U.S. Senate's 1815 clock, silenced by government shutdown, ticks again

Amanda Becker
A museum specialist for the U.S. Senate restarts the historic Ohio Clock outside the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington
Richard Doerner, a museum specialist for the U.S. Senate, restarts the historic Ohio Clock outside the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 17, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Amanda Becker

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate's time keeper is ticking again after being wound by a museum specialist who returned to work when the federal government reopened for business on Thursday.

The arms on the nearly 200-year-old timepiece, known as the Ohio Clock, had been frozen on 12:14 p.m. since it stopped ticking on October 9.

The Senate specialists who normally wind it were among the roughly 800,000 federal employees who were sent home when the U.S. Congress could not reach a budget deal and government operations largely shuttered on October 1.

Richard Doerner from the U.S. Senate Commission on Art wound the clock on Thursday during a brief ceremony.

The Ohio Clock was commissioned by Connecticut Senator David Daggett in 1815. Ever since it was delivered, it has sat near the Senate Chamber, where lawmakers debate legislation and cast votes. Today, it is often the site of news conferences as reporters speak to senators as they come and go from the chamber.

Daggett requested a clock "about two feet in diameter" with an eagle on the top and the "United States arms" at its foot, according to the order Daggett placed with clock maker Thomas Voigt.

"We wish it good and handsome and expect to pay accordingly," Daggett wrote, according to Senate artifacts.

Its name is a misnomer. People call it the "Ohio" clock because that was the 17th U.S. State and on the clock's case there are 17 stars.

But, Senate historians point out, there were already 18 states at the time the clock was ordered, when Ohio was already a state. The clock's first caretaker, Senate employee Isaac Bassett, left voluminous manuscripts in which he refers to the timepiece as simply the "Senate Clock."

(Reporting By Amanda Becker; Editing by Karey Van Hall and Doina Chiacu)