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 http://marccreedon.com

The Seal of the First Governor of Rhode Island

And the predecessor to the current Seal of the State of Rhode Island.


In 1637, a year after the founding of Providence, Roger Williams in a letter to John Winthrop, refers to “…Aquidnetick called by us Rode Island …”

The only “us” at that time was Roger, a few of his poor friends, and the Arnold clan. To me it’s pretty apparent they got this name from Hakluyt’s description of Verrazano’s voyage, (even though Verrazano actually used it in reference to Block Island).

On June 14,1638, as Anne Hutchinson, William Coddington, John Clarke, and the “Antinomians” were settling on northern Aquidneck, Roger Williams wrote to John Winthrop:

“Sir, concerning the islands Prudence and (Patmos, if some had not hindered) Aquedenick ….”

Roger wanted to call Aquidneck Island Patmos, the island to which St. John was banished in 95 AD, where he wrote one of Roger’s favorite books: Revelations. (In 1088 AD, a Monastery was built over the cave where St. John lived. The Greek island of Rhodes is nearby, but it’s 100 times larger than tiny Patmos.)

In 1641 the “colony” seal was to be a sheaf of arrows, with the motto “Amor Vincent omnia” (Love conquers all.) ( RI Manual, p. 12)

In 1644 the name of Aquidneck was officially changed to “Rhod Iland”(Rhode Island or the Isle of Rhodes).

In 1647 the First General Assembly made the colony seal an

anchor. At this time, Benedict Arnold was still a subject of the Mass

Bay Colony so he was not involved in this decision.
(Chapin, Illustrations of the Seals, Arms, and Flags of Rhode Island)

In 1663, Benedict Arnold was appointed by King CharlesII to be the first Governor, but it wasn’t until 1664 that he was elected by his contemporaries to that office. His very first act as elected Governor was to establish the seal for “Rhod Iland and Providence Plantations.” It was “The word Hope over the head of the anker.”

The combination of the word Hope and the graphic of an anchor has been used many times in the history of Christianity. It seems to have originated from the Biblical passage in Hebrews 6:19:

“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul,
a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind a curtain …”

Benedict Arnold used a seal that incorporated his initials BA, the anchor
(with fouled rope) and the word HOPE on
his official seal. (This silver seal (one inch
in diameter) has a handle (about 3 inches
long, with a 3 inch diameter knob) made of Seal polished hardwood. It is in the collection
of RI Historical Society in the John Brown
House in Providence.)

Newport Tower Winter Solstice 2012

One of our favorite videos of the Winter Solstice Sun Alignment. The sun shines through the South Window and the West Window about a half hour after sunrise on the Winter Solstice, just as it has done every year for 430 years. Accompaniment by Beethoven.

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