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(story icon)1949

John Muir's Clocks

from It Happened Here
by Margaret G. Henderson, Ethel Dewey Speerschneider, and Helen L. Ferslev   1949

Mr. Muir, John Muir's father, worried because his son was not like other boys. He was always wanting to make something new--to invent something.

When he was just a lad, John made a curious clock. It told the time of day, the day of the week, and the day of the month. It struck the hours. It was connected to a leg of a bed. You set the clock at the hour you wanted to get up, and the clock loosened a big stone. That knocked out the leg of the bed and dumped you on the floor right at the time you wanted to get up.

John Muir's clock-desk

Later, when John was a student at the University of Wisconsin, he made another clock that did many more things. It lighted his lamp and his fire. It opened the right book for him to study. At the end of half an hour it whisked that book away, and up popped another. You may see this clock in the museum of the State Historical Society in Madison. The legs are shaped like compasses and books. It stands about nine feet tall. It is surely a queer clock.

Muir became one of our greatest American naturalists. He was the father of our National Parks system. He thought it was very important to know the why of things. "I've got to know things," he said to people. "There's so much I've got to know."

John Muir's clock-desk

Historical Society staff setting up Muir's clock-desk

"John Muir's Clocks." Henderson, Margaret G., Ethel Dewey Speerschneider and Helen L. Ferslev. It Happened Here: Stories of Wisconsin. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1949. 189-190.
Copyright 1949 by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Used with permission.
From the Collection of the UW-Madison Memorial Library: F 581 H45