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COLLECTION Identifier: hsi00001

William Bond & Son records and Bond family papers, 1724-1931 (inclusive), 1769-1923 (bulk)


This collection consists of personal papers of clock maker and astronomer William Cranch Bond (1789-1859) and his family, the records of the company William Bond & Son, of Boston, Massachusetts, some records of the Harvard College Observatory, papers of J. Morton Clinch, photographs, printed material, and medals and watches, dated from 1724 to 1931.


  • Creation: 1724-1931 (inclusive), 1769-1923 (bulk)


Researcher Access

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5.5 linear feet (6 document boxes, 9 flat boxes, 4 portfolio folders)

This collection consists of personal papers of clock maker and astronomer William Cranch Bond (1789-1859) and his family, the records of the company William Bond & Son, of Boston, Massachusetts, some records of the Harvard College Observatory, papers of J. Morton Clinch, photographs, printed material, and medals and watches, dated from 1724 to 1931.

The family papers include land deeds, legal documents, and William Bond, Sr.'s (1754-1844) apprentice indenture from 1769 and naturalization papers from 1785; writings of William Cranch Bond and other Bonds; and genealogical documents and biographical information on William Cranch Bond. There is also correspondence of the Bond family regarding personal and social matters, and letters of William Cranch Bond related to the Harvard College Observatory. Some family correspondence among William Cranch Bond and his sons involves the business of William Bond & Son.

The William Bond & Son business records include four volumes of daybooks, dated 1833-1903, recording dealings with the Harvard College Observatory and United States Coast and Geodetic Survey; agreements with railroads to maintain their clocks and provide standard time for them; involvement with the U.S. Coast Survey chronometric expedition to determine difference of longitude between Greenwich Observatory (England) and Cambridge, Massachusetts; the bankruptcy of the firm in 1875; and instrument repair and sales. Additional records are three volumes of account books, dated 1857-1917, business correspondence, dated 1808-1931, and letterbooks, dated 1816-1914; payroll and legal documents, such as U.S. Navy contracts to maintain chronometers; and notes on chronometer making, testimonials, charts, and illustrations.

Additionally, there are draft reports and correspondence from the Harvard College Observatory, where William Cranch Bond was director from 1845 to 1859; class notes and writings of William Bond & Son partner J. Morton Clinch (1833-1908), a nephew of William Cranch Bond; printed material, journals, and books from the firm's library; and photographs of immediate and extended Bond family members and Bond & Son instruments. The collection also includes objects like medals awarded to the company and watches.

The first box is not part of the collection and contains background material on William Bond & Son, including an inventory created by Ebenezer Gay in 1969; Gay's notes, written in pencil, can be found on papers and records throughout the collection.

Historical Note

William Bond & Son was established in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1793 by William Bond, Sr., (1754-1848) an English silversmith and watch maker. His son, the astronomer William Cranch Bond (1789-1859), joined him in the business, which later expanded to include his sons, Joseph Cranch Bond (1823-1860) and Richard Fifield Bond (1827-1866) partners. His other son, George Phillips Bond (1825-1865), also worked for the firm, which manufactured, imported, and repaired clocks, watches, and chronometers.

William Cranch Bond constructed the first American-made marine chronometer, and the business supplied and repaired chronometers for the United States government, which were used in surveys of the Atlantic Coast and the Colorado River. William Cranch Bond and George P. Bond also devised a break circuit device that attached to the escapement of a clock, which became the foundation of the new "American method" of determining longitude. The device, which they termed a "spring governor," earned a Council Medal at the London Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851.

William Cranch Bond and Joseph C. Bond sold their shares in the company to Richard F. Bond in 1857. Other family members who later joined the business included William Cranch Bond's nephew, J. Morton Clinch (1833-1908) and grandson William C. Bond (born 1860). William Bond & Son ceased manufacturing clocks and chronometers in 1889, though it did not close until 1977.

Biographical Notes on the Bond Family

William Cranch Bond (1789-1859; honorary Harvard AM 1842) was an American astronomer and clock maker born in Falmouth, Maine, to Hannah Cranch Bond (1848-1828) and William Bond (1754-1844). He was a partner in the clock making business started by his father, William Bond & Son, and was the first director of the Harvard College Observatory (1845-1859). Bond traveled to Europe in 1815, commissioned by Harvard University to gather information on European observatories. Upon his return, he supervised the construction of a model observatory dome. As funds were lacking for the project, the university put the plans on hold. Bond meanwhile continued his private astronomical pursuits and undertook a survey of astronomical and meteorological data for the United States government in connection with observations to be made by the Exploring Expedition to the South Seas under the command of Captain Charles Wilkes (1798-1877). In 1839, he was allowed to move his personal astronomical equipment to Harvard and serve as its (unpaid) "Astronomical Observer to the University." In 1843, Harvard raised funds to construct an observatory. Bond designed the building and the observing chair, and Harvard bought a fifteen-inch German-built refracting telescope, equal in size to the largest in the world at the time. The telescope was first used in 1847 when it was pointed to the moon. Bond and his son, George Phillips Bond, discovered Saturn's moon Hyperion, and they were the first to observe the then innermost ring of Saturn in 1850. In 1858, Bond was appointed Phillips Professor of Astronomy at Harvard. His published articles include Observations on the comparative rates of marine chronometers, and Occultations and eclipses, observed at Dorchester, Massachusetts (1833); Bond also wrote History and description of the Astronomical Observatory of Harvard College (1856) and Observations on the planet Saturn ... at the Observatory of Harvard College, 1847-1857. Bond married his first cousin, Selina Cranch (1798-1831), in 1819; they had four sons and two daughters: William Cranch, Jr. (1821-1841); Joseph Cranch (1823-1860); George Phillips (1825-1865); Richard Fifield (1827-1866); Elizabeth Lidstone (1829-1851); and Selina Cranch (1831-1920). After his wife's death in 1831, Bond married Selina's older sister, Mary Roope Cranch.

Joseph Cranch Bond (1823-1860) was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He became partner in the clock making business of William Bond & Son, and was William Cranch Bond's assistant at the Harvard College Observatory. He married Charlotte Jameson, and they had one child who lived to adulthood, Harriet Pierce (1850-1875).

George Phillips Bond (1825-1865; Harvard AB 1845, AM 1853) was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He worked with his father in the clock making business of William Bond & Son and also served as an assistant at the Harvard College Observatory from 1846 to 1859. He succeeded William Cranch Bond as director of the Harvard College Observatory, and Phillips Professor of Astronomy, positions he held from 1859 until his death in 1865. His published works include An account of Donati's comet of 1858. George married Harriet Gardner Harris, and they had two daughters who survived to adulthood, Elizabeth Lidstone and Catherine Harris.

Richard Fifield Bond (1827-1866) was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Like his elder brother, Richard was a partner in the family clock making business, William Bond & Son, and he acquired his father's and brother's shares in 1857. He sailed to Liverpool, England, with the United States Coast Survey chronometric expedition in 1855. Richard married Sarah (Sally) Apthorp Cunningham Clinch (1835-1914), and they had one son, William Cranch (born 1860), who joined the family business, and two daughters, Edith (1862-1878) and Mary (1863-1894).

J. Morton Clinch (1833-1908) was a nephew of William Cranch Bond, and the son of Reverend Joseph H. Clinch. He was educated at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and subsequently joined the firm of William Bond & Son, where he worked for nearly fifty years until his death.


This collection is arranged in seven series:

  1. I. William Cranch Bond personal papers and Bond family papers, 1769-1902, undated
  2. ___A. Genealogy and biographical information, 1850-1859, undated
  3. ___B. Legal records and certificates, 1769-1891
  4. ___C. Journals and writings, 1843-1892, undated
  5. ___D. Correspondence, 1808-1902, undated
  6. II. William Bond & Son business records, 1808-1931, undated
  7. ___A. Subject files, 1821-1917, undated
  8. ___B. Correspondence, 1808-1831, undated
  9. ___C. Financial records, 1833-1917
  10. III. Harvard College Observatory records, circa 1849-1921, undated
  11. IV. J. Morton Clinch papers, 1850-1855
  12. V. Printed material, 1842-1908
  13. VI. Photographs, 1855-circa 1900, undated
  14. VII. Medals and watches, 1724-1874

Acquisition information

The William Bond & Son records and Bond family papers were donated to the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments by William B. Osgood in 1959; six medals were donated by Richard Mills in March 1968.

Related Materials

In the Harvard University Archives:

  1. William Cranch Bond family collection, 1845-1872 and undated (HUG 1225 and HUG 1226)
  2. Harvard College Observatory Records of Directors W.C. Bond and G.P. Bond, 1845-1865 (UAV 630)
  3. Papers of George Phillips Bond, 1851-1865 (HUG 1224.803, HUG 1224.805)

In Houghton Library:


  • Harvard University. Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates of Harvard University. Cambridge, Mass., 1890.
  • Holden, Edward S., and Bond, Richard F. Memorials of William Cranch Bond : Director of the Harvard College Observatory, 1840-1859, and of His Son George Phillips Bond, Director ... 1859-1865. San Francisco: C.A. Murdock & co.; New York: Lemcke & Buechner, 1897.

General note

This document last updated 2016 September 9.

General note

  1. ___People
  2. ___Bond family.
  3. ___Bond, George Phillips, 1825-1865.
  4. ___Bond, Joseph Cranch, 1823-1860.
  5. ___Bond, Mary, 1863-1894.
  6. ___Bond, Richard Fifield, 1827-1866.
  7. ___Bond, Sarah Apthorp Cunningham, circa 1835-1914.
  8. ___Bond, Selina Cranch, 1831-1920.
  9. ___Bond, William Cranch, 1789-1859.
  10. ___Boott, Francis, 1792-1863.
  11. ___Bowditch, Charles P. (Charles Pickering), 1842-1921.
  12. ___Burns, Anthony, 1834-1862.
  13. ___Clinch, J. Morton (John), 1833-1908.
  14. ___Clinch, Joseph H.
  15. ___Coolidge, Sidney, 1830-1863.
  16. ___Cranch family.
  17. ___Cromwell, Oliver, 1599-1658.
  18. ___Cross, Charles R. (Charles Robert), 1848-1921.
  19. ___Cutter, Charles A. (Charles Ammi), 1837-1903.
  20. ___Davis, C. H. (Charles Henry), 1845-1921.
  21. ___Elson, George H.
  22. ___Everett, Edward, 1794-1865.
  23. ___Gay, Ebenezer.
  24. ___Herschel, John F. W. (John Frederick William), 1792-1871.
  25. ___Hutton, John, active 1830-1868.
  26. ___Lawrence, Abbott, 1792-1855.
  27. ___Norton, Charles Eliot, 1827-1908.
  28. ___Pickering, Edward C. (Edward Charles), 1846-1919.
  29. ___Quincy, Josiah, 1772-1864.
  30. ___Roberts, Joseph J. (Joseph Jenkins), 1809-1876.
  31. ___Rogers, William A. (William Augustus), 1832-1898.
  32. ___Whiting, Sarah F., 1847-1927.
  33. ___Whitney, Mary Watson, 1847-1921.
  34. ___Wilkes, Charles, 1798-1877.
  35. ___Winlock, Joseph, 1826-1875.
  36. ___Woodward, Robert Simpson, 1849-1924.
  37. ___Groups
  38. ___American Watch Company.
  39. ___Bausch & Lomb Optical Company.
  40. ___Boston and Providence Railroad.
  41. ___Boston Optical Works.
  42. ___Crystal Palace (Great Exhibition, 1851, London, England).
  43. ___Cunard Steamship Company, ltd.
  44. ___Elgin National Watch Co.
  45. ___Harvard College Observatory.
  46. ___Harvard University -- Astronomy.
  47. ___Harvard University -- Faculty.
  48. ___Harvard University -- Scientific apparatus collections.
  49. ___Magnin Guedin & Co.
  50. ___National Society of the Colonial Dames of America.
  51. ___Palmer, Batchelder & Co.
  52. ___Parkinson and Frodsham (Firm).
  53. ___Pennsylvania Railroad.
  54. ___Royal Astronomical Society.
  55. ___Tiffany and Company.
  56. ___U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.
  57. ___United States. Navy.
  58. ___United States and Mexican Boundary Survey.
  59. ___United States Coast Survey.
  60. ___United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842).
  61. ___United States Naval Academy.
  62. ___United States Naval Observatory.
  63. ___Vassar College.
  64. ___William Bond & Son.
  65. ___Topics
  66. ___Advertising -- 19th century.
  67. ___Aneroid barometers.
  68. ___Astronomers -- United States -- 19th century.
  69. ___Astronomical instruments.
  70. ___Astronomical observatories -- Massachusetts -- Cambridge.
  71. ___Astronomy -- Research -- 19th century.
  72. ___Bankruptcy -- Massachusetts -- Boston.
  73. ___Chronograph.
  74. ___Chronometers -- Awards.
  75. ___Chronometers -- Specifications.
  76. ___Clock and watch making -- Massachusetts -- 18th century.
  77. ___Clock and watch making -- Massachusetts -- 19th century.
  78. ___Clocks and watches -- Marketing.
  79. ___Geodesy -- 19th century.
  80. ___Horology -- 19th century.
  81. ___Instrument manufacture -- Massachusetts -- Boston.
  82. ___Longitude -- Measurement -- History.
  83. ___Manufactures -- Massachusetts -- Boston.
  84. ___Navigation -- Equipment and supplies -- History.
  85. ___Railroads -- Time standards.
  86. ___Scientific apparatus and instruments.
  87. ___Surveying.
  88. ___Time -- Systems and standards -- 19th century.
  89. ___Places
  90. ___Boston (Mass.).
  91. ___Cambridge (Mass.).
  92. ___Laconia (N.H.).
  93. ___Massachusetts -- Social life and customs -- 19th century.
  94. ___United States -- Surveys.
  95. ___Formats and genres
  96. ___Account books.
  97. ___Certificates.
  98. ___Circulars.
  99. ___Commonplace books.
  100. ___Contracts.
  101. ___Correspondence.
  102. ___Daybooks.
  103. ___Deeds.
  104. ___Diaries.
  105. ___Diplomas.
  106. ___Ephemera.
  107. ___Financial records.
  108. ___Invoices.
  109. ___Legal instruments.
  110. ___Medals.
  111. ___Passports.
  112. ___Photographs.
  113. ___Technical illustrations (images).
  114. ___Testimonials.
  115. ___Watches.

Processing Information

The collection was processed and an inventory created in November 1988 by Robin Carlaw. Apart from bound correspondence and financial records, the original order of the collection had been disturbed prior to its donation to Harvard.

The collection was partially reprocessed and a finding aid was created by Brooke McManus in September 2016; some of the previous arrangement and folder titles were retained but selected materials were removed from existing folders and placed into new or already existing folders that better reflected the materials' content. For example, William Cranch Bond's correspondence related to academic societies or administration of the Harvard College Observatory were removed from Bond family correspondence and filed as William Cranch Bond professional correspondence. Likewise, documents like invoices and receipts for timepieces found in Bond & Son correspondence were removed to folders titled Loose receipts and financial documents.

Preservation and description of the William Bond & Son records and Bond family papers were supported in part by the Arcadia-funded Colonial North American Project at Harvard University and the Nineteenth-Century North American Project at Harvard University. Materials created after 1900 that fell beyond the scope of these projects were described but not digitized. Additionally, published books contained in the Printed Materials series were not digitized.

William Bond & Son records and Bond family papers, 1724-1931 (inclusive), 1769-1923 (bulk) : an inventory
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, Harvard University Repository

Science Center, Room 250
One Oxford Street
Cambridge MA 02138 United States
(617) 495-2779