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Pennsylvania Clockmakers

The name of Rittenhousc is the most distinguished one connected with the history of clockmaking in Pennsylvania. David Rittenhouse was a genius and carried to perfection whatever mechanical construction he attempted. Born in 1732, April 8, at Gennantown, near Philadelphia, he worked upon his father's farm till he was nineteen years old. Then he went to Norriton, where later there were many clockmakers, and established himself at that trade, he made very accurate and fine timepieces, occasionally amusing himself with some very intricate mechanical clock like the one already mentioned. There is also a clock by him at the Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, in a case painted white.

Clockmaking was just a step in the career of Rittenhouse, for while still busy with timepieces he also made mathematical instruments. In 1770 he completed an orrery on an improved method invented by himself. In 1768 he had been made a member of the American Philosophical Society, and in 1769 he made an observation of the transit of Venus.

He was treasurer of Pennsylvania from 1777 to 1789; was professor of astronomy in Pennsylvania University from 1779 to 1782; was director of the United States Mint at Philadelphia, 1792-95. From 1790 until his death in 1796 he was president of the American Philosophical Society, and in 1795 ^e had been elected an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of London.

Another distinguished Philadelphian who combined clockmaking with other and perhaps more distinguished pursuits, was Christopher Sower. He was born in Germany in 1693. He came to Philadelphia in 1/24, but removed to Germantown in 1731. He was an uncommonly gifted man, proficient in all his various callings, and sufficiently distinguished to have left a record in any. He had graduated in medicine at Halle before he came to this country, and always kept up his profession. After moving to Germantown he conducted a large and successful farm, and not finding the two pursuits, medicine and fanning, enough, he added a third and fourth. These were paper-making and book printing. He wrote many learned treatises in German and English, and for these his reputation is more extended than for any other of his works.

He spelled his name in these more learned callings Sower. When it came to clocks he seemed to feel that the scholar should not be connected with anything so mechanical, so on these tall eight-day timepieces he spelled his name Souers. They are fine clocks and excellent timekeepers, and he might well have been proud of them. The one shown in Figure 96 belongs to the Library Company, Philadelphia.

Not only was this man author, printer, doctor, farmer, and clockmaker, but he found time to turn his attention to even lesser affairs, and to him is given the credit of inventing cast-iron stoves. He was Jack of all trades and proficient at each.

Another distinguished maker of clocks in Pennsylvania was Edward Duffield. He was born in Philadelphia County, Pa., in 1720. He was a particular friend of Benjamin Franklin, and his executor. He worked at the trade of clockmaking in Philadelphia from 1741 to 1747. When his shop was at the northwest corner of Second and Arch streets lie was much annoyed by people stopping and asking the time. At that date few persons carried watches, relying on the public timepieces. At length Duffield hit upon the expedient of making a clock with a double face so as to show north and south at once. This clock he projected out of his second story window, and he is on record as having made the first standard clock of Philadelphia.

In 1747 Duffield moved to Lower Dublin and continued to work there, and he died there in 1801. He was an excellent clockmaker, his long-case clocks with brass works still being good timekeepers. One of these long-case clocks of his is at the Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. It was made for them in 1768, and for a long time was their only timepiece.

In 1785 the city directory of Philadelphia gives the names of nineteen clock and watch makers. Ten years later there were twenty-five members of the trade settled there, and actively at work.

In May, 1835, a letter was received by the Library Company from John Child, a well-known Philadelphia clockmaker, offering to sell them a clock with an alarm arranged to ring at sundown. It was intended to have it take the place of an ancient clock which had been destroyed by fire in 1831. The clock is now placed in the gallery of the Library Company and is an excellent timekeeper.

The old clock which this one replaces stood in the Loganian Library. It was remarkable from the fact that it struck the sunset hour, which was the time for closing the library. This hour was computed by a mechanical contrivance and marked by the clock. The original clock was made by Rittenhouse, and in Matthew Carey's "Traveller's Pocket Companion," published in 1804, is mentioned as follows: "The clock gives notice by ringing an alarm every evening at the setting of the sun and winds itself up at the same time."

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