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Archive for August 28th, 2013

The Time Machine made by Christopher Loggie for the video series, Steampunk Stacie, draws a lot of attention. But not as much as Alfred Burton’s storefront window in the late 1800s.

Alfred Burton's Watch Repair and Jewelry Shop - Historic Photo Collection - Harpers Ferry National Historic Park

Alfred Burton’s Watch Repair and Jewelry Shop – Historic Photo Collection – Harpers Ferry National Historic Park

Alfred and his three sons, Henry, Warren and William all pursued careers as jewelers and watch repairers in Harper’s Ferry and Charles Town. As you can see in the window, Alfred had quite a watch collection on display. When you come to Harper’s Ferry today, you can see some watches and clocks donated by the family to Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park.

According to the Park’s Historic Furnishings Report for Building 14, Burton Jewelry Store, Alfred displayed several items over the years, at least one of which drew so much attention that the public complained as recorded in the Spirit of Jefferson, November 5, 1878. According to the article, Burton had a

singular sort of mechanical contrivance in his store window, from which [hung] half a dozen watches — some of them old-fashioned family watches, as big and stout as dutchmen, filled with lager beer — some as small as ten cent pieces — like little babies following their fat papas, and this contrivance [kept] continually going round at the same solemn, blind horse rate — no variation, no check, no change of time. … citizens are beginning to complain of this; they say that it is having a bad effect on the brain of people who are obliged to look into the window.

In addition, he owned and displayed Flying Pendulum Clock, patented by Christian Clausen in 1883,

1883 Claussen Patent 286531

 

which was later named the “Ignatz” novelty clock in 1935.

Ignatz was the name of the mouse side-kick of Krazy Kat.

 

Like merchants today, he expanded his business to include all sorts of repair work from medical to musical instruments. He managed property after his retirement and was a locally known beekeeper.

I can’t make any promises about the “Travels in Time” exhibit beginning next month, but I’m pretty sure that it won’t have a bad effect on the brain.

 

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