George Washington ran Mount Vernon in the same manner he managed the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and the new American government as the nation's first president: through careful time management, a close attention to detail, and a taskmaster's sense of duty. Thus it is no little surprise that Washington set the most accurate time piece available to eighteenth century Americans, a sundial, at the heart of his plantation. Mounted atop a white painted wood post in the center of the lawn in front of his mansion, the sundial was a visual reminder of the hour to all who passed it. More
Overall: 6 1/4 in. x 11 3/4 in. (15.88 cm x 29.85 cm)
Gift of Annie Burr Jennings, Vice Regent for Connecticut, 1938
On the face of the sundial are four concentric rings. The innermost ring corresponds to the eight pointed star that it surrounds, thus completing the compass rose. Each point denotes a cardinal direction from North to South, beginning at "N" and proceeding counterclockwise to: "NW", "W", "SW", "S", "SE", "E", "NE". The second ring is marked with fourteen arrows that mark the half hour lines. They correspond to the position and alignment of those featured on the third and fourth ring; each span seven eighths of the circle. The third ring encapsulates the hours of the day. Rendered in roman numerals it also spans only seven eighths of the circle and charts the time from 5:00am to 7:00pm: "V", "VI", "VIII", "IX", "X", "XI", "II", "I", "II", "III", "IIII", "V", "VI", VII". The fourth and final ring is segmented into eighty four segments that are further delineated into six ten minute intervals for each hour. At each Roman numeral is the number "60" which both represents the beginning and the culmination of an hour's time. At the second segment is the number "20", and at the fourth is the number "40". The outer edge of the fourth ring also features a smaller segmented band that further divides the hour into individual minutes.