The American Telephone Journal, September 3, 1903, page 148:
THE TELEPHONE WEATHER FORECAST SERVICE
BY GEO. M. CHAPPEL, Local Forecaster, Des Moines, Iowa.
ALL Weather Bureau officials, like other wide-awake business men, take advantage of every opportunity to increase their business and to serve their patrons in the best way possible, but the Weather Bureau official works solely for the benefit of the people and not for financial gain. Ever since the U. S. Weather Service was established, it has been the aim of all officials to give as wide a distribution as possible to the information they possess, and many schemes have been inaugurated to accomplish this end. In the early days of the service, when it was under the army regime, "Farmers' Bulletins" were published at certain stations throughout the country and distributed by mail to postmasters and railroad agents that could be reached at an early hour in the morning. These bulletins contained a synopsis of the weather conditions over the whole of the country as shown by the reports of the night observations, and also the forecasts, or, as they were then called, "Probabilities," and later, "Indications" for the coming 24 or 36 hours. Upon their receipt by the railroad agents and postmaster, the bulletins were posted in conspicuous places in their respective offices for the benefit of the public. At a later date, the bulletins were superseded by the daily weather map, with which all intelligent people are familiar. We have found nothing to take the place of the weather map, but as it cannot be issued from any but regular Weather Bureau stations its use is limited to the city from which it is issued, and to a few nearby towns, high schools and colleges.
In order that the people in the rural districts and distant towns might have the benefit of the forecasts, forecast display stations were established which were furnished with a set of weather signal flags, and to which the forecasts were telegraphed at Government expense each morning, from some central Weather Bureau Station. Upon the receipt of the forecast by the displayman, the proper flags would be hoisted on a high staff to indicate the probable weather for the next 36 hours, so that every one in the town and surrounding country could see at a glance what kind of weather was expected. This feature of the service was expanded by furnishing certain displaymen, located at points having good mail facilities, with a logotype outfit and a supply of franked postal cards, addressed to the postmasters and business houses in all towns that could be reached within three or four hours.
The displayman would stamp the forecasts on the cards and dispatch them on the first departing mail train. There are about 1,000 towns in this State supplied with the daily weather forecasts in this manner, and the people appreciate the service very highly. The next step in increasing the dissemination of the forecasts was made when the Rural Free Delivery Mail Service was established. The forecasts were telegraphed to the postmasters at points having the rural service, and they were furnished with a logotype outfit and a supply of franked cards on which a copy of the forecasts were stamped, and these given to the rural carriers to deposit one in each mail box along their respective routes. This enabled us to place the forecasts at the doors of over 10,000 farmers in this State.
With the inauguration of the rural telephone lines, we were permitted to take another step and place the forecast on the inside of the door of the farmers' houses, and we are now supplying about 22,000 farmers with the forecasts each day before dinner. The service is being extended rapidly, and the demand from telephone companies and farmers is far in advance of our ability to supply the forecasts. We have, at this office, the addresses of 643 telephone companies in Iowa, and we are reliably informed that there are between 500 and 600 more that have been recently organized, and a very large majority of the whole are rural or independent lines, over which the farmers are to be reached. The Weather Bureau delivers the forecasts each morning by telegraph from Chicago to towns from which one or more rural telephone lines radiate. The telegram or a copy of the forecast being given to the chief operator at the telephone exchange, a general call is given to all telephones on all the lines at a preconcerted hour and then the forecasts are repeated to all subscribers at the same time.
The farmers are thus kept advised as to the probability of showers, thunderstorms, frosts, cold waves or snow storms, and arrange their work accordingly, and we are informed that very large quantities of hay and grain have been saved in this State during the past few weeks by the timely warning of approaching showers given by the forecasts. The distribution of the forecasts by telephone, rural free delivery and mail service is being carried on in nearly if not all the States in the Union, and all telephone companies can obtain further information by addressing a communication to the Section Director, U. S. Weather Bureau, of their respective States, or to the nearest Weather Bureau Station.