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    Re: On lunars generally
    From: Geoffrey Kolbe
    Date: 2009 Jul 16, 08:02 +0100

    Frank, I am impressed that by 1884 the manufacturing world had
    advanced to the point where "Excellent chronometers can be purchased
    brand new for 25 to 30 pounds..." in England.
    However, I am not sure that this is indicative of the situation in
    1850 which was, as you recall, the watershed year in which you claim
    that it became more economic to buy a second sextant than to buy a
    good sextant. Certainly, in the United States, manufacturing did not
    get into gear until after the Civil War. (Indeed, at the start of the
    Civil War the number of steam engines (both stationary and for use in
    transport) in the entire United States did not exceed 5000.) The
    centre of the world's chronometer industry at this time - and for
    many decades to come - was Prescott in Lancashire here in England.
    The vast majority of chronometer makers bought the parts from
    Prescott manufacturers and built them up into chronometers with their
    own names on them. This is true for chronometer makers in the US as
    well and I think it is true to say that by 1850 no chronometer had
    been completely made by an American clock maker 'from the plates up'.
    Indeed, this is generally true right up until WWII when Hamilton
    started to fill the urgent requirement for chronometers for the US navy.
    Perhaps more indicative of the price of chronometers at the time of
    interest is a letter dated June 19, 1863 from Captain J. M. Gillis,
    U.S.N. Superintendent of the US Naval Observatory to Rear Admiral
    Davis, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation. Regarding the acquisition
    of chronometers he wrote, "In the judgement of of Messrs. Negus and
    Company, Messrs. Eggert and Sons and Messrs. Bliss and Company, the
    only makers of chronometers in New York, $250 will be a reasonable
    compensation for chronometers of the standard exacted for naval
    service." (From "The Ship's Chronometer" by Marvin E. Whitney)
    At 03:40 16/07/2009, you wrote:
    >Geoffrey, I've got a few more bits of data on prices of chronometers
    >versus sextants.
    >First, there's Lecky c.1884:
    >"[one can get longitude...] first by the chronometer, and secondly
    >by Lunars. These last, however, are rapidly dying out, and are
    >mostly looked upon now as "fancy navigation." Excellent chronometers
    >can be purchased brand new for 25 to 30 [pounds]; when second-hand,
    >and equally good, for much less; in fact, they are becoming a drug
    >in the market. The better class of vessels seldom carry fewer than three."
    >I'm not sure what would qualify as "much less" than 25 to 30 pounds
    >but I would guess half that at least, say 12-15 pounds (?).
    >Meanwhile at nearly the same date, according to "The Sextant" by H.
    >Wilberforce Clarke, a finer sextant sells for about 14 pounds. So
    >that's approximate price parity and also an explicit statement of
    >the existence of a thriving market for second-hand chronometers.
    >This is not proof of anything --just a little more data.
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