Frequent contributor Alan Littell has this tidbit about a chronometer that was once used in the observatory at Alfred University in Alfred, N.Y.:
A university in western New York is seeking the return of a 170-year-old marine chronometer that had been used in the mid-1800s by its campus observatory to time the meridian transits of stars.
Dating from 1840, the instrument was made by a leading New York City nautical-instrument firm, Bliss & Creighton. It vanished mysteriously from Alfred University sometime after World War II, only to turn up in 1990 as a sales item in a Christieâ€™s auction catalogue. Christie’s sold the chronometer in New York for $2,420.
The university first learned of the sale earlier this year. Officials have sent a letter via Christie’s Hong Kong office to the unnamed buyer â€” known to be Asian â€” asking for the chronometer’s return either as a gift or through possible repurchase.
The Bliss & Creighton, serial No. 533, is thought to have been employed at sea before being acquired by Alfred. A work receipt in the university’s archives shows that it was serviced by a repair shop in Belfast, Northern Ireland, sometime before 1865.