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August 6, 1874

Calling it “one of the most complete adaptations of electricity to a useful purpose,” the Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle hailed a collaboration between Professor Maria Mitchell at the Vassar College Observatory and Theophilus Mayhew, a Poughkeepsie watchmaker. Having noted “some talk” three years earlier “of regulating city time by electricity from Vassar College Observatory via Atlantic and Pacific [telegraph] wires,” the Eagle announced that Mayhew had invented “what he calls a controller and corrector, which is a contrivance connected with Vassar College Observatory by wire, and which enables him to obtain correct time at any time he may desire it…. Mr. Mayhew has almost completed a magnificent dial, which is to be placed in the post office. This dial is to be propelled by electricity from the regulator, and will therefore indicate exactly the same time.

“On the roof of the Morris building a signal pole has been placed, and in a few days our citizens will be enabled to set their timepieces by the dropping of a target at precisely noon. This is also operated from the observatory. Mr. Mayhew will be pleased to explain the working of his apparatus to who may take an interest in anything new.”

Maria Mitchell relied on the precise time kept by her astronomical clock, made by the famous Bond company in Boston, for the work she and her students conducted at the Observatory. As the “Vassar Time Service,” she and her successor, Mary Watson Whitney ’68, and their students sustained this local collaboration for several years.

On January 23, 1875, Theophilus Mayhew applied for a patent for “a time-recording instrument operated by pneumatic pressure upon a friction-brake, in which, when both hands are engaged, the pressure may be applied by a tube placed in the mouth, or exerted in any other suitable manner.”

The Poughkeepsie Daily Eagle, The Watchmaker, Jeweller and Silversmith, June 1, 1875

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