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USLHE District Inspector's Stopwatch


This is an extremely rare original early U. S. Light-House Establishment stopwatch. c. 1870. This stopwatch was a tool that would have been for use by the District Inspector to time the lighthouse’s lighting characteristic or flash pattern. The flash pattern (if there was one as some lighthouses were just a steady burn fixed light) was critical to the mariner at night who would watch for this flash pattern to know where they were located. A mistake reading the flash pattern or if the lighthouse keeper was not maintaining his light properly could cost the mariner his ship. Interpreting a flash pattern wrong might mean were many more miles away from their intended location which could cause the ship to wreck on a shoal.

This is probably one of 25 stopwatches produced between 1867 and 1875 by Matthew & William Galt of Washington D.C. for the U.S. Light-House Establishment. This firm was established on Pennsylvania Avenue by their grandfather in 1801 when there were only fifteen American states. These watches were issued to each of the 24 Supervisors in 12 Lighthouse Districts for timing the rotation of the lighthouse lenses. As one of only a few stopwatches still known to exist [A noted lighthouse authority has seen only three in 13+ years], this watch is extremely rare.

The porcelain dial is marked "M.W. Galt Bro. & Co., Washington, D.C." and is in very good condition. Likewise, the silver plated case evidences only light wear and should polish nicely. Original porcelain dial bears painted black Arabic numerals, blued hands and is in fine condition. Case measures 52mm without crown. The back of the case is superbly engraved "U.S. Light House Establishment". Inside back bears a lighthouse Trade Mark. The 16 size stem wound Swiss movement runs well and is in good working order. In 1860 “M.W. Galt Bro.” merged with Harrison-Schaefer to become the “M.W. Galt Bro. & Co.”. By 1875 the Company’s name changed to “M.W. Galt Co”, thus dating this piece between 1860 and 1875. This is truly a very rare piece of U. S. Light-House Establishment history.





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Revised: 10/18/05