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USS Monitor’s Engine Room Clock – Part 1

The USS Monitor’s engine room clock will be exhibited in a new display beginning March 5th 2010 at The Mariners’ Museum’s USS Monitor Center. Although the sturdy brass case and silvered face of Monitor’s engine room clock went on display with the opening of the USS Monitor Center in 2007, the mechanical heart of the clock, its movement, required more time in conservation treatment due to its complex nature and numerous small parts.

The clock and its movement were recovered along with the Monitor’s engine in 2001 and removed for separate treatment. Colleen began conservation work with examination, including thermal imaging and x-radiography with the assistance of the Northrop Grumman’s non-destructive testing department. X-rays showed that many of the internal workings of the clock were preserved intact beneath a thick layer of corrosion and calcium crust called concretion. In 2007 Eric began the process of studying and disassembling the movement with the help of Hampton Roads area clock experts Jim and Roger, who generously volunteered their time and expertise. By studying each part and comparing it to examples of contemporary marine clocks from the late 1850s and 1860s, Eric, Jim, and Roger were able to correctly identify the movement used in Monitor’s clock and the parts that were missing due to corrosion.

No identifying marks could be found on the outside of the artifact, but an exciting discovery was made during disassembly of the escapement mechanism. The maker’s name, ‘V. Giroud’ (for Victor Giroud) was found on the inside of the escapement plate. According to Jim, Victor Giroud Sr. and Jr. were well known clock makers in New York City from the 1840s onward and were awarded several patents, including one in 1863 for ‘Improvement in Marine Clocks’. A number of other Civil War US Naval clocks utilized Giroud movements, including the clock from the USS Ironsides in the collection of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum in Norfolk, Virginia. Jim and Roger have examined many of the seven known examples of 1860s Victor Giroud clocks and were able to provide invaluable assistance in understanding the workings of the Monitor’s clock.

More on the clock coming soon!

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