Sundials - World's Oldest Clocks

North American Sundial Society

Williamsburg  

Sundial 116
State/Province:  Virginia Country:  USA
Dial Type:  Horizontal Condition:  Fair
Latitude:   37° 16.147' N Longitude:   76° 42.956' W
Location:
  • College of William and Mary
    New Campus Mall (Replica dial)
 
Description:
  • A unique bronze 12-3/8 inch octagonal horizontal dial with one main hour ring for local time and six subsidiary rings that give the time in London, Vienna, Constantinople, Jerusalem, Barbados and Mexico City. The main hour ring shows hours in Roman numerals and ten minute intervals in Arabic numbers; each hour is divided into sixty minute intervals and "fleur-de-lis" decorations are placed at the thirty-minute marks. The subsidiary rings are inscribed with Roman numerals for daylight hours and Arabic numbers for night hours. The presence of subsidiary rings suggests the dial was made with an instructive or "world-view" intent.

    Fires destroyed many early college records and there are no references remaining to this dial prior to the early 19th century. The dial plate engravings suggest the dial was made in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century.

    However, the William and Mary Quarterly (1927-1928) quotes a reference, "The dial post in front of the President's House was put down on the 15th day of April, 1815." This (wooden) dial post was replaced in 1912 with a Tuscan column with a three-foot base with an octagonal support for the dial.

    The original dial dates from the late 17th or early 18th century. It is on display in the Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library at the College of William and Mary. Even this dial required a replacement gnomon, as the original seems to have been destroyed.

    Various replicas of the original dial have been made, including one cast in 1975 by "lost wax process" from a rubber mold made by Dr. George Crawford, Professor of Physics Emeritus. This rubber mold and a wood pattern also made by Dr. Crawford are in the University Archives Artifact Collection in the Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library. Replica dials can be found in the university's New Campus Mall outside the Swem Library, in the Sir Christopher Wren Building and in the alumni house.
 
General Information:
  • Owner: The College of William and Mary
  • Designer:
  • Builder:
  • Construction Date: c. 1700
 
References: Web Links:
  • "The William and Mary Sundial," NASS Copmpendium, Vol. 1 No. 3, August 1994.
    New 2009 digital images from Amy Schindler with permission from University Archives Photograph Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, The College of William and Mary

Last Revised: Nov 2015