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Elgin to Build Observatory for New York Fair

From Horology magazine, March, 1938

Elgin to Build Observatory for New York Fair

Time's dramatic story, from earliest history to the present day will be presented for millions to see at the New York World's Fair in 1939.

The Elgin National Watch Company will make the presentation, through· the medium of an elaborate exhibit housed in a modernistic structure of novel design. Success of the Elgin Watch displays at Chicago's A Century of Progress exposition, and at the Dallas, Texas, Centennial fair prompted the decision to present an even finer exhibit at the New York exposition opening April 30, next year.

The Elgin Exhibit in New York will be educational in character and will illustrate by means of working models and photomurals various types of time-pieces beginning with those used in prehistoric times, such as the burning rope, continuing down through the ages to antique and modern watches and ending with a glimpse of the timepiece of tomorrow. Many other interesting exhibits will be shown, among them a large scale model of the watch in actual operation and a microscopic display of various small parts which make up the modern watch.

The exhibition will be housed in a semi-circular exhibition hall which will surround a central circular building. This building will contain an actual astronomical observatory and will show how correct time is determined from the stars.

While time is a subject which vitally concerns everyone, very few people know how correct time is determined and that it is determined from star observations and not from the sun.

On clear nights the dome of the observatory will be opened and actual star observations will be made. During the day and on cloudy nights the demonstrations will be made using an artificial star which will have the appearance and the apparent motion of a real star. The observatory will contain two astronomical clocks, which are among the most accurate in the world. These clocks will be mounted on concrete piers to eliminate vibration and will be hermetically sealed in glass jars to eliminate atmospheric pressure changes. They will be electrically wound every 36 seconds and have a mean variation of daily rate of about eight one-thousandths of a second (0.008 second) per day. The observatory will also contain all necessary auxiliary apparatus which is commonly used in time determination.

The walls of the observatory and the inner walls of the exhibition hall will be of glass and between these two sections will be a circular cascade of water. At the end of the cascade will be a water clock, illustrating one of the most ancient of timepieces. Here will stand a statue of a slave holding a large club in his hands and watching a bowl which rests upon the water. In this bowl is a small hole through which the water slowly enters. The bowl sinks into the water and at the instant that it disappears, the slave strikes a gong with his club, thus signalizing the beginning of another hour.

In passing from the exhibition hall to the observatory, the visitor will walk over a glass bridge underneath which is a model of the Elgin National Watch factory, thus obtaining the illusion of a view from an airplane.

The building is so designed that it emphasizes the meridian, or north and south line, in a striking manner. The meridian itself will be marked by a pier apart from the building with an arrow pointing to the true north.

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