envoy, Filip Sadler [i.e., Philip Sattler], arrived in Transylvania in 1626, he tried to persuade Bethlen to attack Poland. Bethlen sidestepped and offered to meet Gustav Adolph’s troops in Silesia. The Swedish-Transylvanian negotiations went on in Gyulafehérvár, Bethlen’s capital. They discussed how to aid each other mutually against the emperor, and the Swedish made an attempt to gain joint monopoly over the red copper mines. It is likely that Bethlen wanted the Polish throne for himself and may have thought of Gustav Adolph as his rival.

The princely wedding with Catherine of Brandenburg took place in Kassa (Kosice) in 1626, but only under the condition set by the bride that Bethlen should make a compensation for the Jesuit martyrs who were executed a few years previously in the very same city. Catherine was twenty-one and Bethlen was forty-five; the latter spoke neither German nor French so they must had had language barriers at first. After arriving in Transylvania, Catherine wasn’t warmly accepted by the nobility because she was too fond of grandeur and festivals. Besides, she was German. Soon gossip started connecting her with a handsome young count, István Csáky. On top of that, Bethlen seemingly fell in love with her, giving her luxurious presents and nominating her as his heir on the throne, just a few months after the wedding. The influence of the young Count Csáky had been growing and became more and more obvious. Yet, after Bethlen’s death in 1629, the nobility raised no obstacles and allowed her to take the throne, in accordance with Bethlen’s will. Bethlen had assigned his younger brother, István Bethlen, to act as a governor, thus assisting in Catherine’s reign.

The Protestant István Bethlen developed a strong dislike towards the princess because the young Catholic Count Csáky’s influence had become even stronger. The young nobleman was given control over seven royal counties in 1630 and convinced the spiritually unbalanced Catherine to convert to Catholicism and tried to make her negotiate with the Habsburgs. Although the princess hadn’t done anything wrong during her ten-month reign, her suggestibility forecast a frightening prospect for the future, and nobody wanted to take the risk. So István Bethlen and the nobles played the inexperienced princess off against the laws and took her power and wealth away, making her resign in September, 1630, just a few months before the Ring of Fire.

It was around this time that György Rakoczi appeared on the scene, and a fierce political fight developed between István Bethlen and him for the throne of Transylvania. The humiliated Catherine of Brandenburg took her revenge on István Bethlen by voting against him in favor of György Rákóczi. Her intervention decided the fate of Transylvania . . . she was able to obtain the Sultan’s athname for Rákóczi that officially put him in power. She read it in the Council with utter pleasure. The details of events concerning Catherine between 1630-1633 before she left Transylvania, never to return, would take an entire article by themselves.

In Vienna Catherine met Francis Charles, Prince of Saxonia and Lauenburg. They married in 1639 and lived happily together until she died in 1649.

Gábor Bethlen left behind a stable and independent country, a true “Fairy Garden.” It remained George Rakoczi I’s task to make it even stronger. When Wallenstein came to know of his adversary’s death, he was cursing and loudly exclaimed that “it was due time that he has finally croaked.”



HT4ptrpsmnyPéter Pázmány (1570-1637)

He was a Jesuit, a noted philosopher, theologian, cardinal, pulpit orator, a “Hungarian Cicero in purple” and a great statesman. He was considered to be the most important figure in the Counter-Reformation in the Hungarian kingdom. It was said, “He was born in a Protestant country and died in a Catholic one.” He created the Hungarian literary language and became the Primate of Hungary, the chief priest of the kingdom, in 1616.

In 1619 he founded a seminary for theological candidates at Nagyszombat (Trnava) and in 1623 laid the foundations of a similar institution at Vienna, the still famous Pazmaneum. In 1635 he founded the university in Nagyszombat. The faculty of Theology later, in modern days, became the famous Peter Pázmány Catholic University of Budapest, named for him. Pázmány also built Jesuit colleges and schools at Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg) and Franciscan monasteries at Érsekújvár (Nove Zamky) and Körmöcbánya.

It was chiefly due to him that the Diet of 1618 elected Archduke Ferdinand to succeed the childless Matthias. He also repeatedly softened the martial ambitions of his good friend, the Transylvanian Prince Gabriel Bethlen and prevented György Rákoczi I, over whom he had a great influence, from allying with the Ottoman Empire and the Protestants.

Pope Urban VIII made him a Cardinal in 1629. He was assigned by the emperor to be the tutor of young Nicholas (Miklos) Zrinyi.

In 1630 he was in Rome and tried through his influence with the pope to help his country. Sadly, the pope was very cold to him and was happy when he left.

The emperor sent Pázmány to Rome again in 1632 to persuade the pope to support the steps against the decline of Catholicism. Pázmány asked the pope to dissuade Louis XIII of French from supporting the Swedish king. Urban VIII turned it down, saying that the Swedish king’s war motives were not religious ones. While Paul V and Gregory XV perceived the Thirty Years War as a religious struggle, Urban VIII didn’t because he was looking at it from the Italian princes’ viewpoint. The Pope strongly disliked the Spanish success and could hardly hide his happiness as he witnessed the Habsburgs’ decline. The Pope absolutely agreed with Richelieu on that.

In vain did Pázmány hope that the Catholic forces would do away with the heretics first, then would sweep the pagan Turks out altogether. The Barberinis of Rome praised his clever brain and wits but coldly refused his plans. He was told that he couldn’t be an advocate nor envoy of rulers because he was a high priest. He was sent back to Vienna with a very small amount of financial support against the Turks.

Later, the pope was not very happy with one of the Spanish rulers’ idea that he wanted Pázmány to return to Rome.

In one of his letters to the Emperor Ferdinand II, written in Pozsony in 1632, Pázmány suggested the creation of a western Catholic coalition against the Turks. “I know very well what they say about the Austrian Empire in Rome,” he wrote. “They think you do nothing against the Ottomans and you only want to make war with foreign help.” He did his utmost to use his influence with the pope to provoke Ferdinand and urge the war. It was a measure of his skill that he could negotiate between Prince Rákóczi and István Bethlen in 1636.  He died in Pozsony in 1637. (Unless possibly superior medical treatment from the future prolongs his life—his good intentions and negotiator’s skills could be most helpful.)



Péter Alvinczi – born Nagyenyed (Aiud), 1570; died Kassa (Kosice, Kaschau), 1634.

He was a famous Reformed pastor, polemicist, and the great adversary of Archibishop Péter Pázmány. He studied first at Nagyvárad (Oradea). It is unknown whether he went to Switzerland and Italy but he must have gone to Wittenberg and Heidelberg, Germany. He returned in 1602 and became a dean in Debrecen, then became a pastor in 1603 in Nagyvárad where he stayed until 1604. He was invited by Prince Bocskay to come and be his pastor at Nagykereki. He accepted and became the Prince’s vicar. He was then a pastor in Kassa, 1606, where he stayed in this office until his death in 1634. When the three Jesuits were executed in Kassa, allegedly it was he who had demanded their death; one of them used to be a dear friend of Péter Pázmány. He became most famous for his debates with Archibishop Péter Pázmány. He wrote political pamphlets and exchanged letters with Prince Gábor Bethlen. He also published a Latin grammar book and was dealing with Hungarian grammar as well but his Hungarian grammar book published in 1639 has since disappeared.  He would probably not have welcomed the Americans from Grantville, despite being a Protestant. Yet because of the Ring of Fire, he could possibly have lived beyond 1634.



HT4ncsthzyBaron Miklós (Nicholas) Esterházy (1583-1645)

He was the founder of his family’s wealth. Coming from the lower nobility he rose to became a baron, count, and Palatine of Hungary. He had seven younger and two elder brothers as well as two sisters. He was brought up in Vienna by the Jesuits.

He converted to the Catholic faith in 1601, and his father disinherited him and chased him away from home. During the siege of Esztergom he was in one camp with Wallenstein in 1604 but nothing is known about their relationship. After serving under the former palatine, he went to Kassa where he served under its captain.

He became immensely rich because of his first marriage in 1612 with Orsolya Dersffy, the widow of the departed captain of Kassa. He had been having a love affair with Orsolya—who was many years older than him—while her husband (his boss) was still alive. Later the lady helped him a lot, and they had a son, István, in 1616.

Orsolya died in 1619 and Esterházy married another rich widow, Krisztina Nyáry, in 1624. During the fifteen years of their marriage they had nine children.

The Habsburgs noted Baron Esterházy because he was one of the few members of the Hungarian nobility to convert to Catholicism, and also because of his zeal in fighting the Turks. The king made him a baron, along with five of his brothers, in 1613, and the next year he gained his reputation as a negotiator in Linz.

His former Jesuit tutor was Péter Pázmány, and Esterházy helped him to be promoted to archbishop of Esztergom. Their relationship later was spoiled, and Pázmány vehemently attacked him in public many times while Esterházy blamed the Jesuit for his friendly relations with the almost bigot Calvinist Prince Rákóczi I. Pázmány also tried to restrict the palatine’s power and rights in favor of his own authority.

Esterházy had been in battles against the Turks during the Long War, but he also defeated the army of the Pasha of Bosnia in 1623. (When the pasha was dismissed by Prince Bethlen from his camp, the Turk soldier returned angrily home, packed with plunder and slaves. He was attacked and utterly defeated by Esterházy when crossing the Nyitra river. All the Christian captives were freed, and it was guessed that it may have been Bethlen himself who had informed Esterházy about the pasha’s route in order to get rid of his unwanted Turkish ally.)

The Emperor made him Palatine of Hungary in 1625, giving him the highest political function in the country. This time the Palatine’s annual salary was twenty-two thousand Hungarian florins. He also became Count of Fraknó and Knight in the Order of the Golden Fleece in 1626. He had been entrusted with the most important questions of the country since 1622. In his court he surrounded himself with the most talented young Hungarian aristocrats whom he trained to become successful diplomats. The list of his titles and domains is long. He fought against Prince Bethlen and was rewarded by the Emperor for it. Also, he was an enemy of Prince György Rákóczi I. Esterházy collected a five thousand-strong army when the Prince was crowned and tried to defeat him, but Rákóczi won the battle of Rakamaz in March, 1631, by sending his Hajdus to attack the mounds of the fortification.

The emperor issued some warnings against the palatine in the 1630s because he had made some attacks from the frontier castles against the Turks. He was said to have been struggling with the emperor and many times had considered resigning from his posts.

He openly supported the Hungarian interests in court and organized the upkeep of the frontier castles. Esterházy established the famous library called Bibliotheca Esterhazyana in his palace in Lackenbach, near Vienna. This palace also had a huge and elegant Renaissance garden. He considered writing to be as important as politics. His court became a meeting place of notable theologians of the age. He founded a renowned treasury-collection at his other main residence, the great castle of Fraknó (Forchtenstein) of Upper Hungary.

The palatine’s goal was to bring about the unity of Royal Hungary and Transylvania under the Habsburgs’ rule in order to defeat the Turks. He considered Transylvania a puppet-state of the Ottoman Empire, a dangerous bastion against the Catholics, but he defended the feudal privileges of the Hungarian nobility and fought for the emperor’s approval of an independent Hungarian army at the same time.

After the death of Ferdinand II in 1637, he suddenly had many enemies, although the Ring of Fire could change this. In the original timeline he was central in Hungarian anti-Protestantism and achieved the conversion of many Hungarian aristocrats, including Ádám Batthyány and Ferenc Nádasdy. He also supported the baroque-style constructions and music throughout the country.

During his last years, the young Miklós Zrínyi visited him. Later Pál Esterházy, Miklós’ son, served under Zrínyi against the Turks.

Four members of the Esterházy family died in the battle of Vezekény against the Turks when they defeated an army that was three times bigger than theirs. The palatine’s son, Pál, never joined the conspirator aristocrats against the court and helped the Habsburgs put down Prince Ferenc Rákóczi II’s freedom fight in 1703-11.

Palatine Miklós Esterházy is a dividing figure, and one can’t jump to conclusions about his person easily. It is true that he fought against the Turks with all his might, but he was absolutely loyal to the Habsburgs. The reaction of Miklós Esterházy to the Americans’ arrival is an open question.



HT4rkczigyrgyGyörgy I Rákóczi (1593-1648)

He was an important Hungarian nobleman who became Prince of Transylvania from 1630 until his death in 1648. During his influence Transylvania grew politically and economically stronger. He was a well-educated and tolerant, “modern” absolute ruler with good military skills and experience. As a strong and independent sovereign ruler of Transylvania, an area then twice as big as modern-day Hungary, he was indeed in a position to make a difference in the Thirty Years War after the Ring of Fire.

In 1605 he was placed in the service of then-Prince István Bocskay. After Bockskay’s death in 1606, he rejoined his father, Zsigmond (Sigismund) Rákóczi. Zsigmond was elected Prince of Transylvania in 1607, but resigned a year later.

In 1619, György joined Prince Gábor Bethlen’s invasion of Royal Hungary, ruled by Ferdinand II as king. György commanded a wing of Bethlen’s army, which was sent to oppose a Polish army coming to the aid of Ferdinand. The Polish force defeated Rakoczi’s force at the Battle of Homonna (Homoneau, Humenné) on November 23rd. As a result, Bethlen had to give up his attack on Vienna and make peace. This is the attack on Vienna in which its suburbs were taken.

It is an interesting commentary on Rákóczi’s character that when he was with Bethlen’s army he received the news that his wife was about to deliver a baby. He didn’t care about the dismay of Bethlen and left the army behind just to be with his wife.

Rákóczi remained in Bethlen’s service until Bethlen died in 1629. Bethlen was briefly succeeded by his widow Catherine, and then his brother István. But the Transylvanian Diet soon turned to György instead. On December 1, 1630, at Segesvár (Schäsbrich, Sighisoara), the Estates elected Rákóczi as Prince.

He made a treaty with Ferdinand II in 1631. Rákóczi was accepted as a prince and in return he was obliged to send away the Hajdu troops. The Sultan also reaffirmed Rákóczi’s title during the same year in June.

Rákóczi was even more independent from the Turks than Bethlen had been. In 1636 he defeated the Pasha of Buda at the Battle of Nagyszalonta. Four years later he made a coalition against the Turks with the Polish king Sigismund III—unless the Ring of Fire has changed all of this.

Rákóczi followed in Bethlen’s steps and also sent a delegation to Sweden but it happened too late because Gustav Adolph had died—in that timeline—so Rákóczi couldn’t join the Swedes against the Habsburgs to take Hungary back from the Austrian usurpers. Their coalition was delayed because the Swedish king wanted Rákóczi’s military support against the Austrians quite unconditionally. But Rákóczi had his own terms: he wanted to keep his lands and the Transylvanian tradition of freedom of religion.

The Habsburgs had done everything to hinder Rákoczi’s intervention in the Thirty Years War: they had bribed the Turkish serasker (chief military leader under the sultan) who threatened to send Tatar and Turkish raiders to Transylvania if Rákóczi tried to attack the Austrians. When this serasker received his “silk string” from Murad, this obstacle was not there anymore.

So it happened in our original timeline that a decade later Rákóczi was free to decide to side with the Swedes when he learned that Torstensson broke into Austria after 1642 at Olmütz. With the coming of the Ring of Fire, who knows where twentieth-century technology will take this land?  Rákóczi occupied the whole Hungarian Highland from the Habsburgs as his fellow Transylvanian princes in the past had made a habit of doing, and in February, 1644, his army was on the march to join Torstensson at Vienna. Finally the prince joined the Swedish army in Bohemia where they were besieging Brno.

In 1644, he intervened in the Thirty Years War, declaring war against the new emperor, Ferdinand III. He was able to achieve his basic military goals (keeping his lands intact and defending the unique Transylvanian religious freedom) with an army that outsmarted superior forces, without a major defeat. He didn’t really want to bring the Austrian kingdom down before dealing properly with the Turks since the Habsburgs represented at least some kind of an opposing power against the sultan. The international political situation was unique, but finally resulted in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. As part of the treaty, Rákóczi and Ferdinand made peace, too, at Linz.

Rákóczi didn’t hurry to help Torstensson in our timeline but he would probably have made more haste had he suspected that the Grantvillers might be willing to help him to get rid of both controlling powers—the Habsburgs and the Ottomans. In any case he couldn’t have come to such an agreement with the USE before 1636, but he could have let the Turks reach Vienna in 1637, in exchange for some strategic forts. The Turks’ successful Viennese campaign must have increased his political and military value in the hope of a future agreement with the USE.

Not encountering the Grantvillers, he ruled until his death in 1648 and left behind a magnificent Transylvanian Fairy Garden to be utterly destroyed by the Habsburgs and the Romanians in future centuries.



Dávid Zólyomi (around 1600-1649)

He was a tough Secler soldier of the age, vice-general of Prince György Rákóczi I, who started his career under Prince Bethlen as the Chief Captain of Field Armies. He married István Bethlen’s daughter, Kata Bethlen, in 1629. They had two children, Krisztina and Miklós.

In 1630 he took Rákóczi’s side against Catherine of Brandenburg and had a great role in helping Rákóczi to the throne. Along with his brother-in-law, Péter Bethlen, he was defeated by the army of Palatine Miklós Eszterházy in 1631 at Rakamaz. He defeated a peasant uprising led by Péter Császár in 1632.

His friendship with Prince Rákóczi worsened so much that he exchanged letters with the Pasha of Buda in order to prepare his escape if it was needed in 1632. He wanted to make the prince continue his fight against the Habsburgs so the prince had to arrest him. He was sentenced to death but was pardoned and instead imprisoned in the castle of Kővár. After his death the prince didn’t take away the lands of his widow.



HT4nkzrnskBaron Miklós (Nicholas) Zrínyi (1620-1664)

Born in Csáktornya (Cakovec) from a Croatian father and a Hungarian mother, he was an outstanding Hungarian military leader, statesman, and poet, having written the first epic poem in Hungarian literature.

Although Miklós Zrínyi was only eleven years old at the time of the Ring of Fire, his story is a good example how the Habsburgs were treating Hungary and the Turkish question. After the early loss of his parents, Péter Pázmány was made his caretaker and tutor. He inherited the northern part of his family’s lands and gradually chose to feel himself a Hungarian, rather than a Croat.

With Pázmány’s help Zrínyi became an enthusiastic student of Hungarian language and literature, although he prioritized military training. In our timeline, he accompanied Szenkviczy, one of the canons of Esztergom, on a long educative tour through Italy from 1635 to 1637. The young aristocrat was received by the pope, and Zrínyi gifted him with a collection of his poems written in Latin.

Over the next few years, he learned the art of war in defending the Croatian frontier against the Turks and proved himself one of the most important commanders of the age.

Their family raised the money for their wars against the Ottomans from their own income: they traded with salt, grain, wood, and cloth. They herded 40,000 grey cattle annually to the marketplace of Légrád (Legrad) in order to avoid paying taxes to Vienna. They made a business contract with the Turk Pasha of Kanizsa as well as with the Venetian merchants to trade. They used their own armed men to herd the cattle to the harbors. It all looked very close to treason but the family was reasoning to the court that they needed the money for the defense of their homeland, and they had to get it from somewhere because Vienna couldn’t have financed the wars alone.

In 1645, during the closing stages of the Thirty Years War, Zrinyi acted against the Swedish troops in Moravia, equipping an army corps at his own expense. At Szkalec he scattered a Swedish division and took two thousand prisoners. At Eger he saved the life of Ferdinand III, who had been surprised at night in his camp by the offensive of Carl Gustaf Wrangel. Although not enthusiastic for having to fight against Hungarians of Transylvania, he subsequently routed the army of George I Rakoczi on the Upper Tisza river. For his services, the emperor appointed him Captain of Croatia. On his return from the war he married the wealthy Eusebia Draskovich.

In 1646 he distinguished himself in the actions against Ottomans. At the coronation of Ferdinand IV, King of Austria, King of Germany, King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, he carried the sword of state and was made a “Bán” (duke), and the Captain-General of Croatia. Yet, his loyalty to the Habsburgs had been continually declining.

During 1652-1653, Zrínyi was fighting against the Ottomans; nevertheless, from his castle he was in constant communication with the intellectual figures of his time. The Dutch scholar, Jacobus Tolius, even visited him, and has left in his Epistolae Itinerariae a lively account of his experiences. Tolius was amazed at the linguistic resources of Zrínyi, who spoke Hungarian, Croatian, Italian, German, Turkish, and Latin with equal ease. It was also noted how heroically Zrinyi had led his people to battles, often deciding the fight with his personal bravery.

In 1655, he made an attempt to be elected Palatine of Hungary. In spite of getting support from the petty nobility, his efforts failed as the king—because of Zrínyi’s good connections to the Protestants and the Hungarians of Transylvania—nominated Ferenc Wesselényi instead.

In 1663, the Turkish army, led by Grand Vizier Köprülü Ahmed, launched an overwhelming offensive against Royal Hungary, ultimately aiming at the siege and occupation of Vienna. The Imperial army failed to put up any notable resistance; the Turkish army was eventually stopped by bad weather conditions. As a preparation for the new Turkish onslaught due next year, German troops were recruited from the Holy Roman Empire, and aid was also called for from France, and Zrínyi, under the overall command of the Italian Montecuccoli, leader of the Imperial army, was named commander-in-chief of the Hungarian army. In 1664, Zrínyi set out to destroy the strongly fortified Suleiman Bridge of Eszék (Osijek). Destruction of the bridge would cut off the retreat of the Ottoman Army and make any Turkish reinforcement impossible for several months. Zrínyi advanced 240 kilometers in winter, through enemy territory and destroyed the bridge on 1 February 1664. He was frustrated by the refusal of the imperial generals to cooperate. The court remained suspicious of Zrínyi all the way, regarding him as a promoter of Hungarian separatist ideas. Zrínyi’s siege of Kanizsa, the most important Turkish fortress in southern Hungary, failed, as the beginning of the siege was seriously delayed by machinations of the overly-jealous Montecuccoli. Later the Emperor’s military commanders, unwilling to combat the grand vizier’s army hastily coming to the aid of Kanizsa, retreated.

The court concentrated all its troops on the Hungarian-Austrian border, sacrificing Zrinyi to hold back the Turkish army. The Turks, ultimately, were stopped in the Battle of Saint Gotthard (1664). The Turkish defeat could have offered an opportunity for Hungary to be liberated from the Turkish yoke. However, the Habsburg court chose not to push its advantage in order to save its strength for the future conflict that would be known as the War of the Spanish Succession. So the infamous Peace of Vasvár, the peace with the Turks, was negotiated by Zrínyi’s adversary, Montecuccoli. The peace treaty laid down unfavourable terms for the Hungarians, not only giving up recent conquests, but also offering a tribute to the Turks, all despite the fact that Austrian-Hungarian troops were the stronger.

Yet, Zrinyi was internationally praised, received the Golden Fleece, and was honored equally by the pope, King Louis XIV of France, and King Philip IV of Spain.

Zrínyi hurried to Vienna to protest against the treaty, but he was ignored; he left the city in disgust. It is widely accepted that he, despite being a loyal supporter of the court before, participated in the conspiracy which later became known as the Wesselényi conspiracy for an independent Kingdom of Hungary. However, on November 18, he was killed in a hunting accident by a wounded wild boar. Until this day, legend maintains that he was killed at the order of the Habsburg court and “that boar spoke German.” No conclusive evidence has ever been found to support this claim; however, it remains true that the Habsburgs lost their mightiest adversary with his death.

Zrínyi is also well known for his literary works. He is the author of the first epic poem in Hungarian language, written in 1648-1649.

Its subject is the heroic but unsuccessful defense of Szigetvár (1566) by the author’s great-grandfather, who was also called Miklós Zrinyi and who lost his heroic life by desperately attacking the besiegers on the last day of the Turks’ siege. It is interesting that Suleiman I the Great, the victor of Mohács who had defeated the Hungarian King Louis in 1526, also finished his life during this siege, and his heart was buried there.

Miklós Zrínyi wrote another famous political work about the Turkish peril. Its title is Do not hurt the Hungarians—An antidote to the Turkish poison.  He makes a case in it for a standing army, moral renewal of the nation, the re-establishment of the national kingdom, the unification of Royal Hungary with Transylvania, and, of course, driving the Turkish out. He thought a well-organized, small, modernized army of five to six thousand men could be a core of a standing army, and he himself was able to rise this army anytime (as he had offered this in his letter to the Emperor Leopold I before his death.)

Unfortunately, it was this political open-minded thinking and activity that was observed with utter suspicion from Vienna.

Miklós Zrínyi wrote a book about the greatest Hungarian king, King Mátyás (Matthias), showing up the idea of a strong national monarchy, and this idea was a counterexample of the current reigning foreign dynasty, governing from Vienna. Zrínyi, along with the contemporary public opinion, regarded the Habsburgs as weak and if not outright ill-disposed towards the Hungarians, at least incapable of defending their Empire against the “rage of the Ottomans.” There were opinions that Zrínyi, the Bán (Duke) of Croatia could be a better leader of the Hungarian Kingdom. Some say it was Zrínyi himself who may have hinted this. In his book about King Mátyás he remarked that the great king hadn’t come from any ancient dynasties but was elected freely by the Hungarian nobility. However, Zrínyi never claimed openly that he wanted to get the crown. On the other hand, he was trying hard to get the rank of the Palatine of Hungary and to achieve it, he had built a very good relationship with George Rakoczi II, Prince of Transylvania. The Transylvanian prince in the 1650s was believed to be the perfect ruler with capable characteristics and conditions to conduct the reunion of the country with success.

Zrínyi was a devout Catholic but he was far from being a fanatic. He addressed the Protestant nobility like this: “I am of a different faith, but your lordships’ freedom is my freedom, if you are hurt, I am hurt, too. I wish the prince had a hundred-thousand good papists, a hundred-thousand Calvinist and the same Lutheran warriors, they could save this homeland . . .” (. . .) “I hold a confiding Lutheran in higher esteem than an evil-hearted Catholic.” (. . .) “Dear Sir, we have to keep our oaths even to infidels, how much more we should keep our words to our Christian brothers.” (. . .) “Attacking someone under the name of the religion is not right, it is against God’s mercy; also, it is a great sin and wrong to break our agreement with our enemy, under the cover of religion.”  Here he refers to that contemporary belief that the Hungarian King Ulaszlo I had broken alliance with Sultan Murad II, and because of his perfidy he was killed at the Battle of Varna in 1444.

Zrínyi was also affected by the French idea of separating church and state and the concept of national absolutism.

At this time the Swedish king was paying closer attention to the anti-Ottoman wars and to Protestant Transylvania. Stäyger, the delegate of the Swedish ruler in Vienna, in 1655, wrote home that the Catholic aristocrat Zrínyi spoke against the Jesuits and had had a conflict with Prince Auerperg in the Court of Vienna, in an audience of the emperor which almost resulted in a duel.

Zrínyi’s opinion about religious wars was plain: “I can hardly believe that it would either be kind before God or acceptable for men to attack all of our neighbors or any Christian princes only under the excuse of religion. There are other reasons that force us to fight against the Turks or against other enemies who either share our faith or not; there are more noble reasons than the religion.”

His family’s slogan was Sors bona, nihil aliud (Only good luck, nothing else), but he used to add that God gave the fortune and showed the way. Human efforts must be made, of course: “. . .the human mind never gets so much help for the valiant soldiering or for any other thing as from learning and reading history.”

There are some rather interesting additions about Miklós Zrínyi’s family background. His father, György Zrínyi was said to have possessed outstanding characteristics. He was a Protestant. His wife was of this faith as well, but he was converted to Catholicism in 1619 by Péter Pázmány. George Zrínyi was in his best health when he joined Wallenstein’s army in 1626, April, but died in Pozsony in the same year at the age 29. Eyewitnesses wrote that Wallenstein had him killed during a lunch by giving him a poisoned radish. It is not a totally mad accusation since Wallenstein himself had written a letter to Vienna when he was very angry at Prince Bethlen for defeating his army. He proposed to the Austrian king that Bethlen should be gotten rid of by poison. There was not too much love in the Hungarians towards Wallenstein at the time of the Ring of Fire. Just imagine, had Wallenstein not died in 1634, how would Miklós Zrínyi, the second largest statesman in the Carpathian Basin beside George Rakoczi I, react in 1636 or 1637? Would the young Zrínyi, knowing that his father was murdered by the Grantvillers’ ally, join the Habsburgs who, after all, had been destined to mercilessly kill both him and his younger brother in a future unchanged by Grantville? This foreknowledge would likely leave him feeling that he had nowhere to go for advice except George Rákóczi I, Prince of Transylvania.

Miklós had a younger brother, Péter, who took care of the family’s lands near the Adriatic Sea and defended the shores against the Turks all of his life. He, too, is considered a great Croatian hero. He was later tried for treason and was beheaded by the Emperor after Miklós’ suspicious death in a hunting accident in 1664.



Zsigmond Erdődy ( ?-1639)

He was the Bán (Duke) of Croatia between 1627-1639. He studied in Vienna in 1610-11, then married Anna Keglevich in 1616. He became the Chief Count of Varasd, upon his father’s death, in 1624. The Turks defeated him at Kulpa in 1625; they shot his horse out from under him.



Countess Mária SzéchyCountess Mária Széchy (born in Rimaszécs, about 1610; died in Kőszeg, 1679)

She was a Hungarian aristocrat who became known as the “Venus of Murány castle” for her extremely good looks. She had three husbands: first, when she was 17 she wed István Bethlen Jr., captain of Várad, who died after five years of marriage in 1632. Then she was the wife of István Kun, Chief Comes of Szatmár county between 1634-1637, but she divorced him. Finally she wed Ferenc Wesselényi, captain of Fülek castle, in 1644 when she was about 34. Later it was Wesselényi who was the leader of a famous conspiracy against the Habsburgs for which all the conspirators—Péter Zrínyi was among them—were beheaded. Wesselényi had died before the plot was discovered but Mária Széchy spent some time in prison because of it, too.

Mária had been strongly disliked and even hated by moralistic people of her time. She was said to be eccentric, unconventional, and she was rebuked for her love of men’s clothes and riding a horse like a man. It was also written about her that although she liked pageantry, she also spent great amounts of money on charity as well, supporting hospitals and poor students. She was a Protestant and her family’s lands were among the largest in Upper Hungary. Her family’s center, which was on a strategic location, became the impregnable castle of Murány in 1617. Later the castle of  Murány fell into Prince Rákoczi I’s hands.Wesselényi (at that time still loyal to the Habsburgs) and his wife, Mária, took it back in 1645 from their in-laws by outsmarting them: Mária Széchy–while her family was at Rákoczi’s side—entered the castle and made the guards drunk.



Pasha Murtesa (?-1635)

First he was a pasha in Bosnia but later he became the Pasha of Buda between 1626-1630. He became Pasha of Silistria in 1603 and he was there until 1632 when he was appointed as the Pasha of Dijárbeker. He married the widow of Pasha Háfiz Ahmed in February, 1633. His wife was the sister of Sultan Murad IV.  At the end of that year he was ordered to Constantinapolis where he became a kaymakam (lieutenant-governor). He was the serdar (general) in the 1634 war against the Polish. He was made Captain of the Castle Erivan in 1635, where he died next year.



Pasha Adjem Hussein (?–1631)

He was of Persian origin, and he was the standard-bearer of his country. He became the Pasha of Buda in February 1630 and vizier at the same time. He was removed from these offices in October, 1631, which so saddened him that he died after a few days. It’s possible that the Ring of Fire  might change the circumstances which led to his death.



Pasha Beirám (?–1638)

He was born in Constantinople (current day Istanbul), he was an odabasi and a chorbadji. He became a muhzi-aga in 1620 then he was a turnadjibashi in 1622, then received the rank of a samsudjsibashi and a zagardzibashi the same year, whatever these names may mean. He became a jannichar-kiaya in October 1623 then a jannichar-aga. Four or five weeks later the sultan was forced to remove him from this function but as compensation he was named Pasha of Egypt in 1626. He was removed from there in 1628. He was called back to the court, and they made him the sixth vizier among the viziers. He was appointed as the Pasha of Buda in 1631 but a few days later he became a vizier again. The sources mention him as the Pasha of Rumelia in 1632. Next year he married one of the sultan’s elder sisters and thus was made a kaymakham. He acted as the Pasha of Buda again in 1634, but for just a few weeks. Then he became vizier again; and kaymakham for the second time. He wore the title of grand vizier in February, 1637. He was leading the Ottoman army against the Persians toward Baghdad but he died on the road in Djulab, in August, 1638.



Pasha Musa (?-1647)

He was the Pasha of Buda between 1631-34, 1637-38, and 1640-44. He was appointed to be the Pasha of Buda at first in October, 1631, and he was dismissed in June, 1634. He had to go to the court, but he became Pasha of Buda again in February 1637. A year later he was summoned to the court and was given the office of kaymakham. He became a second vizier in June, 1639 and in 1640 he was made Pasha at Buda for the third time. Four years later he was called to the court and they made him Pasha of Sivás. He was a kapudan-pasha in 1646. He was killed during an attack of a Venetian warship while traveling from Crete to Morea in 1647. The Ring of Fire could entirely change his timeline after 1631, and he could be involved in the Ottoman Onslaught.



Pasha Hussein

He was a silibdar-aga and he became a vizier and the Pasha of Buda in June, 1634. He was removed a few days (!) later from this office and became Pasha of Bosnia. Soon he was sent away from here, too, and was made the leader of Sanjak Paphlagonia. He became the Captain of Erzerum in 1635.



Pasha Djáfer (?-1635)

He was a bostandjibashi. He was made a kapudanpasha and a vizier in July, 1632. He became Pasha of Buda in July, 1634. He was sentenced to death and stringed in May, 1635, Buda, in the original time line; events may have changed significantly for him after the RoF.



Pasha Nazuhpasazade Hussein

He had a high rank at court. He became Chief Master of Horse in 1634. Sultan Murad IV promoted him to be Pasha of Buda and vizier in 1635. At the end of February, 1637, he was made the Pasha of Rumelia by the Emperor but he lost this office in September. He stayed in the Divan as a vizier and in 1639 he achieved the rank of Pasha of Erzerum.



Pasha Tabani Jassi Muhammed (?–1639)

He was of Albanian origin and had been the servant of Mustafa Kizlar-Aga and succeeded him as a Chief Master of Horse. He became Pasha of Egypt in 1628 but was summoned to the court in 1630. He became the grand vizier from 1632 to 1637. He was assigned to Buda as its pasha in 1638 and he became Pasha of Silistra as well. He was removed from Buda in February, 1639, then went to the court where he was made a kaymakham in May. He was imprisoned into the Yedikule fortress and stringed accordingly in December, 1639.



Benedek Cseszneky

Nobleman from Pozsony (Pressburg) county. He was converted from Lutheran to Catholic.

He acted as Ferdinand II’s negotiator on the peace talks with the Transylvanian prince until 1626 and was rewarded by the emperor with a village. His wife was Sára Kánya of Budafalva. Their son’s name was Peter.



Pál Nádasdy (Born in 1597, Sárvár; died in 1633 at Csepreg)

His father died when he was seven and his uncle’s son, his cousin, Tamás, took care of him until 1620. Tamás supported the anti-Habsburg Bocskay but Pál remained loyal to the king.  Pál reached adulthood when he was thirteen in 1610 so he could officially take over offices that went with the male members of his family; this was the year he became the Chief Comes of Vas county (which was one of the hereditary offices of his family). When Ferdinand was crowned in 1618, Pál was made a so-called “knight with the golden spurs.”

Unlike his predecessors, Pál disliked politics and economics; he preferred hunts and pageantry. His property was taken care of by his man János Vitnyédi. His offices were: 1605, hereditary Comes of Sopron County; 1610, hereditary Comes of Vas County; 1622, hereditary chief-captain of Trans-Danubian Captaincy; 1627, chief captain of the frontier opposing the Turk-held Kanizsa castle; 1623, royal advisor and chief senechal; 1625, count and chief chamberlain.

He completed the construction of Sárvár Castle in the manner of his family’s tradition in 1615. He constructed printing houses at Csepreg and at Sopronkeresztút, too. He also sponsored talented students learning abroad such as the Protestant preacher of Csepreg, István Letenyei. Letenyei had his prayer book printed in Csepreg in 1631, in the printing house run by Imre Farkas.

Pál wed his second wife, Judit Révay, in 1620. Their children were Ferenc (eight years old at the Ring of Fire) and Anna Mária, who became a nun.



János Homonnay Drugeth (1609-1645)

He was the one who gained the title of count for his family. They were the wealthiest lords in Zemplén County and Ung County, but he had lands in Poland, too. His father György was converted to Catholicism in 1610 and he began anti-Protestantism on his vast lands. He settled Jesuit priests to his land at Homonna in 1612. Later he supported the union between the Orthodox Catholics and the Roman Catholics by bringing the high priest Athanasius Krupetzkij from Poland to Munkács (Munkacsevo) in 1613, along with 50 lesser priests. This gave an excuse later to Prince Bethlen to take away György’s lands in Zemplén County (even Homonna was taken away) so there was a traditional enmity between the Drugeth family and the tolerant Transylvania. The elder Drugeth was defeated there in Homonna in a bloody battle in 1619.

János continued his father’s policy of converting those in his lands and helped Bishop Tarasovich Bazil get his office in Munkács in 1633.

János helped to put down the peasant uprising of Péter Császár in 1632 in Gönc, with the help of the palatine and István Bethlen. He played a rather cruel role in it. He got back his lands of Zemplén County and the city of Homonna for his deed. He became Captain of Kassa and the judge of the country in 1636. Prince György Rákóczi took Homonna from him again in 1644 and the family began its decline.

See “The Austro-Hungarian Connection” in Ring of Fire II and subsequent mainline novels for his role in the New Time Line.


Below the Radar in the Hungaries:

Notable People from Ring of Fire Hungary


Palatine Ferenc Wesselényi (1605–1667)

He was a Hungarian aristocrat, general, and the Palatine of Hungary 1655-1667. His father, István Wesselényi (1583-1627) was a court advisor to Ferdinand II.

He was brought up in a Jesuit school in Nagyszombat (Trnava, Tyrnau) where he became a Catholic. He had immense physical strength and was quick-tempered; soon he became a soldier. He was very young when he took part in several battles against the Turks. He helped the Polish King Wladyslav IV Vasa by bringing him Hungarian troops against the Russians and the Tatars for which he was rewarded with Polish nobility and received a dominium worth one hundred thousand florins, too. Later Ferdinand II made him a count and the Captain of Fülek castle. He became the Chief General of Royal Hungary in 1647 and fought against the Swedes and against Prince Rakoczi II. He got hold of the castle of Murány in 1644 as has been described. For this deed he was gifted the castle of Balog as well. At the 1655 Diet of Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava) he was elected as palatine of Hungary. As a Palatine, he took part on the coronation of Leopold I. He was fighting the Turks in 1663. After the suspicious death of Miklós Zrínyi in 1644, he joined the conspirators against Vienna in 1655, supported all the way by Péter Zrínyi. Wesselényi died before the plot was discovered so he could not be executed.



Count Miklós Forgách

He was a count in Ghymes and Gács and the Chief Master of Treasury in Royal Hungary. In 1633 he was the Chief General of Upper Hungary and the representative of Ferdinand II at the same time. He was not alive in 1649. His wife was Eszter Bossányi who wrote a Hungarian letter to Prince György Rákóczi II in 1649.



Zsófia (Sophia) Bosnyák, born Nagysurány, 1609–died Sztrecsény, 1644.

She was the lady of Sztrecsnó Castle, Upper Hungary. Her father Tamás Bosnyák was a famous warrior who had been valiantly fighting the Turks. Her mother was Mária Kenderes. She was seventeen when she was made to marry Mihály Serényi, the Captain of Fülek and Szendrő Castles. The marriage lasted for only a few months, and her husband died in 1626.

She returned to his parents’ home, but her mother also died that year. Next year she lost her twenty-two-year-old brother. Her father was fighting the Turks this time in Fülek, so Zsófia had to manage the family’s lands. Soon she has become known as the generous helper of the poor and the sick.

She was twenty-one when Archibishop Péter Pázmány assisted her in marrying Palatine Ferencz Wesselényi. They moved to Sztrecsnó castle and had two boys: Ádám was born in 1630 and László in 1633. Later they moved to Vágtapolca.  Zsofia’s father Tamás Bosnyák died of cholera in 1634 so Palatine Wesselényi took Fülek Castle over and then he rarely came home to visit Zsofia because Fülek was frequently attacked by the Turks because of its strategic location.

So Zsófia had to carry on maintaining the lands and bringing up the children. She was taking care of the poor, too; she established a house for them that was used as a hospital as well. The locals respected her for her good heart. Legend says that her husband cheated on her with the famous Mária Széchy, the “Venus of Murány Castle,” and Zsófia grieved a lot because of it. She spent more time with charity and regularly went to pray to the chapel of the castle at night. She had an apparition of the Holy Mary who allegedly told her to trust and pray. Eventually, her health gradually got worse, and she died at the age of thirty-five. She was put to rest in the chapel of Sztrecsnó castle.

Her brother, István Bosnyák, the bishop of Nyitra (Nitra) was two years older and died the same year. Sztrecsnó Castle got a new owner in 1689 who, when he took the place over, found the fully untouched body of Zsófia in the chapel. The body was taken to the church in Vágtapolca, Wesselényi’s village. Zsófia Bosnyák’s resting place had become a pilgrim’s destination and crowds arrived to see her in her glass-covered coffin. Her body was destroyed in 2009 when a thirty-one-year-old Slovakian man set it on fire with gasoline.

The Ring of Fire could have changed this portion of history quite a bit if Tamás Bosnyák didn’t die of cholera in 1634, and if Zsófia didn’t die at age thirty-five.



Count Pál Csáky (born circa 1603, died sometime after 1649)

He converted to Catholicism in 1614 and studied in Vienna between 1620-23, acquiring an unusually high education for his time and age. He began managing his estates in 1623 and then settled down in the Castle of Nagyalmás, in Transylvania.

He was 22 in 1625 when he married Éva, the daughter of the Hungarian Palatine Zsigmond Forgách. Éva died in April, 1639, so he married again in 1640 to Maria, the daughter of the Chief Comes (Count) of Abaúj, György Perényi. Anna died in September, 1641 and he remarried in 1643, taking the hand of Krisztina Mindszenti. He had a total of nine children from these marriages.

Prince Gábor Bethlen made him the Chief Comes of Kolozs county in 1625. He belonged to the most confidential circles of Catherine of Brandenburg, the wife of the prince. This was the reason why Prince György Rákóczi I chased him out of Transylvania in 1630, under the charge of usurping the throne. His lands were confiscated at the same time, just a year before the Ring of Fire. (This could possibly make him a likely “refugee” to Grantville. He had the education and courtly contacts in both Hungary/Transylvania and Austria, and he doesn’t quite seem to qualify for high politics. It could be made quite plausible that—upon hearing about the Ring of Fire—that he traveled to Grantville as a paid agent of the Habsburgs, copied  pages regarding Hungary and Transylvania from a late-sixties-era encyclopedia and returned to Vienna to study, absorb, and forge the information to mislead his personal enemy, Prince Rákóczi I of Transylvania. At which point he’d regret not having lifted more information about the Habsburgs and the Soviet Union. He could be the source of thinking that the Americans in Grantville would be antagonistic toward Hungary and the other Soviet-bloc countries).

In Royal Hungary he became the Captain of Szendrő Castle in Borsod county, in Upper Hungary, in August, 1633. He also gained the estates of Tarcal and the castle of Tokaj from Catherine of Brandenburg. Soon, he got his Transylvanian estates back, too. He was made a count in 1636. Through his marriages he got the castle of Szepes with 123 villages in Upper Hungary, for just 85,000 florins—which in 1651 finally became 168,000 florins because of the machinations and the greediness of the Viennese court. The Austrian emperor made him master of the treasury in 1647, for his deeds in the campaign against Prince György Rakoczi I. He was on the Diet of Pozsony (Pressburg) in 1649 and had visited Vienna countless times. This ex-lover of Prince Bethlen’s wife and turncoat would make a prime anti-Grantviller.



Count Nádasdy Ferenc (1623-1671)

Judge of the Country, aristocrat. Later he was beheaded in Royal Hungary for taking a leading part in the Wesselenyi conspiracy against the emperor. He would have been about eight years old at the Ring of Fire, and about thirteen or fourteen by the time of the Ottoman Onslaught against Vienna.



Baron István (Stephen) Thököly (1581-1651)

He was a wealthy aristocrat in Upper Hungary and unconditionally supported the Habsburgs. He would have been fifty years old at the Ring of fire, and his son, István, born in 1623, would have been about thirteen or fourteen by the time of the Ottoman Onslaught in the NTL. OTL he took part in the Wesselényi conspiracy (ca 1664-71) and was punished for it severely. His descendant was the famous Imre Thököly who rebelled against the Habsburgs and let the Turks come to Vienna in 1683. If he had known how rebellious his family members would become, how would this affect his relationship with the Habsburgs?



István (Stephen) Pálffy (1586-1646)

Aristocrat, Comes of Pozsony, general and Chief Captain of Trans-Danubian Region, loyal to the Habsburgs.  His mother was Mária Fugger, from the wealthiest banker family of Europe. He was guarding the Holy Crown 1608-1625. He was given high functions and became advisor to the king and the emperor. Betlen defeated and captured him in 1621 but he remained loyal, nevertheless. He was freed in exchange for 24,500 florins. Ferdinand made him a count in 1634. He respected Péter Pázmány very much. Pálffy was converting people very aggressively.  He raised a cavalry contingent for the Emperor in 1639. He remained a very firm adherent of the Habsburgs all his life. An older man at the Ring of Fire (about forty-five), he would likely be set in his ways, suspicious of the American technology, and possibly a strong adversary of the Americans.



Benedek Bakai (?-Sárospatak, February, 1633)

He was a teacher and a school principal from Kassa (Kosice). After finishing his basic schooling, he went to Belgium in 1622 then to the University of Wittenberg in 1625, and he was the first Hungarian who went to study in England. Returning home, he became a teacher or priest in Kassa (Kosice). Prince György Rákóczi I invited him to lead the college of Sárospatak in 1630.



János Bánfihunyadi (Joannes Banfi Huniades) (Nagybánya, 1576-Amsterdam, 1646)

Professor. His father was a Reformed pastor, Benedek Mogyoró of Bánfihunyad, bishop of the Trans-Tisza River Region. After his studies in Europe, János (Joannes) went to England and studied chemistry. Later he taught mathematics and alchemy in the Gresham College of London. At the beginning of his stay in England he made his living as a goldsmith, according to early English sources. Prince György Rákóczi I invited him in 1633 to come and teach at the Academy of Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg) but he couldn’t accept it due to his previous obligations in England. He became the acolyte of Sir Kenelm Digby 1633-1635. He had an English wife named Dorothy Colton, the daughter of Sir Francis Colton from Kent County, and they had four children. They set out to Hungary together in 1646 but he died in Amsterdam. János and Dorothy could be quite affected by the Ring of Fire, depending on their standing with the English government. As a Protestant scientist/mathematics teacher, Charles I could make their fellow church members’ positions quite uncomfortable. It’s possible that since Charles sold the rights to New England to the French, that János could lead a migration to Hungary/Transylvania in the NTL.

He was dealing with the effect of the mercury on gold and silver as well as different technological problems of chemistry. He was experimenting with the production of paints, glues, glass, and the creation of basic materials for medicine. One of his chemical formula can be found in the Bibliotheca Bodleiana in Oxford. He had a recognized name among the contemporary British scientists, and he was closely connected with Arthur and John Dee, William Lilly, John Booker, John Aubrey, and Jonathan Goddard. At the same time he was in everyday connection with his homeland and had been a great helper of Hungarian students in England.



János Bényei Deák  (?-1645)

A Reformed teacher and pastor. Educated in Hungary, he then taught in Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), 1630, and in Marosvásárhely (Tirgu Mures ), 1633.

He was a tutor of two sons (Zsigmond and György) of Prince György Rákóczi I at Gyulafehérvár, and he edited the Latin handbook of  Janua Linguarum Bilingvis, Latina et Hungarica with his pupils. He accompanied his students abroad, visiting the University of Leiden in 1634 and the University of Utrecht in 1635. Upon his return home, he became the second teacher in the college of Sárospatak in September, 1637. In his inaugural he made a speech about the “Merciful wisdom and the wise mercyness,” and he taught rhetoric among other things. He resigned in 1641 and became a pastor at Mád, and he was made a scrivener by the Diocese of Abaúj. He died of cholera in 1645. His life could have been quite altered by the Ring of Fire.



György Berényi (Bodok, 1601-1677)

Politician, writer. He learnt at Körmöcbánya (Upper Hungary) in a monasterial school and went abroad to an unknown university. Returning home, he became the castle captain of the aristocrat Forgach family, first at Sempte, then he served the Thurzó family at Temetvény as a captain.

He wrote a diary about the happenings of the Diet of Sopron (1634-35) and of the Diet of Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava) between 1634 and 1638 where he was a delegate of Nyitra County. He became the leader of the county’s insurrection in 1641, and he was a delegate again on the 1642 Diet. He joined the royal army against Prince György Rákóczi I in 1643.

We can find him in Rákóczi’s service in 1646 but two years later returned to Vienna and got a dominium from the king in 1655 for it. Next year he was made a baron. He was successfully negotiating with Rákóczi on behalf of Emperor Leopold I in 1659. He became a royal advisor at the court in 1660. He seemed to change sides easily.



Gáspár Bojthi Veres (born 1595, died after 1640)

Teacher; secretary of Prince Gábor Bethlen and later court member of Prince Rákóczi I.

He studied in Debrecen from 1613, then from 1617 to 1620 he studied in Heidelberg, at Prince Gábor Bethlen’s expense. Returning home in 1621, he next became a tutor to István Bethlen and a teacher at Marosvásárhely. The prince made him his historian and a professor as well, at Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia). He was responsible for the archives of the local church. Prince Rákóczi I made use of his services as a secret envoy to Germany in 1640.



Tamás Borsos  

He was a teacher, the son of Prince Bethlen’s envoy, Tamás Borsos. He travelled abroad for ten years. He finished his studies at the University of Padua in 1632 where he got his physician and bachelor of arts degree. After returning home, he became a Unitarian teacher and dean in Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg). Here he wed Anna Ádám in 1638. He resigned from his dean position in that year and worked as a physician. At this time he began to write his diaries, keeping records of his family and contemporary history until 1647.



János Büringer

He started his studies at the University of Wittenberg in April, 1631. In the 1630s there were about three hundred Hungarians learning or teaching in Western schools: he was one of them. He was teaching between 1644-47 in Besztercebánya (Banská Bystrica), Upper Hungary, then in Eperjes (Prjesov) in 1648. He became a notary public in Modor in 1651. Finally he taught at the Evangelical College of Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg) until his death. János might make a good agent of change in Hungary if he became fascinated with the new technology available because of the Ring of Fire.



Péter Czack  (?-1636)

He was a writer and a member of a delegation in 1602 from Kassa (Kosice) to Lőcse (Levoca), escorting Peter Zabler. He was a skilled diplomat and in 1605 successfully negotiated with the Hajdu soldiers who were threatening his city, Lőcse (Levoca). We can see him among the city’s officials from 1606 until his death: he was in charge of taking care of the buildings’ and roads’ safety. He was a city judge between 1632-33. He kept a diary that has disappeared. It’s possible that his life could be expanded by medical knowledge learned from Grantville and/or that he becomes interested in America’s up-time building codes and road construction.



Anna Csáky

She was a nun of the Poor Claires, the daughter of Master of Treasury István Csáky and Anna Wesselényi. She joined the nunnery in Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg) in 1625. She sent letters from there to her mother and brothers and to Gábor Vadas between 1639-71. We know twelve of her letters which bear witness of her high education.



Baccio (Bartholomeo) del Bianco (1604-1656)

He was a painter, a stucco-artist, an architect, and a military engineer. He was born in Florence and he got his artistic education there. He became the assistant of Giovanni Battista Pieroni and set out to find his luck in the Holy Roman Empire in 1620.

The Council of War assigned him to examine the castles and walls in Hungary. He made scale models of Mosonmagyaróvár and Pozsony and was working on the walls of Győr, Sopron, and Komárom. Later he and Pieroni worked on the fortifications of Prague. At this time, 1623-30, Andrea Spezza was building Wallenstein’s palace in Prague, between. They got work here, too: Pieroni had designed the stanza of the garden while Baccio del Bianco made the stuccos of the central great hall between 1629-30.

Then he returned to Italy and taught architecture and fortification building in Florence. He designed the plans for the facade of the cathedral in Florence. He joined the court of Phillip IV of Spain in 1650 where he was organizing festivities and designing gardens until his death. As an architect and artist he probably would have been fascinated by the technological advancements made possible by the up-timers.



Johann Heinrich Alsted (John Henry Alsted, Alstedius)

(Ballersbach, 1588-Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), 1638)

He was a German Protestant theologian and philosopher and epitomized what would now be called a Renaissance man. He was teaching between 1629-1638 at the College of Gyulafehérvár where he had come with Heinrich Bisterfeld and Ludwig Piscator at Prince Bethlen’s invitation. He created numerous encyclopedic works regarding theology and philosophy, which were well-known at the time. We know of three hundred fifty-five of his works.



Tamás Borsos  (born in Marosvásárhely in 1566, died sometime after 1633)

He was a notary public and city judge in Transylvania, and also acted as Prince Bethlen’s envoy to the Turks.



Mihály Dálnoki Nagy

He studied at the Unitarian college of Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg), then travelled to Italy in 1631 and studied at Padova. He returned in February, 1637. He became the president of the university. In 1645 he was studying the solar eclipse and was almost totally blinded. He was famous for his remarkable memory and for teaching philosophy. He was a pastor from 1646 on. Knowledge from Grantville would have (hopefully) saved him from losing his eyesight and certainly would have expanded his thoughts on philosophy.



Péter Debreczeni (Debrecen, 1608-?)

He was a Protestant pastor who studied in Debrecen (located in Turkish-occupied land) and became a teacher there. He was learning in western universities from 1636 on (Leiden, Franeker). He was a pastor at Munkacs (Munkacevo) in 1647 and in 1649 and perhaps in 1666 as well. Later he was pastor at Técső.



István Deselvics  

A Protestant pastor from Győr, in 1630 he was studying at the University of Leipzig, then came home and became the court pastor of Count György Széchy, the Lord of Murány Castle.



Zsuzsánna Dóczi

A poet in the Trans-Danubian region, her religious songs can be found in the Codex Lugosy of 1635.



Count Miklós Draskovits (1595-1659)

A poet, he was in school in 1608 when he wrote a poem for the nobleman, Ferenc Forgács. He was said to be an envoy of this nobleman. His wife was Erzsébet Endrődy.



Dániel Dubravius

Lutheran bishop from Zsolna (Upper Hungary). His parents gave him a nice education. He went abroad to learn and returned in 1619. He was teaching in Breznóbánya and in Bánóc in 1630. Then he became a pastor for Count Predmirre, and from there he went to Szenic. He had to run away from there because of his religion. Finally, he was elected bishop in Bánóc in 1648. He was a great orator and had a good knowledge of the Bible. He was a humble person and dressed in very cheap clothes.



Mátyás Duchon

Lutheran poet from Nyitra county (Upper Hungary). His brother was Florián Duchon, a Lutheran pastor. He gained the title of doctor and was famous for smaller poems.



János Fabinus (?-1644)

Lutheran pastor. His ancestor came from Poprád (Upper Hungary). He was studying in Boroszló in 1630. He was shot down at Illésháza by one of the hussars of Rákóczi.



Ambrus Földvári

Protestant pastor from the first part of the seventeenth century who wrote epic poems and translated the Catechisatio, Theologia, and Theologicum Examen of Guillelmus Bucanus into the Hungarian language. These works were never printed and were entirely lost.



Pál Fráter (?-1658)

Soldier, poet. He was the son of a Transylvanian judge, and his mother was Ilona Horváth Suselich. He was a soldier at several points during the reign of Prince György Rákóczi I.

In 1634 he was arrested because he was accused of being a friend of István Bethlen, the enemy of the prince. He was imprisoned in his own castle from where he escaped to Royal Hungary.

It was during his exile when he wrote his poetic letter to Anna Barcsay. Later he became a confidential advisor of Prince György Rákóczi II, the next ruler, and he was given the leadership of the Hajdu soldiers. He got his lands back in 1654, after the campaign in Moldova. There are lots of different possibilities for this character post-Ring of Fire.



Pál Keresztúri Bíró (?-1655)

Protestant preacher, distinguished educator and famous for his polemics.

He studied in Debrecen, where he became a student of theology in 1617. He became president of the students in 1620 and returned to his home village to teach in 1622. He went to Bréma, Germany, in 1624 and to the Netherlands. The following year he took a longer trip in England and came home in the summer of 1626. He set out again in 1627, presumably sent by Prince Gábor Bethlen. He became a student at the University of Leiden and came home during the late summer of 1629 to become the leading teacher of the University of Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia), in the capital of Transylvania.

He was instructing the children of Prince György Rákóczi I from the summer of 1634 on. In this court-school the children of the Prince studied together with the children of the Transylvanian nobility. He became the court-priest of the next ruler, Prince György Rákóczi II, at Várad. He moved to Gyulafehérvár in 1648 and took charge again of leading the court school.

His theology consisted of a synthesis of traditional Reformed thought and Puritanism. He firmly represented the theological inheritance of the traditional Protestantism. It was not enough for him just to know the theory in all details but he was urging people to consider these principles very thoroughly and make them into a personalized religious experience. This experience was supposed to be obtained continuously, with a very close-to-God feeling. In his preachings he emphasized the Puritan moral views and not the prophetic zeal. He highlighted that a Christian man should spend his life in constant spiritual activity. He debated with his Jesuit adversaries both theologically and politically. He defended the writings of Prince György Rákóczi I, too.

In his pedagogics he thought that physical punishment should be avoided and rather than that, placidity and motivation should be applied. He didn’t consider the children “small adults” as they had been considered in the Middle Ages. In his pedagogics he used the sense of humor, the good mood, and playing, more open-mindedly than others. He thought that the attention of the children should be attracted all the time. His thinking was similar to Comenius’ slogan:  “Omnia sponte fluant, absit violentia rebus” or: “Let everything go on and let the violence be far away.”

He didn’t teach reading and writing apart from each other, but taught them side by side. His students had to learn first in Hungarian and later in Latin. In teaching a language he put the emphasis on talking skills rather than making the children memorize the grammar. He may have been the first who taught the basics of modern languages this way. He taught the languages of neighboring nations and the “civilized nations’ ” languages as well: Romanian, Polish, Turkish, German, French, and English were taught in his school.



Gáspár Madách (1590-1641)

He was a juryman, judge, and a representative of the Diet of Upper Hungary. He was a comes (count) from 1636, the familiaris of the aristocrat Simon Balassa, the director of his properties of Kékkő Castle. He wrote poems in Hungarian and in Czech languages:  these writings were not considered the best poems on Earth.


Some Final Thoughts:


The Hungarian heroism against the Ottoman Empire allowed the civilized Western monarchs to fight their political/religious wars for thirty years.

As a result of the Ring of Fire, the Prince of Transylvania would have learned that after these wars the Austrians would drive the Turks out after the siege of Vienna in 1683. Once Buda was retaken, Hungary would be liberated by the allied European crusaders. Contemporary sources agreed that this “liberation” caused greater misery and destruction across Hungary than the long Turkish occupation, not forgetting the Serbian attacks and massacres that followed it in the 1700s.

After forcing the Turks out, Hungary would lose the last bits of its independence and even Transylvania would fall into the hands of the Habsburgs, who, after putting down two major wars of independence (1704-1711 and 1848-49), would finally force Hungary into their monarchy, taking control over foreign, military, and financial affairs. They had only been able to create their monarchy with the Russian tsar’s help.

Hungarians would learn through the Ring of Fire that the Austrian Habsburgs would bleed them dry for three hundred years in defense of Christendom and then drag them into the First World War. Hungary was the only country in 1919 that shrank back to a smaller size than what it had been after 1541, with the allied American and West European politicians signed the Treaty of Versailles which took away seventy-four percent of its territory.

The Habsburgs were common enemies of Hungary and the USE, and the Turks could have been manipulated into crushing them. Obviously, there were either no negotiations with the Grantvillers before 1637 or they were kept completely secret. Either the Habsburgs or the Turks could have succeeded in stopping or hindering them.

It would be very much in the prince’s interest to use the Turks to destroy the Habsburgs. Of course, he would have asked for a high price from the sultan for letting them through. Who knows how many cities, villages, and strategic castles would be returned to the Transylvanians in exchange for the passage to Vienna? Who knows how many Hungarians could be saved from the Muslims’ slavery? How much stronger would his power grow?




The following books have given me a great help in writing my article:

Péter Katalin: “A magyar romlásnak százada” Budapest, 1979

Péter Katalin: “Esterházy Miklós” Budapest, 1985

Hegyi Klára: “Egy Világbirodalom végvidékén” Budapest, 1976

Újváry Zsuzsanna: “Nagy két császár birodalmi között” Budapest, 1984

Bitskey István: “Pázmány Péter” Budapest, 1986

Makkai László: “Bethlen Gábor emlékezete” Budapest, 1980

Nagy László: “Megint fölszánt magyar világ van” (Társadalom és hadsereg a 17.század első felének Habsburg-ellenes küzdelmeiben) Budapest, 1985

Földi Pál: “Zrínyi Miklós” Budapest, 2015

Földi Pál: “Tündérkert őrzői” Debrecen, 2014

Földi Pál: “Végvárak vitézei” Debrecen, 2014

Nagy László: “A török világ végnapjai Magyarországon” Budapest, 1986

Nagy László: “Hajdú vitézek” Budapest, 1986

Nagy László: “Kard és szerelem” Budapest, 1985

ifj. Barta János: “Buda visszavétele” Budapest, 1985

Somogyi Győző: “Végvári vitézek 1526-1686” Budapest, 2014

Somogyi Győző: “Az erdélyi fejedelemség hadserege 1559-1690” Budapest, 2013

Benda Kálmán: “Magyarország történeti kronológiája 1.-2. kötet” Budapest, 1981

Szerecz Miklós: “Vitézség tüköri: Zrínyitől Rákócziig” (kézirat)

Please, visit this page for pictures of castles and other information:****


Hungary and Transylvania, Part 3: Cities and Castles


Here is a list of the cities and frontier castles in Royal Hungary, Transylvania, and the occupied lands:

The cities and castles of the Trans-Danubian Region and Upper Hungary—the Hungarian Highland—are listed here. They were either in Habsburg hands or taken by Prince Rákóczi I in the 1630s. Some of them were captured by the Turks, but during this time period the borders were fluid.



Upper Hungary


Castle of Érsekújvár (Nove Zámky),+Szlov%C3%A1kia/@47.9929511,18.0611358,33315m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x476b014e1d001c71:0x34e9b20e19515def

It was Péter Pázmány who had the archbishop’s palace built here in 1620 in order to fight Protestantism. He consecrated its Franciscan church and monastery in 1631. Érsekújvár had a well-fortified and modern castle, and thus was considered a strategic place near the Bohemian border.


Castle of Drégely,18.8378311,66643m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x476a99f9e81ef111:0x21ec2a078634fd65

Drégely became a frontier castle in 1544, and it was the gate to the mining towns of Upper Hungary. This small castle deservedly became as famous as Kőszeg or Szigetvár in the Turkish wars. The fort was in a rather poor condition in 1549 because a lightning bolt exploded its gunpowder storage.  It was defended by György Szondy and his one hundred forty-six men in 1552 when Pasha Ali besieged him with twelve to fourteen thousand soldiers. They were able to resist the Turks for only four days, but those few days are legendary in Hungarian history.

Pasha Ali ordered Szondy to surrender the castle, and after his refusal he had the outer palisade set on fire. Szondy had to withdraw into the inner castle, behind old-fashioned stone walls.  The pasha had an earthen rampart built and placed his cannons there. After two days of bombardment the castle and its high gate-tower were in ruins. Pasha Ali was not a bloodthirsty man, and he sent in the local priest, Márton, to negotiate. Szondy refused to yield the castle and sent two of his high-born Turkish captives, dressed in expensive clothes, to Ali, along with his two favorite young pages. He asked Ali to give a good education to the lads because he wouldn’t surrender the castle alive. He asked for a proper burial for himself, too. Meanwhile, Szondy had all his valuables—clothing and other treasures—piled up on the castle yard and burnt them. Also, he had his horses and captives killed at the same time. Shortly after this the Turks launched the final attack and Szondy was shot twice—first in the knee and then ino the heart. All of his men fought to the end. Upon their victory, Pasha Ali made a laudatory speech over Szondy’s body then had him buried decently as agreed. Later the Turks didn’t renovate the old castle, but they built a strong palisade in 1575 around the church of the village that could take in 2000 riders. This New-Drégely-Palisade (Újdrégelypalánk) became the base for raids against Upper Hungary. This new castle was taken back by General Pálffy in 1593, and Ferenc Nagy was left in charge of the fort, as vice-general. The place became the target of constant Turkish attacks which were beaten back strongly. Due to the lack of payment, the defenders’ number decreased to 10 soldiers by December, 1595. They couldn’t protect the surrounding villages so the settlements fell into the Turks’ hands. The garrison’s number was increased next year, and they withstood the renewed Turkish attacks. The Diet of 1604 ordered the reinforcement and renovation of the castle, but in vain. It was somewhat repaired in 1615, though. Prince Bethlen camped his army next to the castle in 1626 while waiting to fight Wallenstein.


Castle of Fülek (Filakovo),+Szlov%C3%A1kia/@48.2694568,19.8065713,4142m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x47400a183f02cd49:0x400f7d1c6971220

It had a strategic location, and its famous captains were the Wesselényi and the Bosnyák family members. It was the Bosnyák family’s property in 1630. Fülek was the center of Nógrád county, and these decades were its heydays.

The story of a warrior from Fülek castle is worth the telling. His name was Benedek Balogh, and he was the leader of the Hungarian raiders of Fülek. The Hungarian raiders had been constant visitors of the Turkish-occupied lands to the south, near Szeged and on the Great Hungarian Plains during the 1610s and 1620s. Sometimes they posed a threat against the Hungarian cities and villages as well, not just to the spahi-lands. Balogh happened to be from Szeged and knew the Turks very well. When he was informed that a high-ranking Turkish officer would travel to muster the Turkish castles of the area, Balogh and his people ambushed him and cut him down along with his men. Then they dressed in their clothes and entered the Castle of Szeged, showing the guards the officer’s credentials. The Bey of Szeged received them and gave them some soldiers to guard them on their way back. When they were far enough from the castle of Szeged, Balogh’s men attacked their escort and slaughtered them.


Castle of Esztergom,18.6288861,33466m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x476a6227b1317923:0xbe2a180c05793793

This ancient Hungarian castle, the old headquarters of Hungarian kings, is located in the Bend of the Danube. It was in the enemy’s hands, and the Hungarians had attempted to take it by siege many times. The greatest warrior poet of the period, Bálint Balassi, lost his life in 1594 during the attack against the castle built on the top of formidable cliffs. A so-called bearded cannon’s bullet shot off both of his legs. He left behind the most beautiful poems and songs that a noble warrior could write; his songs were known and sung by everybody in the 1630s. The recapture of Esztergom, a great military deed at that time, took place the next year in 1595. Its capture cut the logistic lines of the Turks toward Győr and was an excellent basis for further attacks against Buda. After Esztergom, the nearby castle of Vác, Visegrád, and Zsámbék fell more easily into Christian hands. The news of Esztergom’s capture was celebrated throughout Europe; even the Pope held a mass to give thanks for it.

The combined troops of Miklós Pálffy and Alfred Schwarzenberg, along with the army of Vincenzo Gonzaga, Prince of Mantova, laid a long siege against Esztergom. The Italian Claudio Monteverdi was present, entertaining his lord; he played his music piece “Vespro” in the camp. It is thought that here he composed one of his madrigals called “The Contest of Tankred and Klorinda.” It is recorded, that during the pauses of the siege, the Turks up in the castle were listening with utter amusement to the music from the camp of the “Italian Pasha of Montava.” The eight hundred twenty-three Turkish defenders were fighting heroically but many of them were injured, and they lost their strength because of the long siege. By September they had run out of food and water and had just enough gunpowder for one more day. The forces sent from Buda to help were defeated, and they had no more hope left. They didn’t want to endanger their women and children’s lives so they surrendered. They were free to take their leave to Buda, unhurt. Esztergom Castle was taken by the Turks in 1605, and the young Wallenstein was present as a junior officer, so he had to have gained first-hand experience with Turks and Hungarians at that time.


Castle of Eger,20.2513255,33356m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x47408d7894b04023:0x63adb259948d1c24

This castle was blocking the roads towards the mining cities of Upper Hungary as well as the road to Kassa (Kosice), another key city on the east. The 1552 siege of Eger is important not only because of its successful resistance but also because it was the first real triumph over the Turks after the Defeat of Mohács in 1526. It broke the invincible reputation of the Turks and gave tremendous moral encouragement to continue the struggle against the Muslim invaders. It happened during the dual kingship, when Hungary was torn apart by the usurper Habsburgs’ claim for the throne. They didn’t care that Hungary had an elected national king at that time, King János II, who was also the first Prince of Transylvania. So Eger had frequently changed lords before the Turks arrived, and the castle was in a quite neglected state. Fortunately, the castle was given to the care of István (Stephen) Dobó who, when young, had been the bodyguard of the last Hungarian medieval king, King Lajos II, and fought alongside with him in the Battle of Mohács in 1526.

In the autumn of 1552, Captain István Dobó and his two thousand soldiers were successful in defending the fortress and northern Hungary from the expanding Ottoman Empire. The women of Eger had also been doing a sizable part of the fighting on the walls, and their heroism became legendary, which was all the more humiliating for the Muslims.

In spite of the fact that Captain István Dobó and his soldiers successfully defended the fortress, it was destroyed during the siege so it was essential to completely rebuild it. The reconstruction process of the fortress took place between 1553 and 1596, and Italian artificer officers planned the renovations. Captain Dobó was accused of treason in 1569 because he was told to have conspired with the Turks(!). Emperor Miksa II had him imprisoned for three years. Eger was also the garrison of the most famous Hungarian warrior poet, Bálint Balassi, for a few years beginning in 1578.

The second siege of Eger was a rather shameful one, taking place in 1596. Its captain was Pál Nyáry, and initially he was commanding 500 Hungarian and 500 German soldiers. When the Habsburg general Miksa learned that the sultan’s aim was not Vienna but Eger, he sent a last-minute reinforcement of twenty-four hundred more German, Walloon, Czech, and Italian mercenaries. When the Turks besieged the castle, two hundred fifty mostly Italian soldiers sneaked out of the castle during the night and swore fealty to the Turks, changing their religion at the same time. The next day, this caused great confusion among the other mercenaries in the castle, and they started negotiations with the enemy. Soon, everybody left the castle, trusting to the safe conduct of the Turks. Despite that, the Sultan gave order to kill all the foreign mercenaries, except for the Hungarian ones. Instead, the Hungarians were just enslaved and sold accordingly. This was the beginning of the ninety-one-year-long Turkish rule in Eger. The minaret, which is the northernmost minaret in the Ottoman Empire, preserves the memory of this period.  During the Turkish occupation Eger became the seat of an elayet which is a Turkish domain consisting of several sanjaks. As elsewhere, churches were converted into mosques, the castle rebuilt, and other structures erected, including public baths. Turkish rule came to an end when Eger was starved into surrender by the Christian army led by Charles Lorraine in 1687, after the castle of Buda had been retaken in 1686.  The town was in a very poor state. According to the records there were only four hundred thirteen houses in the area within the town walls which were habitable and most of these were occupied by leftover Turkish families.


City of Körmöcbánya (Kremnica),+Szlov%C3%A1kia/@48.7116134,18.8890416,16424m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4715230a6fad0131:0x400f7d1c6972d80

This mining town was established in the twelfth century by German settlers invited here from Silesia and Thuringia. It was a world-famous mining city due to the abundant gold ore deposits in the mountains of Körmöcbánya. Starting in 1335 the mint produced golden florins and later the famous “Körmöci ducats,” which were used as an international means of payment because of their consistently high purity of gold. It was the most important mint, and later the only one, in the Kingdom of Hungary. It was the capital of the mining towns in central Upper Hungary in the Ring of Fire period. As one of the most important centers of the Protestant Reformation in the country, the town belonged to the Protestant “League of Seven Mining Towns.” The town didn’t open its gates before Prince Bocskay in 1604, but the next year they sided with him, and later Prince Bethlen was allowed to enter, too. Besides the gold mining, it was famous for its paper factory.


City of Lőcse (Levoca),+Szlov%C3%A1kia/@49.0099157,20.5157858,16326m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x473e466038eadf49:0x400f7d1c69777a0u/maps/place/L%C5

The town became the capital of the Association of Szepességi (Zipt) Germans, with a form of self-rule within the Kingdom of Hungary.

Located on an intersection of trade routes between Poland and Hungary, Lőcse became a rich center of commerce. It exported iron, copper, furs, leather, corn, and wine. At the same time the town became an important cultural center. The English humanist Leonard Cox taught around 1520 in a school in Lőcse. The bookseller Brewer from Wittenberg transformed his bookstore into a prolific printing plant that lasted for one hundred fifty years. Also, one of the best-known medieval woodcarvers settled here.

The town kept this cultural and economic status until the end of the sixteenth century, in spite of two damaging fires; one in 1550 which destroyed nearly all of the Gothic architecture, and another in 1599. During this period of prosperity several churches were built, and the town had a school, library, pharmacy, and physicians. There was a printing press as early as 1624. The town was a center of the Protestant Reformation in Northern Hungary. The town started to decline during the anti-Habsburg uprisings in the seventeenth century. A famous printing house was established here in 1630 that remained in use until 1754. Other printing presses were there, too, and many famous people taught and were taught in the city’s schools.


Castle and City of Sárospatak,21.4436253,33104m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4738ca243049413b:0x400c4290c1e1540

The Reformed College of Sárospatak was founded in 1531 and had become legendary as it was one of the most significant schools of Royal Hungary. The castle was the basis for Prince Bethlen’s campaign of 1619. György Rákóczi I established a cannon-casting factory in 1620 where high-quality cannons were produced. It was the time when tens of thousands of German Hutterites (Anabaptists) had to flee Switzerland and immigrated to Hungary and Transylvania. A large group of them settled in Sárospatak and introduced their special pottery-making style. The fort of Sárospatak had traditionally been the dwelling place of the Rákóczi family, and it kept its importance because it is situated halfway between Transylvania and Royal Hungary.


Castle of Murány (Muran),20.0299645,8204m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x473fcfe8caea136b:0x80be437e2a7a5874

ht3mrnyThe castle was built on a cliff of a mountain top and was one of the highest castles of Central Europe. The Habsburgs sold it, and the castle was obtained by György (George) Széchy’s father. His wife Mária Homonnay purchased it from his father-in-law and made Murány a center of the Protestant spirit and culture in 1613. György Széchy was facing both Ferdinand II and Prince Bethlen. When he died in 1625, his widow bribed the Viennese court with twenty-two thousand florins so she could become the castle’s owner again. She had to swear that she would never yield it to the Transylvanian princes. She held on to her word but her daughter Maria didn’t. She sided with Prince György Rákóczi I. At the time of the Ring of Fire, three daughters inherited the castle: Éva, Kata, and Mária. The castle was under the control of Mária Széchy and her sisters’ husbands. Mária’s husband, István Kun, took an active part in the ownership of the castle and controlled it between 1634-1637, but Mária divorced him and chased him away. Mária, the “Venus of Murány,” was an outstanding figure of the period. Her life is detailed in a subsequent chapter among the list of persons found in the 1630s.


Castle and City of Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava ),+Szlov%C3%A1kia/@48.1356952,16.9758327,33222m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x476c89360aca6197:0x631f9b82fd884368

Initially it used to belong to the chief treasurer of Hungary. Its university was established by King Matthias in 1467.  Owing to Ottoman advances into Hungarian territory, the city was designated the new capital of Hungary in 1536, becoming part of the Austrian Habsburg monarchy and marking the beginning of a new era. The Turks besieged and damaged Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava) but always failed to conquer it. The city became a coronation town and the seat of kings, archbishops (1543), the center of nobility, and all major organizations and offices. The Holy Crown was held there. Between 1536 and 1830, eleven Hungarian kings and queens were crowned in St. Martin’s Cathedral.  The army of Prince Bethlen took the town in 1620, and he made his peace with the Emperor in this city in 1626. The beginning of the Hungarian baroque period is around 1630, first appearing on territories here, near Austria. The reconstruction of the royal palace of Pozsony began in 1635 in baroque style. The fort guarded the Danube river with its cannons so it was the greatest roadblock before Vienna. Vienna could be reached in 1683 by the Ottoman Empire because Pozsony was taken by the rebel Baron Imre Thököly who let the Turks pass.


Castle of Nógrád,+2642/@47.9007782,18.9753918,16687m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x476a8492a3c17dcf:0x400c4290c1e52f0

It was a northern frontier castle that used to be the center of a county. Its defenders ran away after 1544 so Hussein, Bey of Esztergom, and Muhamed, Pasha of Buda, took the empty castle easily.  

It was only fifty years later, in 1594, that the army of Miklós Pálffy and Christopher Tiefenbach occupied it. Prince Bocskay—with Turkish aid—took it from the Habsburgs in 1605, but it had to be returned according to the Peace of Vienna. Prince Bethlen also took it in 1619 but a few years later he had to give it back to the emperor. It was handed over to the Turkish-Transylvanian troops in 1663 by Miklós Nadányi. It had been in the Turks’ hands for only twenty-two years when a lightning bolt struck the gunpowder stores and exploded the castle: Bey Csonka set the rest of the fort on fire and abandoned it. Later he converted to Catholicism and he received great lands from Emperor Leopold I for handing over Nógrád castle.


City of Kassa (Kosice, Kaschau),+Szlov%C3%A1kia/@48.6973299,21.0991083,32857m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x473ee01b67c6957b:0x400f7d1c6978bd0

It was the eastern key city of Upper Hungary. Prince Bethlen took it in 1619, with the help of György Rákóczi, his strongest supporter. Here was held Bethlen’s wedding, and he issued his proclamations from here. It was the town of the princes in the seventeenth century. When the city was taken by Rakoczi for Prince Bethlen, three Jesuits (István Pongrátz, Menyhért Grodecz and Márk Kőrösi) were murdered in spite of the promise made that they could leave freely. Allegedly, Péter Alvinczi, the Reformed preacher of the city had demanded their heads along with the death of all the Catholics of Kassa. Alvinczi was the greatest Reformed preacher and the legendary enemy of Archibishop Péter Pázmány. One of the executed priests happened to be Pázmány’s dear friend. The savage Hajdu soldiers tortured the Jesuits to find out where their gold was and who might have been members of a Catholic conspiracy. After two days of starving them they were offered some raw liver to eat before their execution, but being a Friday, they couldn’t accept the food. Two of them were beheaded, the third was thought to be dead and thrown into the cesspit where he died twenty hours later. Some circumstances and motives are not clear but the murders very well could have happened with the twenty-three-year-old Rákóczi’s and Prince Bethlen’s knowledge, and this raises questions concerning the famous religious freedom of Transylvania (when Catholics were concerned). Half a year later the peace talks between Prince Bethlen and Palatine Zsigmond Pálffy were taking place in the same house where the martyrs had been executed. Upon reaching an agreement they held a great feast and Prince Bethlen asked the wife of the Palatine, Katalin Pálffy for a dance. She was willing to dance only under the condition that the martyred priests could get a decent burial. It was grudgingly agreed, provided the burial would happen at night.

We know that Bethlen made further compensations some years later when he wed Catherine of Brandenburg who had demanded it. The situation must have improved during György Rákoczi’s rule because he allowed the existence of a Jesuit mission in Kassa from 1630 on. We know that this Jesuit office in Kassa was led between 1632-34 by Dániel Vásárhelyi.

The victims’ corpses finally were carried to a nunnery of Poor Claires in Nagyszombat where Maria Forgach, the daughter of the Palatine, was the Abbess in 1635.

Later in 1905 the martyrs were canonized by the Catholic church as the Martyrs of Kassa. Their day in the Catholic calendar is September 7, when they were killed.


Castle of Tokaj,21.3494844,16619m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4738ac26cb62a66d:0x8786533afa289efd

This castle guarded the most important and world-famous wine region of the country. It was also a junction of trade routes coming from the eastern part of Royal Hungary and Transylvania. The other, similarly significant, crossing place over the Tisza river was only at the Turkish-owned Szolnok. The castle on Tokaj hill was the witness to the defeat of the Habsburg army in 1630 by the Transylvanians and their Hajdu soldiers.

The fort was in a very poor condition although the Diet of Pozsony had issued several orders for its renovation. It was said to be “not good enough for a pigstry, if it wasn’t surrounded by water one could easily ride straight into the middle of it through its gentle slopes.”

Its captain was Miklós Abaffy who sided with Prince Bethlen, aiding him with soldiers. Yet, it was again in Habsburg hands in 1630 as we can see it on a drawing made by Johann Ledentu, military engineer, who was visiting the place at that time. The city of Tokaj was an agricultural settlement and according to a list from 1640 seventy-three peasant families lived in it, including their judge, and there were an additional twenty-two stately homes with sixteen noble families in them. Only six people served as ferry-men at the important military and trade crossing of the Tisza river. The castle fell into Prince György Rakoczi I’s hands after a short siege in 1644, and he was allowed to keep it according to the Peace of Linz.


City of Besztercebánya (Banská Bystrica, Neusohl),+Szlov%C3%A1kia/@48.7392253,18.9908868,32830m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x47153de36e8ad42f:0xf8223f8a0b8b9032

One of the most famous mining towns of the Carpathian Basin was destroyed by the Mongols in 1241 but soon the king had German miners from Thuringia settled there. Later it was the city where the Diet elected Prince Bethlen to be King of Hungary. The copper mines around the town were rented by the Fugger banker family. The city was renowned for its rich gold, silver, copper, mercury, and lead mines.


City of Selmecbánya (Banská Štiavnica, Schemnitz),+Szlov%C3%A1kia/@48.4441879,18.8353149,16511m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x471532da0c4e3f1f:0xb7b95f1d8cf0a454

This mining town presently is a World Heritage site.  The mining of silver and copper had been more significant than the gold mines. Besides the Hungarian miners there were miners coming from Flanders and Bavaria. It was the first place in Europe where gunpowder was used for mining, in 1627.

The relationship between the town and Prince Bethlen was remarkably good. The city also kept very good relations with the Palatine of Royal Hungary, György Thurzó. It was due to the friendship between the chief notary public of the city, Abraham Unverzagt, and the Palatine’s confidential man called Muller, who was the aristocrat’s secretary. Thanks to this friendship, Palatine Thurzó helped protect the country roads around the city against robbers. At the same time, Prince Bethlen confirmed the city’s privileges in his letters of 1621. The city received a confirmation from King Ferdinand II the same year—the emperor praised the city as a loyal mining town and gave them the religious freedom to practice their Evangelical [i,e., Lutheran] faith. The letter was also signed by István Pálffy, Miklós Pálffy, and Péter Koháry, faithful Hungarian aristocrats of Ferdinand II. The privileges were also confirmed and in addition to this, the king and emperor granted the mining towns’ citizens the right to be called Reichsmitglied, a rank of the Empire. The contest for the mining towns’ loyalty was obvious. After Ferdinand’s letter, Bethlen was quick to issue a document for the town to save them from any Transylvanian military unit that should happen to wander near. A bit later he gave a letter of safe conduct for the envoys of Selmecbánya. The city balanced itself well between these powers but in 1648 it suffered from anti-Protestantism.




Trans-Danubian Region


Castle of Sárvár,16.8638241,16894m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x47694d0704a1a833:0x400c4290c1e19a0!8m2!3d47.2524196!4d16.9294867

The Turks laid an unsuccessful siege on the castle in 1532. Three years later the castle and the city became the property of the Nádasdy family. It was Thomas Nádasdy, an educated “Renaissance man” who turned the place into one of the most sophisticated cultural centers of Royal Hungary. He established a school in 1534 and a printing house in 1537 and assigned János Sylvester to lead them. Sylvester was the first in Hungary who translated the New Testament into the Hungarian language. He printed it as well, in 1541, so it became the first book printed in Hungarian. Sebestyén Tinódi Lantos, a 16th-century Hungarian lyricist, epic poet, political historian, and minstrel, died here in 1556.

The most famous lord of Sárvár was Ferenc Nádasdy II, the famous “Black Bey.” Ferenc helped conquer the castles of Esztergom, Waitzen, Visegrád, Székesfehérvár, and, years later, Győr. During his long period of military service, Count Nádasdy was known for great courage in battle. His wife was the infamous Erzsébet (Elizabeth) Báthory who allegedly committed terrible crimes at the Castle of Csejthe, though some say the charges against her had been fabricated in order to get the Nádasdy-Báthory property for the Emperor. It is strange that Ferenc Nádasdy died of a mysterious and sudden illness in the middle of a battle. Ferenc’s mysterious death benefitted Emperor Matthias II, who sought to acquire the extensive territories produced by the Báthory-Nádasdy marriage. After the death of Elizabeth, the diminished possessions of her estate were divided among her four children. Later, Emperor Matthias accused the Báthory-Nádasdy children of treason based on the crimes committed by their mother. All land formerly belonging to the Nádasdy family, in addition to the new lands that had been accumulated from their political family, became available to the Hungarian crown. The descendants of Ferenc and Elizabeth were banished from Hungary and went to Poland. Although some returned to Hungary after 1640, that was the end of the noble status of the Báthory-Nádasdy family in Hungary.

By the mid-seventeenth century vast property piled up in Sárvár castle, ruled then by Ferenc Nádasdy III, grandson of Ferenc Nádasdy II. He was the one who built the main hall of the castle, one of the most beautiful hall of the age. Ferenc got involved in the Wesselényi conspiracy against the king and was beheaded in 1671. His castle was given to the Draskovich family.


Castle of Kanizsa,16.8651749,34298m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x476893061c075be9:0x400c4290c1e12b0

ht3knzThis famous castle was built at the entrance gate of the Trans-Danubian region. This strategically important location became the target of fierce fighting.

The most renowned Hungarian castle captain, György Thury, was its leader between 1567-1571. Thury was the greatest hero of the Turk wars, defending his castles with very few soldiers and winning battles and sieges in the most hopeless situations. He was also a great duelist: we know of six hundred noted duels against Turkish warriors who sought him out from places as remote as Persia. He also led countless raids against the Trans-Danubian Turkish castles; the only successful strategy to keep the Frontier against the overwhelming enemy was the series of ceaseless and bold attacks from winter to summer.

During the Fifteen Year War the Turks attacked the southern Trans-Danubian region in 1600 and the Turks were able to raid up to and right into the Austrian lands. The Habsburgs hadn’t sent reinforcements to the castle so the few defenders, led by Farkas Bakó, set the castle on fire and abandoned it. So that was how the castle of Kanizsa was taken by the enemy.

Unlike the Habsburgs, the Turks came to realize the strategic value of the castle and made it a center of their elayet under the leadership of Pasha Murat. He built further fortifications, and he and his three thousand eight hundred and twenty-five soldiers successfully beat back the attacking Hungarians.

There were frontier castles opposing Kanizsa: their leaders were members of the Batthyány family from 1633 to 1659 (Adam Batthyany 1633-1637). Pál Nádasdy was also a captain between 1627-1633 in a castle near Kanizsa. These smaller castles had to be maintained by the free labor of the surrounding villages. While the Hungarian captains tried to persuade the peasants to come and work, the Turks threatened them not to do so. Many times the Hungarian frontier warriors had to herd the peasants by force to work on the fortifications.


Castle of Komár,17.1620479,8563m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x4768f19a7c13e047:0x9118460e458ec698

This was a smaller castle near Kanizsa. The Turks attacked it at night, four days before Christmas,1637. There were nearly one thousand attackers, and they destroyed a twenty-five-step-long section of the fence of the outer castle. The Turks could approach the wall because the moat froze over. They attacked the wooden palisade, next to the beerhouse at the mill, three times during the night and tried to cut through the gate. They finally managed to cut through the palisade but were beaten back.

The castle remained in a very poor condition, though István Bessenyei, its captain, had the gate mended. A whole section of the palisade fell into the moat in 1645, and it required very hard work to restore it with earthwork. The enemy attacked the castle of Komár again in August, 1651. From dawn to afternoon, they destroyed the gates and the bastions with howitzers. The water of the moat was diverted. Because of the mill and other noises the defenders couldn’t hear each other’s words so the Turks were able to  make a surprise attack. Fortunately, the warriors led by Captain László Pethő stopped them but many buildings were burned down along with the settlement around the castle.


Castle of Zalavár,17.1185217,17084m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x4768e4593303b7db:0x9d008ec8e231fdac

After the loss of Kanizsa castle (1600), Zalavár’s importance increased. In 1605, Prince Bocskay took possession of Zalavár and all other castles in Zala county, except Sümeg castle. A report of 1625 declared that no castle was more neglected and in poorer condition than Zalavár castle. It must have been because of the lack of supply that the guards of the castle began to rob the villages. István Sárkány (Dragon), captain of the neighboring Komár castle, wrote: “They are stealing the cattle of poor people, robbing them, setting their houses on fire, holding them up on the roads to such an extent that a poor man cannot travel peacefully, undisturbed . . .”

Zalavár castle’s role was to guard the crossing place at Lake Balaton and at Hídvég; they had to defend this passage because it was the only connection for Komár castle with the country behind the war-zone. The chain of these smaller castles relied on each other and the defenders knew every bit of the land that they were guarding. Still, the king sinfully neglected them. Without the warriors inside and the villagers and local aristocrats, the system would have fallen apart at once. We can read the complaint of András Bogács, captain of Zalavár castle, after 1620: “. . . the castle is in ruins, in spite of the constant Turkish threat, and there is not enough food nor soldiers.” A few years later Captain István Svatics describes a very similar situation. Pál Sibrik, vice-general of Hungarian forces in Royal Hungary, asked that one hundred German soldiers be sent to Zalavár castle in 1639. He also complained about Captain Svatics’ long absence from the castle, saying “. . . that man didn’t sit there more than two weeks a year but instead of guarding his post, was always riding astray . . . he doesn’t deserve his office.”

Yet, Svatics was able to beat the Turks back from Zalavár castle successfully in 1639.


Castle of Szentgyörgyvár (Saint George-Castle),17.1170958,4263m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x4768e1909e98b10f:0x546cea7bac754821

It was part of the chain of castles opposite Kanizs castle. Its captain was György Topos in 1629. There were many attacks and sieges in his time, with the Turks feverishly attacking the ford at Mánd. The most serious attack happened during the service of Captain István Török (Turk) in 1643 when the Turks of Babócsa castle arrived to destroy the small fort he had built at the ford of Mánd. After destroying it, the larger part of their army remained there, but a unit of six to seven hundred Turks came to Szentgyörgy castle with their war flags and attacked the bridge of the castle. After an hour-long fight with the defenders, they withdrew. The defenders lost three soldiers, three children, and a woman in the fight. In addition to the continuous Turkish attacks, through the following years disease was also decimating the castle’s population.


Szentgrót castle,17.0327791,8497m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x4769231a57d4c737:0x400c4290c1e17d0

After Kanizsa’s loss, Szentgrót castle became the most important part of the chain of castles defending the valley of the River Zala. It was placed directly under the court’s command. Despite this, members of the Hagymási family remained as captains of Szentgrót castle, and they maintained it better than most of this era’s castles. The Turks tried to attack the castle many times during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries but could never occupy it, and it had never had a serious siege.


Castle of Zalabér,+8798/@46.9714629,17.0131495,4246m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x47693b31d1706e8d:0x400c4290c1e94b0

According to the law, the noble county and community was obliged to maintain this castle through the Treasury of Court. Zalabér’s captain was nominated from the Ányos family in 1621. There were only ten soldiers and a corporal in the castle to defend it at that time. Due to the constant Turkish raids they increased their number to twenty in 1640. The Turkish pillagers enslaved or killed thirty-three of its villagers between 1630 and 1637. The Turks tried but failed to capture the castle in 1644. The same year in June, a bigger raiding party attempted to take the fort but they were pushed into the Zala River by the counterattack of the castle’s warriors. There was a serious fight, and twenty Hungarian soldiers were killed but we don’t know the losses of the Turks. The fleeing enemy set a village on fire and took away five men and two little girls.


Castle of Csáktornya  (Cakovec),16.4023744,8586m/data=!3m1!1e3

The castle was given to the Zrínyi family in 1546. Under the rule of Miklós Zrínyi I (the great-grandfather of the poet and general Miklós Zrínyi II) the castle and the city started to develop. The castle was rebuilt in Italian fashion and the Zrínyies lived like kings in the Renaissance palace of it, amid active cultural life. As a frontier castle not far from the Turkish-controlled Kanizsa castle, the fort was an important post.  It was the dwelling place of Miklós Zrínyi II, who wrote his poems and works here, and this was where he died in 1664 after that suspicious boar-hunt. After his death, his brother Péter organized the anti-Habsburg conspiracy from Csáktornya. When Péter was executed in 1671, the castle was taken by the Emperor.


Castle of Csanád,+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.1341694,20.5383449,8624m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x4744f974143fd99b:0xdd8375620e9a7e98

Located near Kanizsa, in 1598 its captain was Ferenc Lugosi. With only two hundred soldiers, he was not frightened of the outnumbering enemy but withstood the Turkish attacks in the most valiant way. When he came to realize that they could not continue such an unbalanced fight, he broke his people out in a very brave and tricky way. Captain Lugosi had all of his people—women included—put on armor and take up sabers, and had all of the cannons loaded with double and triple loads of gunpowder and two cannon balls apiece and put a burning fuse connected to them. At late night he had the gates opened and lots of straw spread on the bridge to soften the noise of the horses as all of them left the castle without being noticed by the Turk guards. When they reached the enemy’s lines, the fuse ignited the cannons and a hellish volley struck the Turks’ guardposts as the copper cannons exploded. The Turks thought that the defenders would prepare their breakout with this volley, not realizing that they had already done so under the cover of dark. The Hungarians went through the Turkish camp but eventually were discovered when they ran into a five hundred-strong unit. Immediately they ambushed the surprised Turks and desperately cut themselves out of the camp. The women also fought as they had nothing to lose. The enemy were frightened, thinking a bigger reinforcement must have arrived, and yielded the ground.   


Castle of Keszthely,17.1018699,34109m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4768e2b85082feeb:0x400c4290c1e1880

The city of Keszthely was raided by the Aga of Koppány in 1589 so after this the inner city had itself surrounded by a palisade and a moat. The outskirts of the city were inhabited by peasants, and they had to pay taxes, unlike the inhabitants of the inner city.

It was a frontier castle near Lake Balaton. The defenders of Keszthely sided with Prince Bocskay in 1605 and didn’t accept the truce between Bocskay and the Habsburgs, so the king had to take the castle by siege in 1608. Although the Turks laid a major siege against it in 1650, they could never take the city, and it always remained under the rule of Royal Hungary.


Castle of Palota (Palace),18.082707,16907m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x47698bc7d760cee3:0x400c4290c1e1820

The defenders of Palota were under an incredibly heavy pressure between 1552 and 1566 due to the capture of Veszprém castle by the Turks.

At that time the captain of Palota was György Thury, a valiant duelist and warrior. There were barely two hundred hussars guarding it when Pasha Arslan of Buda attacked the castle with an overwhelming force of eight thousand soldiers and lots of cannons in June, 1566. When the enemy completely surrounded the castle and night fell, all the hussars broke out noiselessly and attacked the sleeping Turks.

They made such a savage clamor, while setting everything burnable on fire, that Pasha Arslan began to panic. He panicked all the more when it was reported that a huge army of reinforcements was approaching the castle. He wouldn’t have known that it was just the noise made by the judge of Győr city, who had sent many wagons to the Bakony hill to collect wood and branches. As many citizens of Győr were Swabians, they spoke and sang in German while working. Pasha Arslan gave the order to withdraw. He later received a silk string for it from the sultan (i.e., he was manually strangled with a silk string). Meanwhile, the German General Salm was hunting near Győr, not caring about Palota’s peril. He arrived three days later with his troops.

A few years later in 1571, György Thury was slaughtered by the Turks when he was ensnared at Orosztony in Zala County.  Tamás Pálffy became the new captain of Palota in 1573. After he managed to get the fort reinforced, he led a series of victorious raids against the Turks. Still, there were times when no more than thirty soldiers guarded the castle but were still able to hold it. Finally, the Turks were able to take the castle during the Fifteen Year War in 1593 when the captain, Peter Ormándy, made a heroic effort to defend the fort but in a hopeless situation he ceded Palota to the Turks. He was promised by Pasha Sinan, Grand Vizier, that he and his people could leave the castle safely but the Turks broke their word and slaughtered him. Five years later, led by Miklós Pálffy and Adolf Schwarzenberg, the Christian troops took Győr back from the enemy and launched an overall attack against the Turkish frontier castles of the Trans-Danubian region. They took back the castles of Csókakő and Gesztes, then laid siege of Palota. Two days later the Turks surrendered, and the castle fell into Hungarian hands again. The Turks recaptured it in 1605 when the troops of Köse Hussein took the castle of Veszprém. The Turks emptied the fort in 1614 for unknown reasons so it was returned to the Christians. In connection to Prince Bethlen’s attack against the Habsburgs in 1623, the Turkish Bey of Fehérvár was able to take it and hold it on their side until 1687. So at the Ring of Fire it was in Turkish hands, but circumstances changed very rapidly.


Castle of Tata,18.2558391,16774m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x476a460d6f84ab01:0xb620f00f0720fe22

The Turks captured this castle in 1543 but later it changed hands nine times during the one hundred forty-five-year-long Turkish rule. It was under the enemy’s command for sixteen years. In 1630 it was by Hungary.

Castle of Pápa,17.4140709,16874m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4769610c449a4107:0xa5062e116529d97b

This castle belonged to the immediate defense belt of forts before Vienna, and thus it was well maintained. It had the third largest garrison next to Győr castle, with between five hundred and a thousand soldiers. Its famous captains were János Török (Turk), László Majthényi, Péter Huszár, and István Török.

Pápa Castle fell into Turkish possession twice, the first time between 1594-1597 and later in 1683 for just a couple of months. There was an uprising of the Walloon mercenaries in 1600 when the soldiers rebelled to get their pay; the Austrians put them down only after a two-month siege. The Walloons had wanted to hand the castle over to the Turks in the hope of better payment.


Castle of Győr,17.5186006,33523m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x476bbf87407ea035:0x400c4290c1e11e0

This city is located not very far away from Vienna so all advancing armies had to face its walls. After 1541 the Turks reached it and the castle’s commander, Christopher Lamberg, thought it would be futile to defend the town so he burnt it down. The arriving Turks could see nothing of the castle’s walls, just the smoking blackened ruins, hence the Turkish name for Győr, Yamk Hale (burnt castle).

During rebuilding, the town was surrounded by fortifications, and a city wall was designed by the leading Italian builders of the era. The town changed in character during these years, with many new buildings built in Renaissance style, but the main square and the grid of streets remained.

In 1594, after the death of its captain, Count János Cseszneky, the Ottoman army occupied the castle and the town because the Italian and German troops surrendered it in exchange of free passage. Their captain, Ferdinand Hardegg, was beheaded for it later.

In 1598 the Hungarian and Austrian army, led by Miklós Pálffy and Adolf Schwarzenberg, took control of it again.

In 1683, the Turks returned briefly, only to leave after being defeated in the Battle of Vienna.


Castle of Kőszeg,+9730/@47.3827241,16.464808,16853m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x476ea25ffe917fdd:0x251933f44dd53c4d

The most famous event of Kőszeg castle was its siege in 1532. After the Defeat of Mohács (1526), the Turks’ next destination became Vienna. Great Suleiman I himself led the Ottoman army. The small and old-fashioned Kőszeg castle was in the way but it was defended by the brave Miklós (Nicholas) Jurisics with only a couple hundred warriors and seven hundred peasant soldiers to protect the eighteen hundred women and twenty-three hundred children who took refuge there. They were surrounded by the contemporary world’s strongest army, one hundred and fifty thousand Turks. Seventy thousand of them besieged the castle, fifteen thousand of which were Janissaries. They held the castle for twenty days during which the Turks attacked it nineteen times. The Turks undermined the walls, and once they exploded a twenty-foot stretch of them. They built earth ramparts to three sides of the walls and kept attacking the castle from all sides. Huge rains pouring down during the siege helped the defenders. The castle—or its ruins–were only symbolically handed over to the enemy, and only their flag was allowed to be put on the tower. After the unsuccessful siege, at the end of August, the Turks moved towards Vienna. The heroic resistance of Kőszeg bought time for the Christian armies to arrive and assemble before Vienna. Jurisics was made a baron the next year and was rewarded with five captaincies in Lower Austria. The city was given tax exemption and other privileges by Ferdinand I. The castle was rebuilt, and the city became an important trading point between Vienna and the Adriatic Sea. Ever since, the citizens of Köszeg toll their bells every day at 11 A.M. to commemorate the victory. The city opened its gates to Prince Bocskay in 1605, but the Habsburgs took it back a month later. The same thing happened in 1619 with Prince Bethlen when the inhabitants were more reluctant to yield the castle so their settlement was put to the torch. The Transylvanians took the city in 1620, too; burning some 200 houses again. Prince Bethlen nominated a local citizen as their captain, Mihály Hörmann. After the Prince had taken his leave, the Habsburgs’ troops soon arrived, and the city opened its gates to them. Mihály Hörmann, loyal to the Prince, exploded five tons of gunpowder when the Austrians entered the city. He paid for his loyalty with his head the next day.


Castle of Komárom (Komarno),17.983382,33490m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x476a4d2f43f02c75:0x400c4290c1e1920

It was a formidable fortress, blocking the Danube before Vienna and Pozsony, making all river passage impossible. It was never taken.


Castle of Sopron,16.443831,33508m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x476c3b605048160d:0x400c4290c1e12a0

It was a strategic castle and city right before Vienna; one more obstacle for the attacking enemy. The city of Sopron was a rapidly growing trading and market center next to the Austrian border. It had a population in 1633 of about four thousand people. It was also a coronation town: Ferdinand II’s second wife, Queen Eleonora, was crowned here in 1622. The Diet of Sopron elected Ferdinand II’s son, Duke Ferdinand to be King of Hungary in November, 1625, and he was crowned there in December.

Due to the religious persecutions, many Evangelical [i.e., Lutheran] Austrians moved to Sopron in the first decade of the seventeenth century. Most famous of them was the aristocratic Eggenberg family, but renowned intellectuals, craftsmen, and merchants came there from all over Austria. For example, Andreas Rauch, the famous organ artist, arrived there from Vienna in 1628 and Johann Sartory, a chemist, in 1629. A famous Society of Noble Scientists was established in the city by Kristóf Lackner, a city judge, in 1604. It was similar to a guild of intellectuals; its members in 1625 were Gábor Lampert, pastor from Balf, Münderer Gottfried, pastor of Borbolya in 1623, and Jeremias Scholtz, physician. In spite of the sophisticated atmosphere, there was a nasty witch-hunt going on in 1630.


There are many other fabulous castles of Royal Hungary that were not mentioned in details but nevertheless, they all played an important role in keeping the kingdom intact. The most important ones are listed here:

Tihany, Légrád, Kapronca, Egerszeg, Szigliget, Egervár, Körmend, Németújvár, Csobánc, Fraknó, Zólyom, Késmárk, Eperjes, Kismarton, Magyaróvár, Vöröskő, Gimes, Korpona, Csábrág, Végles, Kékkő, Salgó, Somoskő, Diósgyőr, Torna, Krasznahorka, Sólyomkő, Boldogkő, Füzér, Szerencs, Ónod, Ungvár, Kisvárda, Ecsed, Kálló, Károly, Visegrád, Huszt, Léva, Sümeg, Veszprém.

Most of them are in ruins now: the Habsburgs had them exploded, one by one, so as not to give shelter to any rebels in days to come.




Principality of Transylvania


Castle and City of Nagyvárad (Oradea, Großwardein ),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@47.0745735,21.8674042,16952m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474647e3687623,53:0x1b55a486d65d5344

ht3ngbyThis was also called Várad, and it was the most important frontier castle against the Turks on the Transylvanian side of old Hungary. It was also one of the gates to Transylvania, and the princes regarded it as their second capital. Accordingly, the rank of its captain was elevated because its bearer became the second in rank after the prince. The captain of Nagyvárad was under the direct command of Transylvania’s ruling prince, was second in rank after him, and was his substitute when the prince was on a campaign abroad. All of the princes, István Báthory, Kristóf Báthory, István Bocskay, and György Rákóczi II had been captains of Várad before becoming rulers of Transylvania.

István Báthory was its captain in 1559, and when he became a prince in 1571, he began carrying out large construction works within the castle in the Italian late-Renaissance fashion that was considered the most modern fort architecture of the time. The building was completed in 1596 by Italian architects like Pietro Ferrabosco, Ottavio Baldigara, Domenico Ridolfino and Simone Genga.

Prince Kristóf Báthory granted collective nobility to the citizens of Nagyvárad in 1580. Yet the citizens swore fealty to Emperor Rudolf, asking for his son, Miksa’s, protection against Prince Báthory and the Turks. Archduke Miksa sent German troops to aid them and occupy this strategic city. The Turks besieged it unsuccessfully in 1598. Prince Bocskay laid siege to it as well. His army had to wait two years to starve the defenders out, making them surrender in 1606. Ferenc Rhédey was the captain of Nagyvárad between 1613-1618 and he modernized the fortifications.

Prince Bethlen had the old, ruined medieval buildings pulled down in 1619 and ordered his Italian architect, Giacomo Resti, to build a pentangular renaissance palace for him that was finished only around 1650. It was the biggest Renaissance palace of Central and Eastern Europe. The city was blooming during the reign of Prince György Rákóczi I, especially due to his wife, Zsuzsanna Lorántffy. They supported the Reformed church and established a college. The first printing house was launched in 1565 when the Polish printer Raffael Hoffhalter settled in Nagyvárad. The next press was set up sixty years later by Ábrahám Szenczi Kertész. István Bethlen had the press brought from Luneburgum and Prince Rákóczi acquired special oval letters for it around 1640. The Hungarian Bible of Nagyvárad was first printed in 1657. The 1500 copies weren’t finished because of the Turk siege of 1660. Luckily, they were able to smuggle the printed pages out and could complete the work in Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg). It was a sorrowful time because Prince György Rákóczi II was killed in a battle by the Turks, after he had wasted the Transylvanian army in a war for the Polish throne.

Nagyvárad was a serious fort but most of their defenders went to the burial of the prince, led by their captain, Ferenc Gyulai. Only eight hundred fifty untrained soldiers were left behind under the leadership of vice captain, Máté Balogh, when Pasha Achmed and Pasha Ali of Temesvár set out to capture this important castle with fifty thousand seasoned soldiers. At the same time, near the border of Royal Hungary was the sizable army of General Souches who refused the begging and pleading of the city and denied even minimal help against the Turks.  In the meantime the two pashas sacked Debrecen and destroyed some cities before completing the siege around Nagyvárad. It took them a month to drain the water of the moat and destroy the walls with mines and artillery. The defenders lacked the military knowledge to be able to use their own cannons, but they were valiant in close combat.  After forty-four days of futile resistance, vice-captain Balogh left the castle with his people under the terms that the city wouldn’t be sacked. Their heroic fight can be compared to the warriors of Eger, even though they weren’t victorious. After the loss of Nagyvárad the Habsburgs received criticism internationally because the whole Partium (a great area between Transylvania and Royal Hungary) was now under Turkish control. Its loss marked the end of Transylvania’s independence.


Castle of Borosjenő (Ineu, Janopol),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.4298523,21.8240081,4289m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4745f9e1f4251dbf:0x96216d881674cbe3

It had a grand Renaissance palace that was damaged in a fire in 1618 but was extended and renovated between 1625-1630. It belonged to the Transylvanian princes, but had always been badly wanted by the Turks.


Castle of Lippa (Lipova),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.0895289,21.683471,4316m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474f7da21526324f:0xb1fd7b6901e9bf5b

It was owned by Ferdinand I in 1551 but its Serbian soldiers, fifteen hundred men in all, surrendered it to Mehmed Begler-Bey of Rumelia. The Turks pillaged the city but Brother György, the famous monk and statesman, took it back in the same year. The following year its Spanish garrison yielded the fort to the Turks. The Turks organized a sanjak around it and garrisoned the castle with between one hundred and five hundred men. Many Sephardic Jews arrived there during this time. After forty years of Turkish rule, György Borbély’s Transylvanian army took the castle. The Begler-Bey of Temesvár attacked the place in 1595 but Prince Báthory’s arriving army chased him away. The Prince left two thousand soldiers in the castle which enabled them to beat the Turks back three years later. Lippa fell to the Romanian Prince Michael in 1600 but was taken back in 1604 by Prince Bocskay. (The Serbians surrendered the castle to him.) The Pasha of Temesvár captured it in 1605, and the next year it was taken back by István Petneházy’s army. During the next few years this fort played an important role in Turkish-Transylvanian negotiations. The Turks wanted to get back Lippa and Borosjenö that had been organic parts of their frontier castle chain before the Fifteen Year War. Several Transylvanian princes had fed them with promises to give the two castles back but when Gábor Bethlen needed the confirmation of the Sublime Porte in order to gain the throne—he didn’t take risks and had agreed to give the forts “back”. He said:

“. . . if I had a way of keeping it, I would follow that way at all costs—but I have no means to hold it or to procrastinate it any longer because the Turks wouldn’t allow me to do so even if I vomited my soul in front of them . . .”

Finally in 1616 it had to be ceded to them but its defenders, especially Captain István Vajda, didn’t want to accept the decision: everybody thought it a shame and finally Prince Bethlen had to take it from him by siege. Afterwards the prince offered the fort to the Begler-Bey of Temesvár. Prince Bethlen’s reputation suffered quite a bit from this action in the eyes of the Hajdu soldiers all over the country.

The Turkish Bey of Lippa repaired, enlarged, and reinforced the castle and brought more Turks there from the surrounding Turkish frontier castles. Three circles of walls protected the inner castle, and there were fifteen hundred houses around the outer walls. The Turks installed the water of the nearby springs into the city and covered the streets with wooden boards. Allegedly seven schools could be found in the city. Altogether there were 953 defenders in 1621 and 800 in 1660. Prince György Rakoczi II defeated Achmed, Pasha of Buda, under the castle’s walls in 1658. General Caraffa took it back after a four-day siege in 1686.


Lugos ( Lugoj),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@45.6871128,21.8426205,17388m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474fbebd56492451:0xe9161dd73d36f5a4

The city had a castle surrounded by a wooden palisade and bastions. The Turks took it in 1552 but Sultan Suleiman the Great gave it to King Zsigmond János. The place was burned down in 1594 and in 1599 by the Tatars and also in 1603, then it was burnt by Captain Henry Dampierre Duval. The castle used to be an integral part of the frontier castles guarding Transylvania’s border between 1536 and 1658. It was also a local center, and its garrison consisted of Hungarian, Romanian, and Serbian inhabitants who were mostly soldiers. There were six hundred riders and seven hundred infantrymen in 1626. A Romanian Reformed pastor called Moisi Pestisel, who was one of the Romanian translators of the Old Testament, lived here in 1581. Another famous Romanian pastor was Istvan Fogarasi, the translator of Protestant works into Romanian language in the 1640s.  The city also became the religious center of Orthodox Romanian believers in 1622. The city became the property of the Treasury in 1615. The castle disobeyed Prince Bethlen in 1616 so it had to be taken by force. It was one of the castles the Turks demanded for allowing Bethlen to become a prince. The castle fell under Turkish rule permanently only after 1658, resulting in the escape of its inhabitants to Transylvania.


Karánsebes (Caransebes, Karansebesch),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@45.4106571,22.1808353,8737m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474e31c2a1df1575:0x73fc927250542a2e

This was a smaller settlement with many privileges, located on a strategic place. It belonged to the German Teutonic Order of Knights between 1429 and 1435. During that time, the Romanian Vlad Dracul, the infamous historical father of the “Dracula,” allied with the Turks, pillaged it. The city’s heyday was during the time of the Transylvanian Principality because it was the headquarters of Lugos-Karánsebes County between the 1530s and 1658.  Its furrier guild was very famous. Most of the inhabitants were Romanians but some Hungarians and Saxons. There were religious divisions among them but after the Diet of Torda in 1564, it was ordered that its church should be used alternately by the Reformed and the Catholic people of the city, every other week. Later the church became the property of the Reformed church. However, there was a Jesuit mission working there between 1625 and 1640, led by the Romanian George Buitul who tried to convert the greatest population of Reformed Romanians of Transylvania. The city couldn’t avoid the Serbian mercenaries’ attack that had been instigated by General Basta. They destroyed the nearby villages and sacked the city, selling many enslaved people to the Turks. Finally the citizens’ uprising chased them away in 1604. The castle and the city became the property of the princes in 1605 and remained in their possession for a long time. Its garrison included two hundred riders and two hundred infantrymen in 1626. Ákos Barcsay, its captain between 1644-1658, finally ceded it to the Turks. It was taken back only after 1688.


Temesvár (Timisoara, Temeswar),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@45.7410432,21.1465497,17371m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4745677dcb0fb5a7:0x537faf6473936749

This was a strategic castle next to the Transylvanian border, a much disputed fort between the Turks and the Hungarians. First the castle beat the Turks back in 1551 but its famous siege took place in 1552. Pasha Achmed led an army of thirty thousand against the fort that was defended by chief Comes István (Stephen) Losonci who had barely two thousand Spanish, Hungarian, Czech, German, and Italian soldiers. After twenty-five days of siege, the Turks destroyed the water tower of the city so Losonci had to start negotiations. He was allowed to leave freely with his soldiers, accompanied by the city’s inhabitants, but the Turks slaughtered them, capturing and beheading the seriously injured Losonci in the end. In spite of the massacre, the city began to develop during the Turkish rule, especially its agriculture. Temesvár was also an important trading center. It was the first city where beside the Turkish merchants, the Jewish traders appeared in bigger numbers. The houses of the city were built of clay and covered by wooden roofs, and the streets were paved by wooden planks. Each quarter of the city was surrounded by water and had its own fortress. Temesvár became a center of an elayet, and it was the starting point to launch raids and military moves against the nearby regions. Important Turkish officials and foreign envoys, including the Sultans, visited many times. All of the fugitives from Transylvania found shelter here, especially those who aspired to get the throne of Transylvania with the Turks’ help. Gábor Bethlen used to stay in the city like many Romanians who wanted to rule Wallachia or Moldavia one day.


Szatmár (Romanian: Satu Mare, German: Sathmar, Yiddish: Szákmér),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@47.7722936,22.7601767,33457m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x47380434f4e50c2b:0xbb0ab3cb55750d75

After the Defeat of Mohács (1526), Szatmár was the third-best fortified frontier castle of the Kingdom of Hungary, built on its easternmost part. It was rebuilt in the modern Italian fashion with five bastions. It was on the three-sided border between Royal Hungary, Transylvania and the Turkish Occupied Lands. Control passed back and forth between the Transylvanians and the Habsburgs. General Basta in 1603 ordered the Italian Cesare Porta to complete the reconstruction of the fort. Nevertheless, it was occupied by Prince Bocskay the next year. Prince Bethlen got hold of it in 1622, according to the Peace of Nikolsburg. Prince György Rákóczi I’s armies attacked the castle rather successfully in 1645, unlike the Turk armies in 1660 and 1663.


Nagybánya (Baia Mare, Frauenbach),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@47.6688678,23.5008265,16762m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4737dc70b4206f37:0x30914e534fa9d1dd

It got its name from its plentiful silver and gold mines. The inhabitants were mostly Saxons, craftsmen, miners, and merchants. The city’s patron saint is Saint István (Stephen), the first Hungarian king. The city was renowned in distant lands for its great Saint István cathedral that was finished in 1387. The church is 50 meters long while its tower is 40 meters high.  In the time of King Matthias, Nagybánya produced more than the half of Hungary’s gold, even though the mining towns in Upper Hungary were also very productive. All kinds of artisans lived in the guilds of the city: carpenters, masons, furriers, potters, tailors, goldsmiths, and silversmiths, all had a very good reputation. The goldsmiths were especially world-famous; one of them became a professor of Gresham College in London. The townfolk became Protestant in 1547, and the first Reformed college in Transylvania was established there. Usurers held the renting rights and lived off the rich town’s profits. Prince Bethlen took these rights away from them and freed the city from its unjust debt, gifting the mining rights to the city in 1620. In the Ring of Fire period the city was owned by Prince György Rákóczi I.


Radna (Rodna, Roden),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.0995702,21.6583173,4315m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4745877de6ffbdb3:0x57f7d120324cdf4d

It was famous for its silver mines and was inhabited mostly by Saxons, but the high population included many Hungarians and Romanians as well. The city had very good relations with the cities in Romanian Moldova, for example with the mining city of Moldvabánya. It was the reason why they declined to join the prince’s army in 1632 against the Romanians. In the first part of the seventeenth century many Saxon families moved to the depopulated city of Beszterce so the role of the Saxons in Radna had decreased.

They didn’t elect a Saxon City judge in the 1640s, and the Saxon and Hungarian pastors were preaching together in the church.


Marosvásárhely (Tirgu Mures, Nai Muark),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.5430817,24.4825579,17120m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474bb64a553e9177:0xb1573a839869d90d

This was the center of the Seclers. After the Fifteen Year War the city was burned by German mercenaries, and in 1602 the rest of the houses were put to the torch by the Hungarians. The rebuilding went on until 1653.  It became a free royal city in 1616. It was burned again in 1658 by Romanian and Turkish raiders. Pasha Ali took the town and made Mihály Apafi the Prince of Transylvania within its walls. Due to the Turks’ carelessness the city burned down the next year. The next raiders were the Austrians in 1687. Later these activities continued. During the first part of the eighteenth century this city was hit four times by devastating plagues. Despite these hardships, the city remained the cultural, educational, and trade center of the Seclers.


Csíkszereda  (Miercurea Ciuc, Seclerburg),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.3574859,25.5998146,34357m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474b2a092c490c6b:0x6aa5d0a276cb4941

This city was built at a trade junction and has always been a Catholic center for the Seclers. A Catholic college was founded here in 1630. At the time of the Ring of Fire, the city belonged to Ferenc Mikó, the councilor of Prince Bethlen. Count Ferenc Mikó (1585-1635) was also a famous diplomat and chronicler. He was the captain of Csík county and began to build the castle of Mikó there in 1623.


Torda (Turda, Torembrich),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.5600797,23.7422575,17115m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x47496620aa78a95b:0xc7f433dbd893f8a3

Torda was the administrative center of the Transylvanian salt mines, and this was a key function in that time.

After the collapse of the Hungarian feudal state because of the taking of Buda by the Turks in 1541, the Diet of Torda in 1542 accepted Zsigmond János as the first Prince of Transylvania. It was the city where the Diet accepted the Protestant churches in 1557 and they declared the famous freedom of religion in 1568. During the bloody campaign of General Basta and his Austrian mercenaries in 1601, the inhabitants of Torda took refuge behind the walls of their Reformed church, which was built in gothic style. Basta had his cannons brought up and destroyed its walls, killing everybody inside. Prince Bethlen gave the depopulated settlement to salt miners in 1614. The town received a collective nobility in 1665.


Zalatna (Zlatna, Goldenmarkt),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.1192289,23.179242,8627m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474eb9b78807764f:0x900dd6af14117a4c

Its name derives from the Slavic word zlatna meaning gold. There were many rich gold mines, some of which are still in use. All the princes took good care of this mining city, and it was developing rapidly during the RoF. Its inhabitants were mainly Saxon miners.


Déva (Deva, Dimmrich),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@45.87563,22.8431837,17329m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474ef2942e4b17ed:0x7a9550f58a1eda77

This was a fortress that was considered one of the key gates of Transylvania. Its most famous holder had been János Hunyadi, King Matthias’ father. The first Unitarian bishop of Transylvania, Ferenc Dávid, was imprisoned and died here in 1579. It was the castle where the General Giorgio Basta wanted to execute all high aristocrats of Transylvania in 1603. Both Prince Bocskay and Bethlen were its owners; they used it as their living place. Déva was the dwelling place of Mária Széchy, the “Venus of Murány”, between 1627 and 1640. It was Prince Bethlen who began the renovation of the castle in Renaissance style.


Vajdahunyad (Hunedoara, Hunnedeng),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@45.7631595,22.8726977,8682m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474e8a547396159f:0x19f38ced3c35233b

This was the traditional knight castle of the great János Hunyadi. It can be seen today as it was built in its gothic glamour. It was attacked by the Romanian Michael in 1601. In 1618, the castle became the property of the Bethlen family, who renovated and improved it. Maria Széchy lived here in 1632 for a short time. Several guilds were working in the city: tailors, tillers, boot makers, and furriers. The Reformed church was established here in 1634.


Brassó (Brasov, Kronstadt or Kruhnen),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@45.6524567,25.5264227,17399m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x40b35b862aa214f1:0x6cf5f2ef54391e0f

This well-fortified city was the main center of the Saxons of Transylvania. The settlers had come primarily from the Rhineland and the Moselle region, with others from Bavaria and even from distant parts of France.

Germans living in Brassó were mainly involved in trade and crafts. The location of this city at the intersection of trade routes linking the Ottoman Empire and Western Europe, together with certain tax exemptions, allowed Saxon merchants to obtain considerable wealth and exert a strong political influence. The town’s “Black Church” is claimed to be the largest gothic-style church in Southeastern Europe. The first book printing office of Transylvania was established here in 1529, and the first book ever printed in Hungarian language was also made here around 1580. In the famous Saxon college of the town, students were taught not only in German but also in the Hungarian language, beginning in 1637.

Prince Gábor Báthory was defeated at Brassó in 1611 by the combined forces of Saxons and Romanians. The city and the church were put to the torch in 1689 by General Caraffa’s mercenaries, hence the name the Black Church.  


Szeben (Sibiu, Hermannstadt),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@45.7829757,24.0697981,17358m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474c6788fd2c1cd5:0x3ade9d214e3390b4

This medieval royal and free Hungarian town became the spiritual and trading center of the Saxons. János Hunyadi defeated Bey Mezid in 1444 under its strong walls which were defended by forty bastions.

The Turks were never able to take it, but there was a great fire in 1556. The Tatar raiders sacked the city in 1658.


Kolozsvár (Cluj, Klausenburg),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.7833002,23.4764279,34088m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x47490c1f916c0b8b:0xbbc601c331f148b

This was the historical center and the most important town of Transylvania, the birthplace of King Matthias. It was one of the seven fortified Saxon cities that gave Transylvania its German name of Siebenbürgen. Prince István Bocskay was also born here. The town was in its heyday during Prince Bethlen’s period when Transylvania was called a “fairy garden.” Kolozsvár was called similarly the “treasure-house Kolozsvár.” Both Prince Gábor Bethlen and Prince György Rákóczi I were elected prince here. The first university of Transylvania was established here by Prince Báthori in 1585. Its Jesuit professors were unfortunately chased away in 1603, and so the university closed its gates. Prince Gábor Bethlen issued a document here in favor of the Jewish inhabitants all over Transylvania in 1623 which permitted them to settle freely, trade freely, and practice their religion freely, without the obligation of wearing the distinctive marks for the Jewish.


Gyulafehérvár (Alba Iulia, Karlsburg),+Rom%C3%A1nia/@46.0616033,23.4879626,17271m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474ea80cce754875:0xe9b0f44e8e45cd05

This was the capital of Transylvania, the seat of the princes, between 1542 and 1690. It had also been the administrative center of Transylvania in the medieval period of the Hungarian Kingdom.  János Hunyadi defeated his legendary adversary, Bey Mezid, and his fifteen thousand-strong army next to the city in a three-day-long battle in 1442. The last freely-elected Hungarian national king who was also the first Prince of Transylvania, Zsigmond János, died in the city in 1571. He, his queen, and his son are buried in the city’s Saint Istvan (Stephen) Basilica. The city saw the short and bloody rule of the Romanian Prince Michael in 1599-1600 and suffered the burnings and sacking of General Basta in 1602. Its Reformed college was established by Prince Bethlen, who died in the city in 1629. The Diet of Gyulafehérvár in 1630 reconfirmed the union of the historical three nations of Transylvania: the Hungarian, the Saxon, and the Secler.


Other famous settlements of Transylvania are: Székelyhíd, Kereki, Almás, Sebesvár, Szalonta, Arad, Medgyes, Fogaras, Kővár, Torockó, Nagyenyed




Turkish-Occupied Lands


City of Szolnok,20.0435875,33836m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474141123b36bec5:0x400c4290c1e11d0

This had an important function on the frontier because it was the entrance to Eger castle, which guarded the road to the north. Sultan Suleiman II ordered Pasha Achmed Ali and Mohamed to take Szolnok and Eger in 1552. The castle had been fortified in 1550, and Lörinc Nyáry was made its captain. He commanded fourteen hundred Spanish, German, and Czech mercenaries and had just a handful of Hungarian soldiers. The fort was supplied with twenty-four cannons and three thousand muskets along with eight hundred quintals of gunpowder.

Pasha Achmed Ali besieged the castle with his forty thousand-strong army on September 2, 1552. The German mercenaries were the first to think of fleeing but it turned out that the Hungarian boaters had fled away before them. The next day the Hungarian and the Spanish riders swam across the River Tisza at night, and then the boaters returned for the rest of the foot soldiers. All of the mercenaries had fled by the third day of the siege and left the gate ajar behind themselves. Captain Nyáry and his 50 faithful Hajdu soldiers were left behind and captured by the Turks, who garrisoned the fort with two thousand soldiers and went on against Eger castle. The memory of this shame still lives today. The castle remained in Turkish hands until 1685.

Szolnok became the center of a Turkish sanjak and unlike at other places, they began the construction of several typical Turkish buildings: they built a bath, a minaret, and a mosque in 1553. They made the first permanent bridge over the Tisza River in 1562. It was in Szolnok where they copied the only Turkish manuscript written in Hungary about the Hungarian campaigns of Suleiman the Great.


Castle of Gyula,21.1542074,34184m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4745d6912e572a0b:0xe643b29f4ae1ba5a

This was a stronghold on the Great Hungarian Plain, taken by Pasha Pertev in 1566. The siege lasted for two months and finally the defenders, led by captain László Kerecsényi, withdrew into the brick-built inner castle. At last he surrendered the castle in exchange for free passage but upon leaving the ruins, he and his soldiers were put to the sword.

For more than a century the castle had controlled the area between the Körös and the Maros Rivers. Gyula became a center of its sanjak that was divided into four parts: the Nahije of Arad, Békés, Zaránd and Bihar. The bey of Gyula ruled over these territories. The town had a mixed population of Turks and Hungarians. Using the stones of the surrounding areas’ Christian churches as building materials, the Muslims erected two mosques, a ceremonial bath, and a turbe (tomb). This town was well-documented in the writings of Evlija Chelebi, the Turkish traveller who filled 10 thick books with his stories and descriptions between 1664-1666. On assignment for the Sublime Porte, he mustered almost all places of the Ottoman Empire during his forty years of service. He wrote of Gyula that it had “. . . two hundred shops and three churches in the outer town . . . it is a peculiar spectacle that everybody uses a boat when they visit each other from house to house, from garden to the mill.” As the tax-paying Hungarian population was severely decreasing, the Turks tried to fill the numbers up with settlers from the South Slavic areas, giving them the abandoned villages, as they did elsewhere.

There is a village near Gyula, called Ajtós. It is known for the German-Hungarian who left for Germany in 1455 and became famous in Nurnberg: Albrecht Dürer’s father. The word “Dürer” is the direct translation of the village’s name, “Ajtós.”


Castle and Town of Szeged,20.0003839,34435m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474487e22bcce54b:0x400c4290c1e1190

The Habsburgs’ army took the town from the Hungarian King Szapolyai in 1542 which made the Turks very angry. The Sultan punished the town’s people rather severely for ceding the place to Ferdinand I when after the siege of 1543 he took over the castle. Later Szeged was put under the central treasury’s command so the tax was paid directly to it there. It was more advantageous than the situation of Spahi-owned lands where the Spahies literally robbed the settlements while they were in their possessions. For this reason, the inhabitants of many villages moved to Szeged.


Castle of Kecskemét,19.5389723,34023m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4743da6108f61c3f:0x400c4290c1e1180

ht3smjThe Turks captured it in 1541 and it was attached—luckily—to the Pasha of Buda so it was not a harassed and overtaxed Spahi dominion. Later, in 1565, Kecskemét also became a treasury-owned settlement so they could develop a more independent local authority in the city. Despite the constant wars, the city enjoyed relative peace and received many inhabitants running away from villages, eventually becoming the most significant settlement of the area between the River Danube and the River Tisza. The symbol of the city’s privileges became a mysterious Turkish kaftan that had been given to the judge of the city to wear when the Turks would come to collect the taxes. The records of the city say: “It was in the year Anno Domini 1596 at the time of Eger castle’s taking, when Sultan Muhamet II appeared in front of the city. The citizens of Kecskemét went before him with presents, giving him six hundred sheep, one hundred cattle and fourteen wagons of bread . . . and they begged the Sultan to send them a Bey to protect them from the armies. The Sultan gifted them with three hundred gold pieces and gave them a golden-woven kaftan, telling them to go home and they should put the coat on if someone wanted to hurt them. When later Turkish soldiers wanted to sack the city, the judge rode out in this kaftan. Amazingly, all the Turks paid respect immediately and left the city alone.”

The city survived the one hundred and fifty years of Turkish rule quite intact but it was destroyed by Serbian attackers in 1707.


Castle of Cegléd,19.6641268,33822m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x474170f3f82c3f27:0xa1db3b9918ea12e7

This became a Turkish-owned town right after the capture of Szolnok in 1553. It enjoyed more peace than most because it belonged directly to the Sultan. Many area villagers flocked there to find refuge. Cold, outdoor cattle-keeping became the main source of the living.

Cegléd joined an alliance with Kecskemét and Nagykörös in the 1550s and possessed a higher level of independence and local authority. Almost everybody was a Calvinist, and they had a Reformed college as well. They also seized the Catholics’ church. The city prospered until the Fifteen Year War broke out in 1591. Due to the war, all the inhabitants ran away to Nagykőrös between 1596 and 1602. They were slowly coming back during the seventeenth century, and the economy was again flourishing but when the Turks were finally driven out, the people fled to Nagykőrös and Kecskemét in 1683. Kecskemét’s growth is a very good example how indifferent and careless the Turks had been toward these half-conquered occupied territories. Gradually they allowed the local authorities to become almost as strong as they had been in the feudal Hungarian Kingdom. Kecskemét finally regained the right of punishment and granting pardon in the county. The Turks retained only the collection of the ever-increasing taxes. The Turks expected to get “gifts” which were not included in any laws but these bribes were needed if anybody wanted to achieve anything with the officials. These gifts were offered to the offices normally once a year, even if there were not any requests or complaints to be taken care of. Regardless of the city and the region’s political masters, in the 1630s the Transylvanian prince as well as the Hungarian king, Ferdinand, had been trying to extend their authority, and they imposed their claims by issuing documents that gave noblemen they endorsed ownership of territories long occupied by the Turks. The endorsed landlords could even take their feudal gift into their possessions—partly or wholly. For example, a nobleman called János (John) Lugossy received a property near Cegléd from the Transylvanian prince. After the death of this landlord the right to the property went to his heir, Imre Bercsényi, who was able to get a confirmation of this right from the Hungarian king Ferdinand in 1636. The tax-collecting of Hungarian landlords had become a regular and accepted habit by 1630 but sometimes Hungarian soldiers had to go with the wagons. The race for the taxes was not only about mere money—the Hungarians this way could interfere with the everyday life of the sultan’s subjects.


Castle and City of Buda,18.8613312,33637m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x4741ddae1d8728f3:0xf41ed7fc34685421

Buda was the most important western frontier castle of the Ottoman Empire. Its pasha or begler bey had been the second-highest ranked person after the sultan, usually after the grand vizier. He was in charge of the Elayet of Buda—simultaneously the military commander and the leader of the civil administratio. Besides, he was authorized to conduct the diplomatic negotiations with the Habsburg powers. In the absence of the sultan or the grand vizier, the pasha of Buda was the leader of the entire Turkish army in Occupied Hungary. All the other elayets belonged under his rule. The pasha of Buda automatically received the rank of a vizier from 1623 on.

The Turks carefully built out a strong belt of castles around Buda (like Esztergom or Székesfehérvár) and established a chain of forts towards Vienna. In peaceful times, the garrison of Buda numbered two thousand soldiers, mostly Janissaries.

When the Turks seized the old royal city of Buda in 1541, they robbed the famous library of King Matthias and systematically destroyed the frescoes and sculptures of the most beautiful gothic cathedral in the center. A traveler who worked for the Fuggers, Hans Dernschwam, described the poor conditions in 1555. The environment hadn’t become any better by 1630. He wrote of it as: “The houses are collapsing one by one. There is no trace of a new construction, except some shads where one could take shelter from rain and snow. There had been great halls and stalls that now are divided into hundreds of makeshift cells made of stone, wood and clay.”

“The Turks don’t need wine-cellars so they had filled them with garbage. The houses look as they had no owner . . . they made a mosque from the Catholic church and threw the altar and the tombstones out . . . many rooms are walled in. The houses look like pigsties and they are so much built around that you couldn’t recognize the wagon-entrances because they fabricated stalls and a bazaar in front of the houses where the Turkish craftsmen sit and work according to their habits.”



This was situated across the Danube river from Buda. It was not a well-fortified settlement, but was protected by just a simple stone wall with many towers and bastions on it. Yet its defenders’ number was not small, usually between one thousand and fifteen hundred soldiers.


Castle of Szigetvár,+7900/@46.0519442,17.7539145,17274m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x47680752985296b9:0x400c4290c1e1c90

This was an important sanjak center, the southern gate of Hungary.

It was defended by Miklós (Nicholas) Zrínyi in 1566 against the army of Sultan Suleiman the Great and his one hundred thousand soldiers. Zrínyi, the great-grandfather of the Miklós (Nicholas) Zrínyi who was eleven years old at the time of the Ring of Fire, had only twenty-five hundred men but was able to hold the small castle for thirty-four days. When even the inner castle was in flames, Zrínyi led his remaining three hundred men out of the castle and died attacking the Turks. His heroic example became a legend in Hungary. It was the last siege for old Suleiman, too; he died at the castle and allegedly his heart was buried there.


There were other castles in the Occupied Lands that were of significance:

Zsámbék, Hollókő, Hatvan, Jászberény,Fenlak, Érd, Fok, Földvár, Simontornya, Kalocsa, Szekszárd, Pécs, Kaposvár, Segesd, Babócsa, and Valpó.