A Status Report on Our National Horological Policy
As is usually indicated by my conspicuous absence, I was recently called away on important business to our Nation's Capital. My mission was to assess the status of our current horological policies in light of the recent developments in Congress.
With the last vestiges of American Horology buried away in the bowels of tariff legislation, I took it upon myself to see first hand how this most important of sciences might once again be elevated to a level of importance at least equal to that of the Rural Electrification Administration. Herein are the results of my investigation.
Upon arriving in Washington, I first decided to visit some of our national treasures and was immediately alarmed by what I saw. In this photo of the Washington Monument, one can clearly see that it no longer has a pointed top. "Where is the top?" I exclaimed to the Parks Services personnel. "What top?", one asked. "The damn pointy top", I cried!  Admittedly, I had not been to the monument since I was 6-years old, but I distinctly remembered a pointy top. "Sir, if you will back away from the monument about 600 yards, you will then be able to see the pointy top".  Refusing to fall for their obvious attempts to get rid of me, I simply hailed a cab and moved on to my business at hand. Does anyone other than me remember a pointy top?
My first goal was to locate the Department of Horological Administration on Pennsylvania Avenue. Nestled in among the Capital's classical architecture, the Horology Building still stands tall and proud on the West Wing of Federal Plaza. As my pulse quickened and my heart raced, I rounded the corner to a clear view of its majestic tower that marked our Country's time for over 125 years. You can only imagine how thrilled I was to see that its pointy top remained intact. In fact, I do believe it is slightly more pointy today than it was 40-years ago, though I admit to the occasional bout of wishful thinking.
Upon entering the building, I was subjected to a full cavity search - security, as you might well imagine, is a major priority these days. Upon finding no cavities, they allowed me to move about the building freely until the next scheduled tour. I found a Men's Room off the lobby and went in to wash off the fingerprint ink.

A Mr. Hamilton Ball then took me on a tour of the facility, showing me things that had not been seen by the general public in over 50-years. In fact, at the age of 92, he noted that I was the first person to request a tour of this building since his 63rd birthday. A huge wet spot on the front of his pleated trousers indicated to me that he might have been slightly excited about my interest in Horology, but he apologized and murmered something about "depends". He waved me off when I asked "Depends on what?" and I did not bother to push the issue.
The White House - once a bastion of support for the U.S. Watch Industry
The Department of Horological Administration
We had a wonderful visit together and spent most of the morning admiring each other's watches. He wore a platinum Hamilton Rutledge presented to him by William Howard Taft the day Taft was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. "Son, did I ever tell you about Taft?", he asked. "Uh, no", I replied. "Well, young man, he was the only U.S. President to ever serve on the U.S. Supreme Court". "That's nice, but why did he give you the Rutledge?", I inquired. He looked at me quizzically, then moved on.

Next he took me to a place no visitor had ever been - the Time Tunnels. No longer of much use but for storing old furniture, the tunnels were once a repository for all things horological, and housed many innovations that were never funded by Congress: The Maxwell escapements, rubinium mainsprings, Carlyle movements requiring no electricity,  tri-metalic Smitherman balances, and a carburetor that gets 100 miles per gallon; just to name a few. These were advancements in the science of time-keeping that could have kept American horology on top forever.
The Time Tunnels - never before photographed
As our time together wound down, I asked Mr. Ball if I could see some actual watches, but he informed me that they kept no watches at this location. For this I would have to venture over to the Department of Escapements. He also informed me that if I hurried - it was almost noon - I could see the very first atomic clock, located over at the Bureau of Pinions; both governmental agencies lacking in funding and influence. Off I went, wishing Mr. Ball a warm and dry winter.
Left:  Department of Escapements   Right:  Bureau of Pinions

Left: Here is the very first Atomic Clock. On a check against my trusty Wrist Chronometer, it turned out not to be very accurate, varying a full .3247 seconds.
Right: A fine display of watches intended for those who have only heard of Rolex.
Left:  A candid shot of your investigator leaving the Horology Building as seen by Video Surveillance.
Upon concluding my business, I made my way across the border into Virginia, looking back for one sad, final glance at what Horology in this Great Nation could have been. If  I had any success at all, or made  even the slightest of differences, it was getting the Parks Services personnel to put that top back on the Washington Monument, though I had to wonder, as I stared up at that majestic point from 3 miles away, how they had done it so quickly.
Terry Russell
Copyright 2002