<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://px.ads.linkedin.com/collect/?pid=3882185&amp;fmt=gif">
Skip to main content
Jim Baldwin

By: Jim Baldwin on June 13th, 2024

Print/Save as PDF

Ashcroft Nautical Clock and Other Instruments Recovered from the Sea

shipwrecks | Clock

If you work in any industry that uses pressure and temperature instrumentation to keep your process applications running safely and efficiently, there's a good chance you are familiar with Ashcroft gauges or sensors. That's because Ashcroft has been making pressure and temperature measurement instruments since its inception more than 170 years ago. What you may not know, however, is that Ashcroft also made nautical clocks in the late 1800s.

I have been working at Ashcroft for more than 30 years. As Vice President and General Manager of Ashcroft North America, it is my job to know Ashcroft's history and the breadth and depth of products we've offered over the years. Seeing the timeline of instruments displayed in the lobby of our Stratford, CT headquarters is always a thrill. But nothing can tell a story like the recent discoveries of Ashcroft instruments found in sunken ships that had been lost at sea for more than a century. 

In this article, you will learn about two such discoveries that occurred in the past year alone. Each incident sheds a little light on how Ashcroft got its start and why we remain one of the leading authorities in the field of pressure and temperature instrumentation. 

Ashcroft nautical clock found in shipwreck off the coast of Bridgeport, CT 

Recently, I met Kurt Mintell, a retired U.S. Marine who now works for the Army Corps of Engineers. Kurt is also a recreational diver who operates from multiple dive boats searching for shipwrecks.

During one of these excursions off the Long Island coast, Kurt was diving from a vessel called RV Karma. He came across the remains of a shipwreck. The wooden structure was almost gone, but the ship's bow, boiler, engine, propeller, stern and propeller shaft were all visible. During the exploration, buried near the engine, Kurt saw something that looked like a metal plate. He removed it and resurfaced to the dive boat for further investigation of the find.

Figure 1. Kurt Mintell searching for lost artifacts from a shipwreck off the coast of Bridgeport, CT.

Underwater Dive for Clock

Figure 2. The unidentified clock found at sea. 

kurt with clock

After extensive cleanup, Kurt could see what looked like the mechanisms of a clock and was able to see the markings that confirmed it was made by the Ashcroft Manufacturing Company.  He was also able to read an inscription on the clock's dial that said "Neafie & Levy Ship Building Company".  Excited to have a clue that could identify the ship, Kurt handed the clock to his historian to search the archives for more clues. Unfortunately, this was a dead end.

Figure 3. The restored Ashcroft Manufacturing Company nautical clock.

cleaned clock

The ship's identity is finally revealed.

Two years after the initial find of the Ashcroft clock, Kurt and his crew went back to the wreck site to search for more clues to identify the ship they had discovered. During this dive, they located the ship's cargo and were amused to discover that the ship was carrying sewing machines. This big break led to more research into the archives where they found an article that documented a shipwreck off Stratford ShoalStratford Shoal (also known as Middle Ground) is midway between Long Island and the Connecticut shore and marked by a lighthouse so crews can easily navigate through this challenging patch of water.

According to the article, the incident involved lighthouse keeper, William Hardwick and a steamship called the Calvin Tompkins. The Calvin Tomkins was moving sewing machine castings up the coast from New York to Bridgeport, CT for delivery to the Singer Sewing Machine plant in Bridgeport, CT. A severe storm caused the ship to take on water and eventually sink. Keeper Hardwick is credited for rescuing seven men from the wreck that killed two crewmen. 

Figure 3. An article documenting the Calvin Tomkins shipwreck.

Clock Shipwreck Article

Diving for treasures is a risky business. 

Searching for shipwrecks is an extremely expensive and time-intensive endeavor that involves a lot of risk. Often these excursions take you more than 250 miles off shore where you can be on the water for 5-6 days doing 200-300 foot deep dives to see what's sitting at the bottom. Kurt explains,

"Once I get all my gear on, I'm ready for the straight drop down 300 feet of anchor line to explore in complete darkness. From there, you have about 8 minutes on the bottom where you hope to get a couple of pictures, grab anything you can see, and then do about 2 hours of decompression from doing that. Then, you probably won't go back to the same location for another five years."

To Kurt, it's all worth it. In addition to being his passion, he explains, "There's a whole lot of community involvement in the dive community that goes on. For instance, many of the artifacts I find travel to symposiums for display and I am often invited to speak to students in UCONN's dive program about my experiences and the items I recover. They even help with some of the restoration projects."  

The greatest reward is closing the case. 

The tale of the Calvin Tomkins shipwreck and the Ashcroft clock had the best of all possible outcomes. Kurt and his team were able to identify the vessel and the clock. After a few long years, and a chance encounter with me, the Ashcroft clock came full circle when Kurt brought it back to Stratford and presented it to me for display at the Ashcroft headquarters. 

Figure 4. The Ashcroft nautical clock returns home to Stratford. 

Presenting the clock

Another discovery links an Ashcroft steam gauge to a ship lost in the Bermuda Triangle.

Earlier this year, the serial number on an Ashcroft steam gauge from 1864 is credited for identifying another ship that was lost at sea in 1865. According to the History Channel, which aired their findings on January 9, 2024, a large wooden ship called the SS D.H. Mount disappeared shortly after the Civil War ended. 

Screenshot 2024-01-11 at 11.44.36 AM

In the episode, a team of divers investigates the shipwreck which is thought to be one of the earliest victims of the Bermuda Triangle. The ship departed from New York with 22 pro-Union politicians charged with rebuilding the post-war political structure of Confederate Florida. It was reported that all of the politicians on board received death threats. Then, in a stretch of water that later became known as the Bermuda Triangle, the ship vanished. While the divers found evidence that there may have been a fire on the vessel, no one knows for sure the fate of the ship and its passengers. 

The SS D.H. Mount is now considered to be one of the first ships to fall victim to the infamous stretch of water known as the Bermuda Triangle. To learn more, watch "The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters."

 How Ashcroft got its start during the industrial revolution.

In 1852, company founder, Edward Ashcroft of Lynn, Massachusetts began making instruments for the steam-powered industry to prevent workers from being injured by substandard and unreliable tools. At that time, steam power was the primary energy source of transportation, so it was common to see Ashcroft pressure gauges and other instruments in the boiler rooms of locomotives and ships. One of those other instruments was the Ashcroft nautical clock. These were commonly used in the engine rooms for navigational purposes.

Figure 5: Ashcroft Manufacturing Company, Bridgeport, CT


Ready to learn more about Ashcroft?
These two recent discoveries are just a reminder of how Ashcroft's pressure and temperature instruments played an integral role in the U.S. expansion of locomotive and steamship transportation during the Industrial Revolution. Today, our products are a critical aspect of processes and systems in virtually every industry. 

Visit Ashcroft.com to learn more about Ashcroft and our products. Or, to speak with someone directly, feel free to contact one of our product experts with any questions you have.

About Jim Baldwin

Jim Baldwin is the Vice President and General Manager of Ashcroft North America. In this leadership role, Jim is responsible for the USA and Canada Sales Team including Direct Sales, Distribution Sales, Export Sales and Inside Sales. Jim has authority for all of the key drivers for financial success for Stratford and Queretaro including Sales, IT, Order Fulfillment, Manufacturing, Supply Chain and Quality with close collaboration with Finance, HR, Engineering and Global Business Development.