Exciting news! Monticello recently received a grant from the Americana Foundation to preserve Jefferson’s Great Clock.

Installed in the Entrance Hall in 1794, this clock is a rare survivor of its time and is one of Monticello’s most celebrated objects. It was designed by Jefferson to not only tell time but show the day of the week and strike a gong on the hour, both operated by pulley systems built into the clock’s mechanism. It has been a focal point at the beginning of each tour in the house. 

This project requires two phases of treatment.

The treatment for the interior mechanism will address rust on the iron mechanisms, removing aged and dirty oils, waxes, and lacquers, and will have new wax or lacquers applied. The other metal components, such as the pendulum, crank, and hands will all be assessed and stabilized as needed. The gong mechanism and pulley system failed several years ago, so there will be extra attention paid to the inner workings that engage the striker.

The exterior of the clock is structurally sound, but there is excessive wear to the crank holes and to the edges. There are chips and cracks throughout in addition to shrinkage across the clock face. The wood components will be examined to determine if the graining on the surface is original to Jefferson’s time and we will take special care to preserve this important detail for future generations.

When the clock returns in mid-October, we will once again hear the gong ring across the mountaintop.

Stay tuned for more updates as we take steps to conserve Thomas Jefferson’s Great Clock.