Willard Orrery

image for Willard Orrery
Like many instruments of the sort made in London, this American one could be used as an orrery (Sun and planets out to Saturn) or a tellurian (Sun, Earth and Moon), with the mechanisms moved by a crank with an ivory handle. Four elegant brass legs support a mahogany horizon circle. The printed paper label covering this circle is marked “MADE-BY / Aaron Willard Jr. / BOSTON.” There is one brass Sun that can be used with either form. The planets are made of ivory. The plate of the tellurian mechanism is marked “A. WILLARD JR. BOSTON.”
Aaron Willard Jr. (1783-1864) was a productive and prosperous clockmaker in Boston who apprenticed with his father and took over the business in 1823. He probably made this instrument in collaboration with John Locke (1792-1856), a graduate of the Yale Medical School who settled in Cincinnati. Locke also established a school for young ladies, developed an electro-chronograph for the U.S. Naval Observatory, and made important contributions to American geology.
Ref: William Ball Jr., “Another American Orrery,” Antiques 4 (October 1938): 184-185.
“Willard’s Portable Orrery,” The Weekly Recorder (Jan. 17, 1821): 166, from Boston Centinel.
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ca 1820
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
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Willard, Jr., Aaron
place made
United States: Massachusetts, Boston
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 25.3 cm x 37.5 cm x 35.6 cm; 9 31/32 in x 14 3/4 in x 14 1/32 in
National Museum of American History
Object Name