I am not a history buff like my brother is. He is the embodiment of that TikTok question, “how often do guys think about the Roman Empire” because he thinks about it a lot. He collects ancient coins, to be specific, from the Roman Empire. He is a chemist, not a historian.

But I have a kind of mystical reverence for history, or at least historical places. Being in a place, or touching an object that was owned, used, or created by another human being hundreds or even thousands of years ago is mind-blowing to me.

I totally put my hands on that.

Living in New England, we have some of the oldest historical sites relevant to what is now the United States, but I dunno…maybe living with it makes the idea of it boring, because if I had to learn anyone’s history, it wouldn’t be American history. Maybe it’s just that because we talked about it in school that it’s less interesting to me than anyone else’s history. But there’s a difference between learning something, and being somewhere where something happened.

This past weekend, we traveled down to Concord, MA not for the historical significance per se, but because my wife is now addicted to driving with the Wrangler now that we have the doors and roof off. She plotted us a nice, non-highway route to get there, and it was a really good drive, with the ultimate destination being “The Old Manse”, a house that was inhabited by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne at various periods. This was kind of cool, because apparently a lot of Important Shit Went Down in the house that spawned several American intellectual movements.

What really caught my attention, though, was this:

I was NOT allowed to put my hands on that.

This grandfather clock was purchased by William Emerson, Ralph Waldo’s father, in 1770. It has sat in that corner since then, and has been keeping continuous time since then.

OK, so what? That’s what clocks do, right? Sure, and while it’s cool that the clock has been operating continuously since 1770, what’s more interesting (to me, at least) is that it is located a few hundred yards from where the “Short Heard ‘Round the World” happened: the start of America’s Revolutionary War.

Again, I’m not personally bowled over by the history itself, and maybe it was being there “where History happened”, but it was certainly knowing that the grandfather clock was ticking before, during — including at the exact moment the first shots were fired a few hundred yards way — and even after this pivotal point in American history that blows my mind. Though not officially, obviously, that clock “saw” those events go down, survived, and is now just an unassuming grandfather clock tracking time in the corner of a historical landmark of a building; It’s like the inanimate object equivalent of walking away from an explosion without looking back.

One thing my wife said was that despite living within less than an hour away from this location, neither of us had ever been brought to or made the effort to visit this location before. I might understand that when we start talking about American history in school there might not be funds available for field trips beyond a certain radius — I’m sure schools in Concord and the surrounding areas get to go — but it’s also taken us this long as adults to visit the location. Hell, we got ourselves to Ireland before we managed to reach this important location in our own (well, mine; my wife was born in Canada) country.


  • Nimgimli

    June 17, 2024 - 8:19 am

    If I were to be given a superpower of my choosing, it would be the ability to travel back and see where an object has been and where it came from. Like who built this clock? Who are the guys who delivered it. Stuff like that.

    This superpower idea really comes from much more mundane things, like when you’re hiking way out in the woods and you come across a washing machine or an armchair or something and think “How the heck did this get way out here?” But it would be even cooler for historic objects like this clock.

    • Scopique

      June 17, 2024 - 10:21 am

      I think that’s a cool idea. Making matters more interesting, they KNOW this clock was built and bought in Limerick, Ireland, so it’s got way more history than it lets on!

      • Nimgimli

        June 17, 2024 - 1:16 pm

        Wow! So it crossed the ocean on a sailing ship! That’s super cool!

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