Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Yard Worker's Pocket Watch

This is a pocket watch that belonged to master shipwright Francis Hart, an employee of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in the 1880s and '90s. Hart worked on the second-class battleship USS Texas and the protected cruiser USS Raleigh (C-8) during his time at the Yard. The watch is currently on display in the museum's Steel Navy gallery.

The watch was state-of-the-art in Hart's day. It only needed to be wound once a week, instead of every day, as indicated by the words "8 days" and "8 Dias". Handmade in La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland, by the Hebdomas company (now known as ETA SA Manufacture Horlogère Suisse), the watch was a low-cost timepiece marketed to working-class men like Hart. The exposed balance in the front was a characteristic of Hebdomas watches.

Hart was an Irish immigrant who trained as a shipwright in the port of Belfast, Ireland, before coming to the United States. He initially landed in New Orleans, but sought cooler weather farther north and ended up in Norfolk. Hired on the spot by the Yard to work on the U.S. Navy's newest steel warships, Hart was praised by the commandant for his skill as a shipwright.

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