Monday, February 17, 2014

Precious Time: Thomas Jefferson’s Astronomical Clock, 1812

Thomas Voight
Mahogany, Walnut
The third President of the United States was a scientific kind of guy and liked to be as precise about everything as possible—this included the time of day. He didn’t feel that everyone needed to be as precise as he was. For example, the clock on the outside of Monticello only has an hour hand because Jefferson didn’t think that the field workers needed to know the minutes, but that’s another issue.

Jefferson always wanted an Astronomical Clock—
like King George III, darn it! In fact, he even commissioned a young clockmaker, David Rittenhouse (no relation to Ulrika) to make one for him. But, there was a little historical hiccup which prevented the swift completion of the clock—that pesky Revolutionary War.

It wasn’t until 1812 that Jefferson finally got his Astronomical Clock. This tall-case mahogany and walnut clock by Thomas Voight told the time, the lunar phase and the day of the week. It was purposely made without a striking mechanism so that it could be used in Jefferson’s bedroom without distrubing his sleep. It’s pretty, but not too exceptional. However, it seemed to please the President a great deal

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