The Senate’s stately Ohio clock has fallen victim to the federal shutdown.
Its hands froze in place at 12:14 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon and won’t be ticking again until the furloughed Capitol Hill workforce is allowed to return to the job.
Winding of the richly grained mahogany timepiece, which has stood in the main corridor just outside the Senate chamber since 1859, falls to a team in the Office of the Senate Curator. That staff has been furloughed, the office of the Secretary of the Senate confirmed.
The last time the clock stopped ticking is a mystery, just like the origin of its name. That's because the staff of the Senate Historian’s office has also been furloughed. According to the historian’s records, Connecticut Sen. David Daggett wrote Philadelphia clockmaker Thomas Voigt in 1815 to order a clock for the Senate chamber, which was then under construction following its burning by the British during the War of 1812.
“It is impossible that I should describe technically the clock which we wish. It is designed to place it over the chair of the president [of the Senate] or on the gallery in front and of course it should be of the kind you mention,” Daggett wrote. He requested the spread eagle atop the clock, and he added, “We wish it good and handsome and expect to pay accordingly.”
It was installed in the newly restored chamber in 1819 and transferred to its current location in 1859, and it has been ticking away ever since.
The clock’s glass face was demolished when a bomb exploded outside the Senate chamber on Nov. 7, 1983. According to an Associated Press article written in the wake of the tragedy, workers initially thought the mechanism was broken, “but a little tinkering got its pendulum swinging once again.”
At least 10 other historic timepieces are under the care of the chamber’s curators, including a steel-faced, 7-foot-tall floor clock outside the President’s Room and the gilded-frame gallery clock in the Old Senate Chamber.
Until the furlough ends, passers-by will have to rely on the not-so-stately faces of their wristwatches or the screens of their cellphones.