Chronometry: Alexander Cameron , Maker to the Russian Discovery Ships.

Discussion in 'Chronometers' started by Ralph, Oct 23, 2015.

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  1. Ralph

    Ralph Registered User
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    Jan 22, 2002
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    This is a chronometer I bought years ago from a Mr Berberdick, a NAWCC member and chronometer enthusiast. He was an interesting man and had compiled a list of chronometers, w/serial numbers, that he had seen in person, in catalogs, in books... etc. He used to sell the list on a floppy disk.

    Regardless, I had this chronometer for many years and wondered what the connection was to the discovery ships. I recently found some advertising for this firm that specifically indicated that he made chronometers for the Russian discovery ship market.

    I also have a token somewhere. When I find it, I'll add an image of it.

    cameronwatchpaper.jpg IMG_6708.jpg IMG_6709.jpg IMG_6711.jpg IMG_6713.jpg IMG_6714.jpg IMG_6715.jpg IMG_6716.jpg

    Ralph Cameron.JPG
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

    Mar 4, 2003
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    Nice chronometer Ralph. Great to have such wonderful documentation. Now to discover its provenance. Thanks for sharing.
    Paul
     
  3. MartyR

    MartyR Moderator
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    Dec 16, 2008
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    Tony Mercer lists Alexander Cameron as a chronometer maker in Dundee (and also in London) from 1823-37 and Mercer also confirms that Cameron had a sidereal clock and a transit instrument which enabled him to rate chronometers himself. Dundee was a major port on the east coast of Scotland "facing" the Baltic Sea, so very likely a useful port of call for Russian ships on their way to explore the Arctic and particularly those seeking the North West Passage. The terminology on the dial of the chronometer is interestingly couched - it does not say "By appointment to the Russian Imperial Navy" - which doubtless it would if Cameron had been so appointed - but suggests simply that he supplied chronometers on an occasional basis to private vessels being hired by the Russian Navy to carry out some exploratory voyages. I know nothing about how the Russians organised their global explorations, and it would be fascinating to research that!

    It seems unlikely that Cameron actually made this chronometer. The watch paper in your first photo states surprisingly honestly that Cameron was buying chronometers in London and then rating and selling them. The fact that the chronometer was later repaired by Thomas Mercer may suggest that Mercer made this piece.

    I cannot find any reference to Cameron having an establishment in Liverpool although I have found a suggestion that Alexander Cameron "who may be the same man" worked at 54 South Castle St, Liverpool from 1848-57. He does not appear in any trade directories at this address. I am dubious about the last two photos above which show advertising flyers for "Cameron" (no "Alexander") with the Royal Crest. Advertising showing both the crest of the Royal family (the first also showing that of the Prince of Wales) would have been absolutely taboo in the 18th century unless the advertiser held a Royal Warrant (which Cameron did not). That was strictly illegal and would have destroyed the reputation of any commercial concern in those days ... and to a lesser extent even today!

    It is a fair assumption that the Liverpool Cameron was the Dundee Cameron, and I assume that he (or more likely his successors) opened a retail shop in Liverpool. The second flyer dates to some time after 1845 and that agrees with the 1848-57 listing. It would seem natural for a ship's chronometer specialist would have a shop in a major port such as Liverpool.
     
  4. Ralph

    Ralph Registered User
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    Jan 22, 2002
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    #4 Ralph, Oct 24, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2015
    I always thought the Liverpool Cameron was a different Cameron, but the Liverpool ad mentioning Alexander Cameron convinced me otherwise. There were two pages to the ad. The second page associates Alexander with the Castle address.

    Mr Berberdick told me that he was the one who had the chronometer repaired by Mercer in 1983. It was probably the basis for it to be included in the Tony Mercer CMotW listing.

    Thomas Mercer Chronometers was founded in 1856.

    Regards, Ralph
     
  5. Ralph

    Ralph Registered User
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    Jan 22, 2002
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    Here are the images of the Cameron token.

    James Cameron token obverse.jpg James Cameron token reverse.jpg

    Ralph
     
  6. MartyR

    MartyR Moderator
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    Excuse my ignorance, Ralph, but what were those tokens used for :???:

    I love the collection of ephemera you have built around the chronometer :D Do you hav any history of the "Russian discovery ships"?
     
  7. Ralph

    Ralph Registered User
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    I believe they were used in lieu of money. Maybe only with the merchant identified on the token. The milled edge does not have a value, though I saw where size or material might imply a value... farthing, half-penny... etc.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Token_coin

    Ralph
     

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