Portable Horizontal Sundial with Bag

Portable Horizontal Sundial with Bag

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This silver and brass portable octagonal horizontal sundial is calibrated from V to XII to VII with the hour divided into two parts (there are three hour scales). A curved brass gnomon that folds down rises from the base. A piece of the gnomon slides to adjust from 30 to 55 degrees latitude, but it is no longer possible to lock this piece into position. A compass is at the foot of the dial. Another compass star is on the underside but has no needle.The compass needle and compass stars may be nineteenth century replacements. There are only six points on the compass stars, and these do not line up with the eight compass points engraved on the top of the case. The brass compass casing is attached to the dial with screws. The casing and another peg enable the dial to lie on a flat surface. There is a lunar volvelle on the underside of the sundial, used to assist in converting from lunar to solar time. The sundial was kept in a leather sleeve, which is stored in a separate bag along with a cardboard box.
The French dial is signed at the center: Bourgaud (/) Nantes.
According to a letter from Byron Arkebauer, the agent for vendor Mrs. Betty Schmidt, the instrument was plowed up on a farm near Montezuma, Indiana, about 1860. It was found by "Dr. Elisia Cannon".
It is quite possible that the Dr. Cannon mentioned by the vendor was the North Carolina-born Quaker physician Elisha Betts Cannon (1830-1883) who, in 1850, lived with his parents Horace F. and G. B. Cannon in Montezuma, Indiana. Horace Cannon also was a physician and known as an abolitionist. By 1860, E.B. Cannon had married and set up his own household in Montezuma and would soon enlist in the Union army.Both E.B. Cannon and his brother, Joseph G. Cannon (1836-1926) moved to Illinois. Joseph, a lawyer, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1873, and became Speaker of the House in 1903 (the Cannon Office Building in Washington, D.C.is named for him).
The instrument was purchased in 1964.
Accession file 255932
Personal Communication,Sara Schechner, January 11, 2022. Dr. Schechner not only commented on the hour scals and the compass of the dial, but provided an approximate date.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1660-1675
place made
France: Pays de la Loire, Nantes
overall:.5 cm x 6.1 cm x 3.8 cm; 3/16 in x 2 13/32 in x 1 1/2 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
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Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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