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.” The one brass Sun can be used with either form. The planets are 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.

Date Made: ca 1820

Maker: Willard, Jr., Aaron

Location: Currently not on view (orrery)

Place Made: United States: Massachusetts, Boston

Subject: Astronomy


See more items in: Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences, Globes, Measuring & Mapping


Exhibition Location:

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1986.0466.01Catalog Number: 86.466.1Accession Number: 1986.0466Catalog Number: 1986.0466.01

Object Name: orrery

Physical Description: brass (overall material)wood (overall material)ivory (overall material)paper (overall material)Measurements: overall (case): 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

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746aa-429f-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_1183736

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