Marine: Negus Marine Chronometer

Discussion in 'Chronometers' started by Jerry Freedman, Mar 1, 2006.

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  1. Jerry Freedman

    Jerry Freedman Registered User
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    #1 Jerry Freedman, Mar 1, 2006
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    I just acquired T.S. & J. D. Negus #1957. I have read Whitney and Mercer but have not been able to find the answers I would like to have.

    Who made the movement and when?

    The chronometer has a Kuhlberg balance but does not use a reverse fusee.My guess would be Johannsen or Mercer, but as I say, I am just guessing.

    Maybe David Grace could check in here.

    Jerry Freedman
     
  2. Dr. Jon

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    #2 Dr. Jon, Mar 2, 2006
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 22, 2015
    Hi

    Almost all Negus Chronometers of this era were made by Mercer. I am traveling but when I get homew I will loook it up in Tony Mercer's book.
     
  3. D.H. Grace

    D.H. Grace Guest

    #3 D.H. Grace, Mar 3, 2006
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 22, 2015
    Jerry,

    I'm not sure I'm going to be able to tell you much about the instrument off the top of my head. Frank Beberdick recorded seeing it for sale at the Chicago Midwest Regional in July of 1991. That's all I have in my records about your particular instrument.

    Without seeing pictures, all I can offer is a bit of guesswork. The serial number falls at about the turn of the 20th century. Negus seems to have retailed instruments supplied primarily by Kullberg and Johannsen during that period. Yours was probably made by one or the other. Mercer-made Negus instruments come in a few years later.

    From a description alone it's impossible for me to tell who supplied your machine. I've seen Johannsen-made chronometers with Kullberg's later style balances for secondary compensation and Kullberg-made instruments without a reverse fusee.

    Are there any markings on the frame? They might help shed more light.

    Or, if you're feeling ambitious, the Guildhall Library owns most of the Kullberg books. You might be able to find the order for your instrument there. Unfortunately, Roger Carrington, the wonderful English researcher who had the most experience working with the Kullberg records, passed away last year and I don't know anyone else who might do a little proxy looking for you.

    Sorry I can't shed more light on the instrument.

    Regards,

    David Grace
     
  4. Tom McIntyre

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    #4 Tom McIntyre, Mar 3, 2006
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 22, 2015
    David,

    I have Jerry Laux' transcriptions of the Kullberg workbooks with Kullberg numbers 0740 through 9868. In the retailer field Negus does not appear.

    Might Jerry have overlooked something or did Negus buy through a third party? By contrast, there are lots of entries for Bliss.
     
  5. Ralph

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    #5 Ralph, Mar 3, 2006
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    Frank,

    It is not made by Mercer. The Mercer machines are in the 7000+ serial number range.

    Ralph
     
  6. Negus Marine Chromometer

    Frank,
    I think that Ralph meant to say that the Mercer chronometers supplied to Negus were in the 7000 range.
    Peter
     
  7. D.H. Grace

    D.H. Grace Guest

    Negus Marine Chromometer

    Tom,

    Thanks for the Kullberg record info. That's very interesting. Even though the Kullberg records at the Guildhall are incomplete, I'm sure Jerry didn't mistakenly leave out a single retailer. I had assumed that Kullberg was supplying Negus. Unfortunately, I based my assumption on the few instruments that I'd had a chance to take apart, a group of Negus pocket chronometers ordered from Kullberg in 1883, and other people's recollections of the Negus records when they were in the possession of Chuck Low, Max's son. None of these sources is strong enough to support my broader statement.

    Since the Negus brothers hit the ground running as soon as Thomas arrived in New York, I've always suspected that they were working primarily as retail agents for a single English manufacturer. Since, according to Roger, Bliss was one of Kullberg's biggest American customers, I guess it would make sense that Negus would represent another maker.

    I wish I knew where Tony Mercer drew the evidence for his statement that Negus used Johannsen frames until switching to Mercer from 1904 to 1909 (when the US Navy began buying heavily again), but it seems plausible. Unfortunately, Tony's serial number jumble for Negus in Chronometer Makers of the World makes the transitions needlessly confusing. No. 1593 is the only Negus instrument he attaches a firm date to, apparently because it appeared in the post 1873 Mercer repair books which contain more info, presumably including occassional spring signatures. The rest of the instruments he records either came from the pre-73 books, or from the Mercer production books. The latter numbers are what has caused confusion in this thread. Tony doesn't list the Negus numbers that Mercer applied to the dials. Instead, the serial numbers in the 7000 range are Mercer's production numbers, which may or may not be stamped on the frames of the instruments according to the purchaser's instructions. If Jerry can find a number in the 7000 range stamped on the pillar plate, under the blance cock, on the back side of the dial, or anywhere else on his instrument, then that would suggest Mercer manufacture and provide a dating means.

    Negus' serial numbers for box chronometers stayed sequential, apparently starting from 500 and running to around 3000 by the late 1920's. As far as I can tell, the US Navy's purchase records and the Negus firm's published testimonials provide the best means of assigning dates across the range.

    Oh, and Negus used a different number series for the pocket chronometers that they retialed.

    Regards,

    David
     
  8. Jerry Freedman

    Jerry Freedman Registered User
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    I have looked for marks, but have not taken the chronometer apart. The number 1957 is on the dial, the frame and the bowl. I am going to send Tom three picures, and hopefully he can post them here.
     
  9. Tom McIntyre

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    Negus Marine Chromometer

    Jerry Laux transcriptions of Kullberg have an earliest date of 1868 for 1455 and a latest date of 1943 for 9788. There are many pieces without dates and the dates are not sequential with the numbers as you might expect.

    Fields available include retailer, case maker, dial maker and supplier (for later items). I have been trying to get this information on-line for about a year with no success (but not a lot of effort either.)

    Here are the pictures of Jerry's machine.

    168.jpg 169.jpg 170.jpg

    For comparison, here are pictures of my slightly earlier example without the nice balance.
    171.jpg 172.jpg
    The funky piece of brass on my movement is a part of a mechanically sound, but cosmetically badly repaired detent.
     
  10. Ralph

    Ralph Registered User
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    Negus Marine Chromometer

    Thanks Peter. Yes, that was what I was inferring, based on the Brant Wright book by Tony Mercer, Mercer Chronometers.

    Under T. S. Negus, he has 4 notes listed under history.

    1. Worked with brother J.D. Negus
    2. Washington Observatory Trials 1886: 47
    pieces tested, of which 12 were recommended
    for purchase (8 by the brother Negus, 3 by
    John Bliss, one by William Bond & Son). At
    that time the U.S. Navy paid £70 for the top
    chronometers and £60 for the rest.
    3. Bought by M. Low, New York in 1962
    4. Established in 1848

    The listing continues with serial numbers and dates, beginning 1904 #7162 ending with 1908 #8140, then 1909: 825-26 (? my question.. )

    I'll post an image of the listing later....

    Ralph 173.jpg 174.jpg
     
  11. D.H. Grace

    D.H. Grace Guest

    Negus Marine Chromometer

    Jerry,

    Thanks for adding the pictures. It's an interesting piece. I'd be particularly curious to see the back side of the dial. I've never seen a Negus dial with the style of engraving that appears on yours.

    The block letter name line looks almost normal, but the location and serial number line is very unusual. On every other Negus I've seen, "New York" and "No" are in Gothic script. Many have engraving flourishes above and below this line, although that practice died out in the early 20th century. Also, when there are Arabic minute numerals present on the dial, the engraving style of the serial number always matches. Your minute numerals are upright block, which I've never seen on a Negus before, and the serial number is script. Very unusual.

    I can think of at least three possible explanations for this:

    1. The dial wasn't done by the usual Negus engraver.

    2. It might be one of the newly engraved dials that seem to be coming out of Poland or Russia recently.

    3. It was engraved and put on the instrument by another genuine retailer who bought and sold the chronometer. Bliss did quite a bit of that (they didn't redial this instrument though). The Bliss records suggest that redialling was a common practice. They'd buy a used Bond for $30, for instance, and then put a Negus dial signature on it so that they could turn around and sell it two days later for $250. If they were redialling a particularly nice instrument, they'd add their own name to the dial. The turn-around time between purchase and resale was sometimes surprisingly fast. I assume this is one of the reasons they changed the names and numbers. They wouldn't want captains to recognize the instrument they'd recently traded in and realize they'd been thoroughly fleeced.

    Tom,

    Are you looking at all of Kullberg's production numbers as a single number set, or did Jerry separate them as they were separated in the books--i.e. pocket watches, box chronometers, etc?

    If Jerry grouped them all together, that might explain the seeming lack of chronological correspondence to the sequential order. The missing books from Kullberg's early years might also explain some of the jumps.

    Within the box chronometer serial number set, Roger and I didn't noticed any randomness, but my sample is tiny. I can say that the dozens supplied to Bliss were all neatly sequential on both ends.

    Ralph,

    Thanks for the reference and pictures. They confirm the uselessness of the info in Chronometer Makers of the World. The serial numbers listed are simply the numbers those instruments would have carried had they been dialled as Mercer chronometers. Since Negus submitted a larger number of chronometers for trial at the Naval Observatory than Mercer supplied, not all of the chronometers retailed by Negus between 1904 and 1909 were "Mercer" chronometers. And none of these Negus instruments bore serial numbers outside of the usual sequence--i.e. no 7000's. That means there's no way to tell the "Mercer" Negus instruments from the non-Mercer instruments just by looking at the dials or by date sequence. All Tony's numbers tell us about Negus is how many instruments Negus purchased from Mercer during those years, which is fine for the Mercer story but not terribly informative on the Negus side.

    Regards,

    David
     
  12. Jeff Hess

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    Negus Marine Chromometer

    While we are on the subject, (and so many of your guys are so well versed in this) does anyone have any insite as to what movemetn NEgus used in their pcoket watches?

    I have owned some beauties and they are never marked other than "TS and JC Negus New york and while very very high grade and "American-esque" in finish, appear to be VERY Swissin origin. Kind of cross between a Patek and a very high grade Longines.

    (The most notable one I traded off had an inscription noting a President and sea rescue_

    Any ideas on who made these movements?
    JPH
     
  13. Jerry Freedman

    Jerry Freedman Registered User
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    David:

    I would be willing to take the dial off if I can get a little guidance. If I remove the hands and the three screws at 13,33 and 54 minutes will the dial come off. Also, is it pried off by using the slot at 18 minutes. I don't want to butcher this thing.

    One last thing, would you be willing to send me your e-mail address. If so, I can send you some images of a Cogdon chronometer that J.
    Betts dates to the 1860's.

    Jerry
     
  14. Tom McIntyre

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    Negus Marine Chromometer

    David,

    Jerry Laux produced two sets of numbers called early and late. I normally look at the merged set of numbers. They contain marine chronometers, pocket watches and clocks.

    I will put a bit more effort into getting them on-line. They will eventually be at jellyrocks.org. ;)
     
  15. Jerry Freedman

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    David: I now have the dial off of the chronometer. I could not get the indicator hand off before and just stopped. Tom suggested that there maybe a wheel on the underside of the dial and he was right. The dial lifts off with the indicator hand still attached. The back of the dial shows nothing more than the serial number of the chronometer. So we have matching numbers everywhere. Dial back and front, frame amd tub. The plate under the dial has the initials JP. I assume that this is the frame maker. No other marks or data anywhere on the movement.
     
  16. Jerry Freedman

    Jerry Freedman Registered User
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    Frank: After searching my books, I would guess that the JP stands for Joseph Preston of Prescot. He was a supplier of ebauches to most of the known chronometer makers.
     
  17. D.H. Grace

    D.H. Grace Guest

    Negus Marine Chromometer

    Jerry,

    Congratulations on getting the dial off.

    I've never seen Poole ebauche markings, so I don't know what they'd look like.

    I have seen quite a few very nice frames supplied by Joseph Preston that were stamped JP on the dial side of the pillar plate. Preston supplied Kullberg, among others, and this might be what led Whitney to assume that Kullberg supplied Negus.

    In any event, you have confirmed that your chronometer was built on a Lancashire frame. And although it doesn't sound like there were any finishing or repair marks on the underside of the dial, the serial number stamp found there is what you'd expect. If the number styles match those found elsewhere, that means that the dial is correct/original. That's good to know!

    The finish on the dial side of the pillar plate can also provide clues about the condition of the rest of the chronometer. The dial side of the plate originally would have been finished to the same standard as the rest of the frame. Since the dial protects this side, it rarely gets fingerprinted or dirty and is rarely cleaned as aggressively as the exposed parts of the frame. Thus, the condition of the rest of the brass work can be judged by comparing it to what you see on the dial side of the pillar plate. The pictures you've provided suggest that your chronometer is in very nice condition.

    When looking for markings, did you examine the brass edge closely? Sometimes repairers made notes there. The other place I've occasionally found interesting notes without disassembling a movement is on the underside of the sight ring in the bezel. As with the dial markings, these notes can be so faint that they're very easily missed. Use a strong loupe and good raking light, then look for glints.

    If you find markings that you can't decipher, try copying them on a piece of paper. I'm not the best at working signatures out this way, but some people have lots of success with it. Plus it allows you to share the inscription with fellow puzzlers.

    One last Negus-specific question. Does yours have little gold cups fitted to any of the arbors? Negus 1492 is sitting on a table in front of me right now, and it has a small gold cup fitted to the balance staff right below the rollers. It's an interesting peculiarity that I've only seen on Negus chronometers. On 1492, they did it to keep oil from migrating into the escapement. I don't know if Negus fitted them to any other arbors, or when they started and stopped the practice. I'd be interested to hear about others.

    Regards,

    David
     
  18. Jerry Freedman

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    David: The chronometer is not with me at the moment. I can tell you that the brass under the dial was bright and looks good. I decided to have the chronometer cleaned and that is where it is at. It will be a number of weeks before I get it back.
     
  19. D.H. Grace

    D.H. Grace Guest

    Negus Marine Chromometer

    Jerry,

    Did you tell whomever you've sent it to that you would be interested in hearing about any and all markings they find?

    If they're cleaning it for you, then they'll have the fusee apart and the spring out of the barrel. They'll also be able to look under the foot of the balance cock. Those are all classic places for finding notations.

    Not everyone writes down what they find unless you ask them to. It's not difficult, and it doesn't slow down the work, it's just that not that many people seem to ask.

    Regards,

    David
     
  20. AlexB

    AlexB Guest

    Negus Marine Chromometer

    Hello all, I'm new to this board. I was searching for information about the TS and JD Negus Break Circuit Chronometer #1744 that I just uncovered in a basement of our museum and came across your most informative discussion. Can anyone point me at where to go to find out more? The beautiful rosewood box has all the instructions inside, and as we've been a public observatory since 1883, I'm assuming this was used by a former director for eclipse expeditions or something.
    Anyway, any thoughts, including where I could get a value from so I can make sure its covered on our insurances, would be most welcome.
    Alex Barnett
    Chabot Space and Science Center, Oakland.
     
  21. Dr. Jon

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    Negus Marine Chromometer

    Hi and welcome to the NAWCC board. For a start check The Ship's Chronometer by Marvin Whitney who credits Negus with inventing the break circuit survey chronometer. This book also has information on managing chronometers and a lot of their history. The instructions may assume you know things you don't so its very important to check a reliable source such as Whitney.

    We don't do values here and we would have to see it to estimate if we did. Generally a lot depends on the condition of the movement and the box.

    You can get values by checking the auction houses. Antiquorum has an on-line catalog that lets you look up previous sales. Jones and Horan also publish prices realized than they have lots of pictures. If you "google" Negus and find Jones-Horan in the URL it will take you to previous auction result. Sothebys also has an on-line data base but it harder to use.

    This thread started with a query as who made a particular Negus chronometer and this subject applies to the one you have.


    Chronometers are wondrous instruments and well worth learning to handle properly. The action is fascinating to watch and a display of the moement running should generate a lot of interest. Be sure to read and understand Whitney before trying to run it.
     
  22. hollyrae131

    hollyrae131 New Member

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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    i have a seiko marine chromometer qm-2o i dont know anything about this it was passed to me.Can anyone give me some insite...thnx
     
  23. Jim Haney

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  24. burt

    burt Registered User
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    #24 burt, Feb 1, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2015
    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    According the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History the "Negus Company was described as one of the most prolific American chronometer manufactures up through the first quarter of the 20th century". As I soon hope to be acquiring one of their marine chronometers I wanted to learn more about the Negus family and their business.
    After consulting the usual references on the subject, Whitney, Mercer and others and this board, I was a little bit disappointed on the amount of information that I found. If your researching, the American firms of Bond or Bliss there seems to be plenty of informantion available. With the help of a friend we decided to look into the company and see what we could come up with.

    Thomas Negus, father the companies founder Thomas Stewart Negus, was born in 1800, in Bedfordshire, England. He would immigrate to America in 1812. His mother Jane Davidson. born in 1801, came to America, as an infant, from, New Castle Northumberland, in northern England.
    The founding member of the firm, in 1848, was Thomas Stewart Negus (b.5/1828-d.3-17-1894) began selling marine navigation instruments in New York City. According to Whitney his brother John David came to America and joined the firm in 1853. The family historian, Bett Childs who is the great, great granddaughter of John Davidson Negus, records that both sons were born in Lower Manhattan,New York. She doesn't sate the year which the younger brother joined the firm. John D.(b.12-7-1832-d.9-26-1890)maybe did join the firm in 1853 but more than likely because of his age and not his coming to America.
    Family history also records the first store location at 100 Wall St and not the location reported by Whitney or Mercer. The business first listed as Thos.S. Negus & Co. sold chronometers, octants (early sextants),sextants and compasses and other nautical navigation equipment. Sometime in the 1860's the family history reports that the company changed it's name to the familiar T.S.& J.D. Negus. According to Naval Observatory records the firm sold a variety of instruments to the Navy.

    In 1890 the company moved to 140 Walter St., in Lower Manhattan, NYC. John Stewart Negus (B.1858-D.1944) would take over the company in 1894, upon the death of his uncle Thomas S. On May 1,1937 the company would move to their final location at 69 Pearl St. That same year they would purchase the Ritchie Compass company which they would sell to the Sherman Brothers in 1953.John Clement Beebe Negus (b.1886-d.1961) first became a partner then headed the firm from 1944 when his father died. John Stewart Negus II (b.1923-d.19630), the last to run the firm, after his fathers death.

    Here the company history ends in the early 1960's. No doubt the death of J.S. Negus II and the decline in demand for the instrumentation which they sold.
    As a side note I thought in interesting when on, August 19th,1956, the New York Times listed an ad that the firm of John Bliss (Negus was at 69 Pearl St.)was going out of business at their 84 Pearl St. location. tnsil14-52543-0001.jpg NY Times 8-19-1956.jpg
     
  25. topspin

    topspin Registered User

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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    I can't help being reminded of the time 'negus' turned up in a spelling bee. (Find it on youtube.) It's a proper, respectable, dictionary word - which, unfortunately, when read out in just the wrong accent, sounds more than a little bit like a certain other word...
    There was also an Arthur Negus who for many years was one of the regular experts on Antiques Roadshow. I wonder if he was in any way related to the chronometer makers?
     
  26. Dr. Jon

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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    The company continued for some time as Negus and Lowe. My quick check showed this was family connection. I recall speaking with Chuck Lowe on the phone about repair of a Negus chronometer. That would have been in the mod 1970's.
     
  27. burt

    burt Registered User
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    #27 burt, Feb 1, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2015
    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Doc,

    Your probably correct as Whitney writes ""Max Low, of 44 Fulton Street, purchased the firm in 1962". What he doesn't say is what it was named?
    I just did a quick check of Whitney and he writes that Max had two sons, Jack and Charles. " In the early 1940's,when Max brought chronometers to the observatory, Charles, just a youngster then, traveled with him".

    It's my understanding that (Negus) in the 1950's until sold they operated under the trade name of "Negus".
     
  28. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Whitney, has Max Low (no e) being born in Austria in 1889. He came to America in 1910, buy first training under an uncle in Poland then going to Bienne, Switzerland. If you were referring to a family connection with Negus, that might be a stretch? His specialty was in the repair of repeaters. His shop was at 44 Fulton St., NYC and it's written that most of the chronometer instruments he delivered to the observatory were for the Maritime Commission. When he died the firm, (M. Low,) was moved to 110 Hudson St. where their primary business was real estate.
     
  29. Dr. Jon

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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    My telephone conversation with Chuck Low preceded the internet by a bit so I did not know how to spell his name. I got the phone number from somewhere which would have had the correct spelling but that was a long time ago. I did a quick check before posting and the name "Lowe" came up as someone who married into the family so I assumed that the later Low was the same family and spelling. I did not find the Low name in my quick check before posting.
     
  30. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    This I think is testament as to the quality of the Negus Chronometer in the opinion of the U.S. Naval Observatory. From their Official Records at Washington D.C.

    Report of the Superintendent of the Naval Observatory to the Chief of the Bureau of Navigation Dated Oct 6,1871 signed B.F. Sands, Rear Admiral,Supt. U.S. Naval Observatory

    "In issuing our chronometers it is our custom to give one of the chronometers, made by the Negus & CO.. New York, as a standard, on account of their excellence, and two others of different manufacture". That is in issuing the normal compliment of three chronometers per ship one would be a Negus as the quality standard and the other two for comparison for time keeping.

    In looking through, the N.O. Records on line, ( 1870 -1889) and many pages of chronometer "performance for recertification" of repaired instruments it appears that the Negus instruments were the overwhelming choice at the observatory for the U. S.Navy.
     
  31. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Burt, I certainly hope we can keep this thread going. This is one area of horology we not only can research the technical aspects of the item but also its use in naval and public history. To think that people traveled the world on land and sea using a few astronomical devices/charts and a chronometer. Today we are lost without our GPS devices. I have several deck watches and boxed chronometers and would love to know where they have been.
    Paul
     
  32. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Paul,

    I do also. As many of our members are chronometer collectors, of long standing and experience, I'm hoping they will share their knowledge and participate in this thread. These instruments certainly hold a significant place in the development of civilization and exploration.
     
  33. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Appreciating and collecting these historical instruments is certainly not a new idea as illustrated by this report from the U.S. Naval Observatory records.

    To : The Superintendent of the Naval Observatory, Washington D.C. C.H. Davis, Captain U.S.N. July 28,1902

    In part: "I beg to call to your attention to the small but interesting collection of old historic chronometers on hand, the nucleus of what I hope to become a large and important museum of great interest to visitors to the observatory". "I need mention only a few.....to illustrate the value......intimately associated with.....the officers, ships and history of the Navy".

    Negus 1256 from the Vandalia, lost in a hurricane at Samoa

    Negus 1366 the chronometer of the Polaris, Captain Hall, lost in the Artic Ocean.it was buried 4 years in the snow and then recovered and returned by Captain Nares, of the British Navy

    Negus 1630 with Delong (escapement?) on board Jannette when lost in the Artic Ocean, recovered, taken to the Lena Delta by Melville

    Other historic chronometers by Eggert, Bliss, Poole and Dent were also mentioned in this report.

    Edward Everett Hayden
    Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy
    Department of Chronometers and Time Service
     
  34. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    I think I found some solid information which may help those who collect the Negus chronometers with dating their instruments. In reading this thread, David Grace points out, that Mercer in his book only assigned a date to one Negus chronometer that is #1593 at 1873.That's really not a bad start.

    Whitney,in his book, cites a letter from a Rear Admiral Charles H.Davis, written at the end of the Civil War (1865) to the Negus brothers. "With reference to the superiority of your chronometers in maintaining regularity of rate under the effect of the concussion of heavy ordnance, there are, in addition to the no.1254 of your manufacture, which received a severe trial on board the Monitor Montauk,nos. 1103 and 1226 from the Iron clads Miantonomah and Mahopac, no.1386 from the Seneca, Wooden Gunboat,no. 1311 the Casco, and no. 1231 from the Sopronia,which have preformed so perfectly that they will be reissued as first class instruments". This I think would indicate these chronometers to be manufactured in the circa. early 1860's to be used in service during the conflict. As an additional bonus we have the report that the chronometers kept time well even during use of the heavy guns firing on board and no doubt creating much vibration and the most unaccommodating place for a delicate timekeeper. We now have a general range of 11XX-13XX for "Civil War" Negus period chronometers.

    In going over the N.O. records/reports that I found, I also came across this report of purchase. A Charles E. Fox, Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy assigned,as Head of Department Chronometers and Time service, Naval Observatory, the purchase of 10 chronometers in 1897. Reported purchased "new" between Jan.1 and June 15,1897 were Negus 1754,1800,1810,1833,1849,1872,1873,1874 as well as H.H. Heinrich no. 994 and 1021. It appears that the Navy purchased in smaller lots in those years.

    I also read in this thread that the Negus brothers started with chronometer #500. I was wondering if anyone has actually seen a three digit Negus chronometer? In "crunching" the numbers it doesn't seem to add up? I honestly don't know myself but to get to the 1100 range (if sequential) they would have had to import, manufacture and set up (time) over 600 chronometers between 1848 and the end of the Civil War. With a fair amount of competition, in the trade, and being a new business that's seems a lot of sales in a relatively shot period on time.

    Well nothing is etched in stone (except for those specific instruments mentioned) to come to specific dating, we now have more information, I think on which to estimate our Negus chronometer's age.
     
  35. Jerry Freedman

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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Burt: I started this thread 8 years ago. I would like to see the entire letter referring to the "small collection of old chronometers". I am researching a small one day instrument by Heron # 124 dating to about 1828. The chronometer was serviced by C G Smith who did work for the NO. It is assumed that the chronometer passed through the NO and ended up being owned by the USGS, and was numbered T222173 by the USGS.

    I have a book titled Sky and Ocean Joined, The USNO 1830-2000. The author is Samuel J Dick. ISBN 0 521 81599 1


    Jerry Freedman
    gnfwatches@yahoo.com
     
  36. burt

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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Jerry,

    Unfortunately the site that I found the information, will not allow me to make a copy, or to save to file, so that I can post it.

    These are not letters per say but a portion of a very complete report, segmented into categories, for the Annual Fiscal Naval Observatory Report. They are very lengthily but what pertains to the chronometers is usually fairly brief. I don't have access to all of the report years but only a few to review. I haven't found a second report which listed the "museum display chronometers" by make or serial number only mentioning of them by quanity.

    A example is in a report from 1897. This reporting period was during the Spanish American War and the Navy was stretched for chronometers (stated in the report) and it's officers. That report was prepared by a H.M. Paul, Professor of Mathematics as the officer in charge of the chronometer department. This is the only one I found with a civilian in charge. Again sea service appears to take priority over the observatories other functions. He reports 481 total chronometers in the entire Navy Observatory inventory. "Twenty one chronometers are held for display in a Observatory Museum whenever space is available". He lists M.T. 310 standard chronometers, M.T. 138 hacks, M.T. 7 break circuit, 2 standard break circuit, 11 Sidereal break circuit, 8 Sidereal chronometers, 4 Thermometric and 6 pocket chronometers.
     
  37. dshumans

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    I can't help but wonder if Negus demise was also caused by invention and subsequent mass production of the Hamilton Model 21 Marine Chronometer, which has been discussed as the best mechanical timekeeping machine ever invented. Hamilton made huge numbers of them through WW 2 and flooded the market with high quality chronometers, thanks to the war effort and the US Navy.
     
  38. burt

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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    I have been having a private correspondence with a new friend who has done chronometer research at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. Some of his findings have been most impressive. One of those has been the uncovering of many chronometer serial numbers, supplied by the Negus brothers, which does indicate they started with #500. Additionally it appears the observatory purchased for the Navy chronometers from every group series, 5XX,6XX,7XX etc. of hundred instruments. I certainly stand corrected.

    The Negus bros.no doubt supplied a quality if not superior chronometer, in the 19th century, as the records indicate, and the N.O. purchased a high amount.
     
  39. 179

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    While i agree that the Hamilton 21 is a fantastic timepiece, maybe we should include portable in the description.
     
  40. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Anyone can make a mistake. That certainly includes me. I was more than curious when the respected author Marvin E. Whitney, wrote in (1985) his book "The Ships Chronometer", that the Negus brothers immigrated to America. "Thomas Stewart Negus....immigrated to America". He went even further with wrting "because he was intrigued with America's development of finer tools and machines which gave artisans greater control over their products". Pretty good story and very specific information. He also writes ""his brother John David came to America". As this directly contradicted the reported family history and historian, I couldn't help but wonder, who was correct and what source they may have used? Well it seems Whitney got this one wrong. Below are a official U.S. Census document and a ledger page of Civil War draft document which clearly show they were both born in New York. The draft document lists both as Chronometer (maker). I think sometimes we have to be careful with accepting information as fact regardless of the reputation of the author.

    Negus 1850.jpg J.D. Negus civil war.jpg
     
  41. MTROMAN

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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Just to offer another data point, I have a T.S. & J. D. Negus break circuit chronometer here with a serial number of 1484. Its certificate of performance, presumably produced just prior to sale, is dated October 23, 1873. Incidentally, it lost 0.3 sec per day as determined by transit observations at the time.

    The printed certificate has the name Thomas S. Negus & Co. scratched out, with T.S and J.D. Negus in written in ink. The address listed is No. 140 Water Street, 4-th door from Pine, New York.

    I would like to service the instrument, but I have never worked on a marine chronometer or pocket watch... only clocks and regulators. Will Whitney's book provide enough detail instructions so that I may clean and oil the chronometer? My goal is not to run it regularly, but to allow it to be run for demonstration purposes without incurring damage.

    Thanks,
    Mike Roman

    P.S. Here's a picture of the chronometer in its box, along with the original dust from years of surveying service in the late 19th century Finger Lakes. I'll clean it off and share some better photos in the future.
    TSJDNegus_dusty.jpg
     

    Attached Files:

  42. MTROMAN

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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    To answer my own question, the table of contents of Whitney's book shows sections on disassembling, cleaning, reassembling, and oiling the chronometer. If it applies to the Negus, I'll be able to proceed with confidence! Should be fun. I'll take pictures along the way.

    Now if I can only date this Ulysse Nardin chronometer #237. Anyone here have a date/serial# data point for Nardin break circuit marine chronometers? I've been meaning to contact the company...
     
  43. burt

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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Mike,

    Thanks for posting your chronometer and for the information printed on the rating certificate. This helps me in my research as it seems to support some of my findings. According to what I found the company name changed in 1869. From what I know and have learned I think your chronometer's built dates to circa. 1870. Just a bit earlier than you estimated. In Whitney's book on page 344 he quotes a letter from Negus brothers to the N.O." every chronometer we sent was seasoned- most of them for two years". They felt a period of time, when not pressed for instruments, was needed for a chronometer to give the best results. I've also been looking at various serial numbers, of known age, to help with this assessment. Good luck with your cleaning. I would very much like to see the end results of your work. Thanks again for sharing the information.

    burt
     
  44. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Mike,

    I can tell you that according to Tony Mercer, in his book "Chronometer Makers of the World" the Ulysee Nardin Company began in 1846. Mercer goes on to say of the son, Paul David, " In 1875 he started to make marine chronometers a practice which continues to the present day." Given that start date, and yours is a fairly one, you can at least come up with a approximate date when your chronometer was probably finished.
     
  45. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    I read earlier in this thread that "Whitney, gives credit to the Negus brothers for inventing the break-circuit chronometer". I probably read, and believed the same, reading Whitney's book myself. However I now am not sure? Whitney again doesn't give a source, nor does he expand on his statement with a date or any other corroborating information.

    Reading in "The Observatory", a monthly review journal of astronomy, it seems there was a healthy debate going on, in 1887, with the same question. The Negus brothers are not mentioned but a Professor A. Young, PhD. R.A.S., writing in Vol.10 on page 427 of 1887 gives the credit for the break-circuit chronometer to Parkinson & Frodsham, for inventing it in 1869. The debate continues, the following month when a R.L.J. Ellery, astronomer at the Melbourne Observatory, cites that the (Robert) Molyneaux firm built chronometer #1438, with that feature in 1860. That same chronometer was used in the 6 December 1882 transit of Venus Expedition.

    As I said I really don't know but again the Negus brothers are not mentioned anywhere in the debate. I'm personally aware of at least one early Negus chronometer with break-circuit feature and that instrument dates to 1863 but the B-C was added later in 1882. It seems like a 1860 date would be hard to beat? Perhaps they were the first American firm to use the feature?

    I think that most collectors look at marine chronometers as sea going navigation instruments. I think most were but many saw usage in astronomy by astronomers for various assignments and usage. They were the "perfect portable timekeeper" in the field when a precision regulator was impractical to set up or use. When I visited Lowell Observatory, in Flagstaff Arizona, they had a marine chronometer on display, which was used to take accurate time to various telescopes, whose positions were spread out on the observatory grounds.
     
  46. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Since Bond made the recording chronographs that used break circuit chronometers as the remote instruments, for early survey work i would have thought that theirs was pretty early.

    I don't have time to do the research, but Harvard University has pretty good records from Bond.
     
  47. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Hi Tom,

    Very good point on Bond. You would think, especially with the American firms, that if they truly were the first to invent something, would they not have patented it? Watches and clocks are full of parent information engraved on their movements. American astronomers would have had equal access to writing in "The Observatory" and as I stated nothing on the Negus brothers or any other American firm.

    Anyway, thanks for bringing up another excellent usage for the "marine chronometer" and that is in survey work. Both on land and mapping coastlines and islands in the oceans.
     
  48. Dr. Jon

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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    I have been through the Bond papers at Harvard. I was not looking for this and I also did not see it.

    What they had invented and promoted break circuit synchronization for clocks and they did this to distribute Harvard Observatory time.

    They exhibited examples at the 1851 Great Exposition in London and won a medal for it (Somehow missed in a recent AntiquarianHorology Paper that states that no American won medals there)

    By the 1850's Bond was importing their precision watches and chronometers from London.
     
  49. Tom McIntyre

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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    This chronometer is closer to 1900, but my friend George has one very similar that is closer to 1860. I believe it says Bond's Break Circuit on the bezel. The detent is missing on mine but intact on George's.

    BreakCircuitInscription.jpg
     
  50. burt

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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Tom,

    I think any of the Bond chronometers are great instruments to own and yours has that "extra" attraction! Thanks for posting it. I also think dating a B-C chronometer, would be a most difficult accomplishment, without documentation. As a break-circuit feature can be added at any time to a earlier chronometer, perhaps unless engraved on the dial, how would you know when that was done? I reported earlier on having knowledge of this being done on a Negus instrument.

    I agree about clocks being modified earlier in time but we were talking about chronometers. I'm aware of the early time service provided by Harvard Observatory in 1849 and Bond's (Public) time service in 1851. However in earlier days Whitney writes, " These signals were tapped out by an operator as he watched the second hand of a clock. Later, Bond's break circuit clock was utilized which permitted the signals to be sent automatically and with greater accuracy". I've looked and can't come with any specific date when this was adopted. I know the Allegheny Time Service also used a B-C clock but that was in 1870.

    I'm not trying to make a big deal this, it's just that the information was uncovered on the early Molyneaux 1860 chronometer and reported on in the astronomical journal. I would think astronomers would be the type of scientists to pay perhaps a bit more attention to their instruments?
     

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