Chronometry: Eggert and Son Marine Chronometers, New York early 1800s

Discussion in 'Chronometers' started by shetalksaboutclocks, Mar 2, 2017.

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  1. shetalksaboutclocks

    shetalksaboutclocks Registered User

    Aug 20, 2016
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    Knowing that I dabble with clocks, a member of my town's local historical society has approached me about a John Eggert that supposedly lived in my town (Maplewood, New Jersey) in the 1800s. He was locally known as a clockmaker, though in actuality he made and/or distributed marine chronometers.

    I'm looking for more information on Eggert to give to her and the local historical society, yet I'm finding information hard to find.

    What I know (but none of this has been corroborated):
    Simon Willard Jr, clockmaker, apprenticed with a D. Eggert in NY in 1828.
    Eggert Sr or Jr may have been distributing marine chronometers made by Parkinson & Frodsham in the UK.
    Dominic Eggert worked with Mark Bentley (both from Hosskirch, Baden
    Wurtemburg in Germany) in Bristol 1810-1814 before emigrating to the U.S.
    His shop was located at 239 Pearl St in New York.

    I have a photo from a US Naval book that says an Eggert chronometer was the first one purchased by the US government
    [​IMG]The book is available on Google and is titled: Catalogue of the Exhibit of the U. S. Navy Department: World's
    Columbian Exposition, 1893

    Thanks for any insight anyone can offer!!

     

    Attached Files:

  2. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Sep 5, 2008
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    #2 burt, Mar 3, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2017
    Maybe this can get you started?

    Marvin Whitney writes in his book "The Ships Chronometer":"The first American-made chronometer purchased by the U.S. Navy was D.Eggert,New York,Number 106,bought in 1839 for $300.00". Dominic Eggert was born in 1785 in the town of Strasburg,Germany. It appears early in his life he had a mechanical aptitude and a interest in timepieces. He leaves as a young man for Bristol, England as this was the best place for learning the watchmaking trade and England being a maritime power would depend on the chronometer trade business. At age 33 and after completing his apprenticeship he moves to New York City and opens his own shop located in his residence on Verey Street. Shortly later he goes to work for B&S Demilt of N.Y. the first and largest importer of chronometers. In 1839 after the death of and retirement of those previous owners he takes over the business located at 233 Pearl Street. Dominic, now loosing his eye site, in 1848 turns over the business to his son Charles. Charles moves the firm to 239 Pearl St. and now renames the firm D.Eggert and Son. In 1874 they move to 74 Wall St. Dominic interestingly takes on Simon Willard Jr. as an apprentice. He being the son of one of America's foremost clock makers.Dominic dies at age 87 in 1872. Dominic is reported to be the first in N.Y.C. to make a chronometer from the plates up. He also made the first pocket chronometer.When Charles took over the firm they become agents for Parkinson and Frodsham. Whinety goes on to explain that while the firm was capable of manufacturing their own instruments most of what they retailed were made by the P&F with Eggert and Son,N.Y. signed on the dial and movement. Both chronometers appear to be identical in construction.
    P&F chronometers appear to be easily identified as they are smaller in size than the standard 2 day or 56 hour chronometer.

    If your really interested you can get a copy of Whitney's book and read between the lines as I only mapped out some of their history. The book is a good read as you can truly get the feel of what was going on with America's chronometer making and the interesting interaction with the United States Naval Observatory one of its biggest customers. One entity seems to drive the other all in a quest for perfect navigational time keeping at sea.

    Good luck and I hope this information benefits the society.
     
  3. shetalksaboutclocks

    shetalksaboutclocks Registered User

    Aug 20, 2016
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    Thanks so much Burt, that is a huge help. I have conferred with the local historian and I think either she or I will check out Whitney's book. We are considering also reaching out to nearby Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ to see if they have archives of local history. I think Whitney's book is a great place to start though.

    Thanks!

    Margaret
     
  4. burt

    burt Registered User
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    #4 burt, Mar 11, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2017
    Margaret,

    I think the key to this mystery is to link your John Eggert to either Dominic or Charles,and if you can, you have a pretty good story line going. I asked a friend to help in that matter but have not heard back from him. Even Whitney wrote" there is little know about the lives of most of these important individuals" (American chronometer makers) so if your "John" is related I think your pretty lucky.

    burt
    PS: you are very welcome!

    For the others who may be following this thread when Whitney wrote that the P&F chronometers were smaller Mercer in his book notes they were 64mm in size as to 70mm.
     
  5. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Margaret,

    Are you positive about the John Eggret information being accurate? I ask as the information I received doesn't link that name to any of the Eggert chronometer makers. No John Eggert listed as having anything to do with watches living in N.J. during the time period. From the U.S. Census:

    There are listed a John B. and a John B. Jr. in New Jersey,at that time period but they are brewers.

    Dominic B. Eggert in 1870 is listed living in Essex County South Orange,N.J. age 83 with wife Mary 78, along with another Dominic (Jr.) age 40 listed as a watch maker.

    Dominic (Jr.) in 1880 is listed as 50 and single,a Nautical Instrument Maker living with his nephew,who is the head of the household.The nephew is Alexander Gunning,a salesman. They live in Essex County,South Orange N.J.

    Looks like Dominic (Jr.) is a chronometer maker who dies in 1910 in the Bronx,N.Y. and doesn't appear he had any children.

    Well again..... good luck to you with your research and I hope all works out for you. At least you have a fair amount of information to consider in your project. Sometimes these tings work out and then again it doesn't always lead to the conclusion you want.
     
  6. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Well it seems there is some disparity between what Whitney writes and the information contained in the U.S. Census. So what does a researcher do? When George and I were doing the Adams and Perry story we had a rule we would not change an others writings unless we found at least two sources that disputed it. The U.S. Census is usually a pretty accurate document providing you can read the writing. Most all is in script and hard to read. We also don't know the source Whitney used for his genealogy information.Nothing against Whitney, as he is probably the most talented and experience person, to author a book on chronometers but I have found errors in his family history findings. When doing my Negus chronometer story, Whitney said in his book, ""Thomas Stewart Negus, who received his training in England,immigrated to America because he was intrigued with America's development of finer tools and machines which gave artisans greater control over their products". That sounds like a pretty good story except I found the boys were born right here in the good ole U.S.A. My point being sometimes it's just not easy to get to the truth and why I say it takes a lot of work to do a good and accurate article. Now, do I get everything correct in my own work? Probably not, but I do try. Here is a Civil War draft document that along with the 1880 U.S. Census which shows both the Negus brothers were born in N.Y.C.

    J.D. Negus civil war.jpg
     
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