Sundials - World's Oldest Clocks

North American Sundial Society

Augusta  

Sundial 872
State/Province:  Maine Country:  USA
Dial Type:  Horizontal Condition:  Fair
Latitude:   44° 18.870' N Longitude:   69° 46.675' W
Location:
  • Dial is located on the grounds of the Kennebec County Courthouse, in 95 State Street, near the southwest corner of Probate Court grounds, at the intersection of State and Court Streets.
 
Description:
  • This historic brass dial is about 18 inches in diameter, set upon a square, concrete pillar. The dial plate has Roman numbers and is delineated in quarter hours. Magnetic variation is engraved at degree intervals. The dial originally had a removable wood cover, then a metal one, which became permanently closed. It was removed in 2009 and now has a plexiglass cover. From Betty Adams in the Kennebec Journal, "At the uncovering, a half dozen people strained to read some of the lettering on the dial: 'Arc for magnetic variation', [and on an interior circle] 'Moses B. Bliss - Circumferentor' which means surveyor's compass... The meridian monument was one of those erected at county courthouses in Maine between 1869 and 1871, according to research by Harold E. Nelson, senior geodesist at the Maine Department of Transportation's property office...Nelson said the monument would have been used by local land surveyors to test their compasses against true north."

    And indeed in the center of the the dial is a ring (now partially missing) with magnetic variation and a compass pin at the dial's center. Other court houses in Maine have found the logs or journals where surveyors recorded their compass readings on a True North Meridian. This was started when Col. Joshua Chamberlain was Governor, and ... "the difference between true north and magnetic north was very important to surveyors, as well as sailors," Nelson said. "In Labrador, the difference is almost 90 degrees of arc. In Maine, currently there is about a 20 degree difference ... Deeds often will state whether the bearings are true or magnetic, and if magnetic, there are tables to convert to the bearings to their current value."
 
General Information:Inscription:
  • Owner: Kennebec County
  • "Moses B. Bliss - Circumferentor",
    Cardinal Points "N,S,E,W",
    "Arc for Magnetic Variation"
  • Designer: Moses B. Bliss
  • Builder: Moses B. Bliss of Gardiner, ME
  • Construction Date: between 1869 and 1871
 
References: Web Links:
  • Betty Adams, staff writer Kennebec Journal "Augusta Curiosity Uncovers Historic Sundial" August 30, 2009

Last Revised: 2017-06-15 23:59