Willard Orrery

Like many instruments of the sort made in London, this American one could be used as an orrery (Sun and planets out to Saturn) or a tellurian (Sun, Earth and Moon), with the mechanisms moved by a crank with an ivory handle. Four elegant brass legs support a mahogany horizon circle. The printed paper label covering this circle is marked “MADE-BY / Aaron Willard Jr. / BOSTON.” There is one brass Sun that can be used with either form. The planets are made of ivory. The plate of the tellurian mechanism is marked “A. WILLARD JR. BOSTON.”
Aaron Willard Jr. (1783-1864) was a productive and prosperous clockmaker in Boston who apprenticed with his father and took over the business in 1823. He probably made this instrument in collaboration with John Locke (1792-1856), a graduate of the Yale Medical School who settled in Cincinnati. Locke also established a school for young ladies, developed an electro-chronograph for the U.S. Naval Observatory, and made important contributions to American geology.
Ref: William Ball Jr., “Another American Orrery,” Antiques 4 (October 1938): 184-185.
“Willard’s Portable Orrery,” The Weekly Recorder (Jan. 17, 1821): 166, from Boston Centinel.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1820
Willard, Jr., Aaron
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 25.3 cm x 37.5 cm x 35.6 cm; 9 31/32 in x 14 3/4 in x 14 1/32 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
catalog number
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Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences
Measuring & Mapping
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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