Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Newport Tower’s Place in Early Newport

The Newport Tower once had a full view of Newport Harbor, as shown in this early illustration. Viewed from the Tower, the sunset occurred at 302 degrees directly behind the steeple of Trinity Church on the Summer Solstice. The steeple is no longer visible today, due to houses around the park.



Jim Egan’s Response to ‘America Unearthed’

If you were lucky enough to see the world premiere of “America’s Oldest Secret,” you might be wondering “What the heck was that all about?”

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Venus alignments that don’t actually occur? A laser X?  Earthquakes moving the alignments in the Tower?  The Statue of Liberty?  Huh?

So what if most of Jim Egan’s wry comments ended up on the cutting room floor. It doesn’t matter. My mother thought I looked great in my clean blue sweater. And I can chalk another entry off my bucket list. And they did say the words “Tower authority Jim Egan” and spelled out “J – O – H – N —- D – E – E,” and included my quip about the “Knights in the 1200’s enjoying laser light shows.” I put up my best single-handed defense possible against a Templari assault from all sides.( What you don’t see in each shot is the video crew of 8: Three cameramen taping from three different angles, the sound technician holding a boom microphone over our heads, the director, and three production assistants running around setting up lights.)

If the host was the anti-hero, and Jim was the unsung hero, the real hero was… The Tower. It looked great. The mini-helicopter shots over the treetops showing the Tower nestled in the park were mystical. The wide-angle shots that turned the Tower into an eight-legged spider were mysterious. The time lapse of the night sky was stellar. The patch of light creeping along the egg-shaped rock was primal. And the magnetic Cumberlandite in the south pillar made you wonder.

That’s magical stuff. And a million people got to see it.

If nothing else, the America Unearthed episode sparked imaginations. It got people thinking about history. And the better we understand history, the better we will be able to envision our future.

Curious folks from all over America are still scratching their heads asking, “OK, just what is the solution to America’s Oldest Secret?” And when they come to visit the Tower, the History Channel won’t be here. Jim Egan and his museum will.


– Jim Egan, March 11, 2013, Newport RI

John Dee at Queen Elizabeth’s Court

John Dee met with Queen Elizabeth numerous times during her long reign. It’s not known if he performed this type of fiery experiment, imagined by the noted English painter Henry Glindoni, painted in 1913 (which hangs in the Wellcome Gallery in London.) But it does give you a good feel for Dee, Elizabeth an her court.


John Dee was asked by Elizabeth to select the most propitious day for her Coronation. (He chose January 15,1559 for mathematical reasons.)

Elizabeth even stopped by to visit Dee in his house in Mortlake, as it’s along the route from Hampton Court Palace and Greenwich Palace. On one such visit, Dee show the Queen a giant convex mirror and her courtiers had merry fun fencing against an upside-down image of themselves which returned each thrust instantly.

In 1577, John Dee spent four days at Hampden Court, Palace explaining (as per the eight books that he had written) why Queen Elizabeth had a legal right to North America (except for Florida where the Spanish had settled). Dee claimed that earlier Englishmen, like King Arthur, Prince Madoc, Saint Brendan, John Cabot, had claimed the continent for England, long before the Spanish presence.

Dee selected what is now Narragansett Bay to be the finest bay for the first settlement, and he named it after himself, the Dee River. The deed to the Dee River was discovered in the Elizabethan State Papers in 1934, but since then, no RI history book has ever written about it, so its not well known. However the two most noted authorities on Elizabethan exploration, David beers Quinn and Samuel Eliot Morrison, both assert the Dee River is ”modern Narragansett Bay.”

In 1582, John Dee presented his 60-page British Calendar Reform Proposal to the Queen (at her request). Dee had used the most accurate “horologium” (timekeeper) known at the time, a camera-obscura solar-disk calendar-room, and recommended that Britain institute its own calendar reform, similar to the Pope’s Gregorian calendar of 1582. Dee claimed the Queen would forever be famous as “The Reformer of the Year for the Next Christian Epoch.”

Numerous clues (in the Tower and in Dee’s texts) suggest this is what the Tower is: Dee’s horologium on the Dee River. It was intended was to celebrate the two beginnings: the New Time and the New World.

Unfortunately the head of the Anglican Church vetoed Dee’s calendar proposal, and though the Tower got built, the colonization effort ultimately failed, and the Tower was abandoned.

Video: Summary of the History of the Newport Tower

This video was produced between 2012 and 2013 and explains the history of the Newport Tower, including the astronomical alignments, the camera obscura calendar room, and the early English settlement efforts in Rhode Island.   Thanks to Marc Creedon for producing this video

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