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Label

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.

Description

Octagonal brass sundial with a "v" shaped gnomon. The dial face is engraved with five concentric rings. The center features an eight-point compass rose. Four of the points are engraved with an acanthus leaf design, while the others are shaded on their right side with successively engraved vertical lines. Radiating from the inter-juncture of the base of the points is a line that extends to the first ring. Within the first ring is the denotation of eight cardinal points: "N", "NW", "W", "SW", "S", "SE", "E", "NE". Its outer edge also sports a smaller segmented band, the numbering of which does not appear to correspond to the function of the piece. The second ring is marked with fourteen arrows that mark the half-hour lines. They correspond to the position and alignment of mirrored half-hour lines that are 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 eights 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" for twenty minutes past the hour, and at the fourth is the number "40" for forty minutes past the hour. The outer edge of the fourth ring also features a smaller segmented band that further divides the hour into individual minutes. On every-other point of the octagonal face are holes where the sundial was attached to a post. The gnomon is attached to the dial face via three screws that run the bottom length of the gnomon and is stabilized by two integral corner blocks of brass, one on either side. The reverse of the sundial has an uneven surface and also features the seven holes referred to above.

Date

c. 1765


Geography


Material/Technique

Brass


Dimensions

Overall: 6 1/4 in. x 11 3/4 in. (15.88 cm x 29.85 cm)


Credit Line

Gift of Annie Burr Jennings, Vice Regent for Connecticut, 1938


Marks

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.


Object Number

W-715


Colors (Beta)


Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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