The Walter Folger Clock

The Honorable Walter Folger Jr. (1765-1849) was a self-taught mathematician, scientist, and astronomer, as well as a lawyer, inventor and U.S. Congressman. Folger married Anna Ray in 1785 and the couple had ten children.

Folger ClockFive years after his marriage, in 1790, Folger finished construction of his “astronomical” tall-case clock and set it in motion. Donated to the NHA in 1951 by a Folger descendant, the clock is a perennial visitor favorite. The clock still works, keeping good time when it is wound, and tells not only the time of the day, but also the motion and declination of the sun, the phases and motion of the moon, the day of the month, and the year.

A standard, brass, Boston-style movement appears to have been his basic building block. Although Folger was a true “Renaissance Man,” he was not a cabinetmaker. A receipt from Folger’s papers (at the NHA Research Library, collection 118, folder 56) suggests that the case for this clock was made in Boston. It reads: “Nantucket June 1st 1791 Received of Walter Folger the sum of Eleven Dollars being part for a clock case Cornelius Allen.”

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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