Marine: Negus Marine Chronometer

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

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  1. Nedredbeard

    Nedredbeard Registered User

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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    HA!! All the best things are illegal......
     
  2. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Negus #1273 was first assigned to sea duty during the American Civil War in 1863 aboard the frigate U.S.S. Niagara. Frigates were defined as fast and maneuverable medium sized war ships of the 18th and 19th century. On 15 August 1864, Niagara took steamer Georgia, a former Confederate war ship off the coast of Portugal.

    The Negus on its second tour of sea duty would be issued to the U.S.S. Minnesota on 29 1867. The Minnesota saw heavy action in the Civil War.

    On 10 January 1871 the Negus was issued to the U.S.S. Tennessee which was the flagship of the Asiatic Squadron then under Rear Admiral William Reynolds, with captain William Low in command of the ship.

    The Negus now temporarily relieved of ship's navigational responsibility and assigned to "special duties" of scientific and geographical mapping. (more on that later)

    The chronometer was issued on 30 November 1888 to the U.S.S. Atlanta one of the first steel ships built for the "New Navy".

    (pictured left to right: U.S.S. Niagara U.S.S. Minnesota U.S.S. Tennessee U.S.S. Atlanta) In the article all ships and their duties while the Negus was assigned are fully described.


    USS_Niagara_(1855) 2.jpg Minnesota.jpg USS_Tennessee_(ACR-10).jpg lossy-page1-1280px-Atlanta_(protected)__Port_bow,_1891_-_NARA_-_512894_tif.jpg
     
  3. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    By the time Negus 1273 was completed the firms reputation had been secured as a first rate supplier of chronometer instruments. Craftsmanship was nearing its peak and the Naval Observatory was certainly "On Board" not only purchasing their products but contracting them to repair and service chronometers and other navigational instruments. The brothers certainly earned their reputation as they took great effort to supply a quality chronometer product. These instruments could take a year or more, sometimes twice that amount of time in assembly and final adjustment. Timing these precision instruments became an "art from". I say that in using the definition "Implies expertness or great proficiency to do something".

    The U.S. Naval Observatory's responsibility was to obtain only the best timing chronometers for the fleet. Negus products dominated sales during these times. Makers would submit their finest chronometers for consideration for purchase as these would be subject to timing trials lasting from 6 months to a year. I'm sure when a makers instruments were selected for purchase it was good advertisement for other civilian sales as only the highest quality chronometers were accepted by the observatory.

    When it came time for the observatory to issue chronometers for "special assignments or missions" only the most exacting of timekeeping instruments were selected. The observatory would usually have over 100 chronometers in reserve to chose from.

    On 15 October 1872, Negus 1273, was assigned to Lieut. Cmdr. George Dewey to be used on his Surveying Expedition of the Pacific Islands. These islands would include the Marshalls, the Gilberts and the Samoans.Dewey would personally use the instrument during this expedition.

    Dewey's fame would continue to grow when as a Commodore he would become "The Hero of Manila" during the Spanish-American War. Dewey would eventually be the only American Naval Officer promoted the rank of Admiral of the Navy.

    220px-GeoDewey.jpg
     
  4. Nedredbeard

    Nedredbeard Registered User

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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    That's quite an amazing story, and very well documented. You did your homework Burt!
     
  5. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Thank you very much. I really do appreciate your comments. It doesn't happen that often so It's encouraging when an author or anyone who goes out of their way to post good information and then gets positive feedback for his/her efforts. Actually we are only half the way through and I honestly think the "best" of the story is yet to come!

    I can also assure you that the actual article contains much more interesting information than I'm posting. I'm trying to reach out to our fellow chronometer collectors who are not "yet" NAWCC members and will not ever get to read the Bulletin. I'm also hoping to get enough of viewers and chronometer people involved where perhaps we can get the attention and support from our board administrators to establish a chronometer category. I feel if there is enough of a following shown here we have a better chance of that happening. Just for the record I'm really more of a pocket watch guy and yet I still feel that attraction to the marine chronometer. As I wrote before the marine chronometer is probably the single most mechanical instrument which contributed to the overall expansion of the modern world.
     
  6. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Burt, you certainly have put together a great story on a fine piece of Horology. Chronometers hold the highest importance of time measurement, unlike the "pocket watch" which rarely did more then tell time(sorry railroaders). These precision instruments were depended upon to guide ships around the world and many lives depended upon their accuracy and dependability, as evidenced by their typical excellent condition they were held in high esteem.
    Thank you Burt for bringing this most interesting story to light for all of us to enjoy.
    Do You suppose we could have our own category for the Chronometer here on the Forum some day? Maybe all those "lurkers" would do some joining and posting.
    Paul
     
  7. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Yes, I did "put together" quite a story on a historic American timepiece. The facts are that I had the help of three friends who said yes, when I asked for it. I also had access to 15 different reference sources some of which I never even heard of and were kindly provided by those same people. It's really satisfying to see very gracious behavior displayed when it's to your benefit or to the hobby in general. Without their support and encouragement it would have not happened.

    What I think is the most important conclusion of this project is the fact that this chronometer is an American piece. It wasn't that long ago that I believed the general opinion was only the English chronometers had a retrievable past? I couldn't have been more lucky to stumble onto the Negus as everything just seemed to line up for me to produce the article. Not only was this chronometer the "perfect subject" but that the information was available to find it's amazing history. It was very interesting when reviewing two completely different sources and see the information contained within match. This gives much more assurance that what you are writing about has credibility or is correct .
     
  8. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Selected for its most unique "special assignment" Negus 1273 was "loaned" on 2 September 1882 to Lieutenant Samuel Williams Very U.S.N. Very was heading to Patagonia for the U.S. Naval Observatory's 1882 Transit of Venus Expedition. This is a event that occurs only twice in every 243 years. Very was Chief Astronomer at the Santa Cruz, Patagonia location and it was his responsibility to supervise the operation of the astronomers taking very precise and timed photographs of the transit event which occurred on 6 December 1882. Even Congress was involved with this important expedition as they appropriated the funds to support the project. Three additional teams were also sent to other locations. This endeavor was to refine the measurement of the "astronomical unit" the distance of the Earth from the Sun. The expedition generated and received much national press coverage. The mission was a success when the data obtained was later utilized to calculate the most accurate estimate of that distance to date (92,385,000 miles). Once again the Negus was selected for this assignment no doubt for its performance as a "first class" instrument.

    Very and members of the 1882 expedition and crew of his transport vessel U.S.S. Brooklyn. The tent encampment at Santa Cruz, Patagonia

    Venus Transit expidition.jpg V.T.E.-2.jpg
     
  9. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    The Negus now goes back to sea and three more Wars.

    The U.S.S. Raleigh a unprotected cruiser was assigned the chronometer on 29 June 1894 in time for it's initial "shake down" exercises in the Chesapeake Bay. The ship would see battle action in both the Spanish-American War and WWI.

    Negus chronometer 1273 was transferred to the U.S.S. Detroit during September 1894. The cruiser Detroit was assigned to duty in the Asiatic Station and would patrol the China Coast and visit ports in Japan and Korea.

    The U.S.S. Charleston with the Negus on board in 1896 would see battle action during the Spanish-American War. This ship would take the surrender of the island of Guam and then participate in the final bombardment of Manila. The Charleston was eventually lost after grounding on an uncharted reef near Camiguin Island but the chronometer was saved!

    With the chronometer now on board the U.S.S. Culoga, an armed and refrigerated supply ship, would provide needed fresh supplies to American ground troops during 1900-1901 who were stationed in Manila during the Philippine-American War.

    left to right: U.S.S. Raleigh, U.S.S. Detroit, U.S.S. Charleston, U.S.S. Culoga

    lossy-page1-1280px-Raleigh_(Cruiser_8)__Starboard_bow,_ca__1900_-_NARA_-_512958_tif.jpg USS_Detroit_(C-10)_circa_1890s.jpg Charleston (C2).jpg culgoa.jpg
     
  10. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    Well I think I'm just going to wrap it up for now. The chronometer goes next to a battleship just in time for service during WWI. I was able, as I wrote before, to document its service up until 1925 and then my research material ran out. There is no doubt the Negus continued on serving with the Navy, as it to this day, is running strong and keeping time. The article, all 3128 words plus pictures and detailed captions, when published, contains a lot more material which should interest chronometer and history buffs alike. I'm sure those Islands that Dewey surveyed log ago are familiar to anyone who has studied or read about the Pacific theater of WWII. There is also a lot of information about the various ships and their assignments while the chronometer was on board. I reads like a story and not a technical manual. I'm hopeful that when read the article will give the reader a better sense of how the U.S. Naval Observatory worked with the chronometer program and supported the Navy in its various missions.

    I think the over all learning experience of this research project was, to me anyway, proved that America had chronometer makers who were as competent as anywhere else and that those instruments they manufactured and adjusted served their owners well. They also have a history of service that should make collectors proud to own these instruments.
     
  11. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

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    #111 Paul Regan, Mar 28, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 22, 2015
    Burt, a wonderful synopsis of your soon to be published article. It certainly wets ones appetite to read more. I am a bit surprised at the very limited feedback you have received from the Visitors to this thread. I thought we might see a little more interest. Surely there must be a segment of our Membership that values the history if our Horological pieces as well as those that see them as estically beautiful and those that see them as mechanical wonders. Oh well, maybe we are all just getting too old and ambivolunt.
    Paul
     
  12. Ralph

    Ralph Registered User
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    #112 Ralph, Oct 21, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 22, 2015
    Burt,

    What was the disposition of these instruments? Do your contacts at the Naval Observatory know? Does the Naval Observatory still have them?

    Regards, Ralph
     
  13. burt

    burt Registered User
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    #113 burt, Oct 22, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 22, 2015
    Ralph,

    Unfortunately your question doesn't have a very positive answer. Due to funding issues and a absence of historically minded staff what was proposed in the past never materialized as best as I was informed. While the observatory does still have some instruments in storage and scattered about the facility it appears no positive effort was made for a appropriate display area, cataloging or for the safe keeping of these important and historic relics.

    I do have a picture of at least one Hamilton 21 that is located in the "rare books room" at the observatory library.

    burt

    Hamilton  1898.jpg
     
  14. Ralph

    Ralph Registered User
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    Burt,

    I think the modern (not current) Naval Observatory disposed of the prized chronometers, as the Navy disposed of their chronometers in the 70's. They might have done it concurrently.

    The 1996 Property Inventory of the U.S. Naval Observatory Historical Committee did not show the chronometers. It has an entry for :

    "One 2" by 5 1/4" Polaris Chronometer. Inscription reads: "POLARIS CHRONOMETER, // NEGUS 1366. // This
    Chronometer was saved from the wreck of the U. S. S. POLARIS in 1872, after the death of CAPTAIN HALL, and was
    cached in the snow and abandoned at NEWMAN'S BAY, GREENLAND. Four years later it was found by CAPTAIN NARES,
    R. N. and returned by the BRITISH ADMIRALTY.""

    ..which is a plate from the chronometer box or a display. That's it.

    Nothing regarding the other two chronometer serials show up in that inventory.

    I have copies of the log entries the Naval Observatory has for Negus 1366 and some others. It is inconclusive on it's, 1366, disposition. It would be interesting to check the logs entries for the other chronometers. I don't have those of 1256 or 1630. I've seen log entries for other chronometers, that do show disposition.

    Cheers, Ralph
     
  15. Ralph

    Ralph Registered User
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    Re: Negus Marine Chromometer

    I just happened to discover this factoid this evening. The USS Trenton was the first to use electricity for lighting aboard ship. This was in 1883. May be pertinent or not??

    http://https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Trenton_(1876)#Pioneer_in_Electricity_for_US_Naval_Vessels_1883[SUP]

    Ralph
    [/SUP]
     

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