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G.W. Watch Key


In July of 2003, Gary L. Smith, was commissioned to replicate an ornate watch key owned by George Washington. The original key is housed in the Atwater Kent Museum in Philadelphia. After traveling to Philadelphia and much research, the replica was started. It took several months to accomplish but the result was phenomenal. It was an exact replica. Mr. Smith wished to acknowledge and thank the following: Stuller, Inc., Lafayette LA, for custom alloying, fabricating, and supplying the gold for the project. Rofin Baasel Inc. (Laser), Boxborough MA/Plymouth MI, for engineering facilities and use of their state-of-the-art laser for cutting the patterns. Edward S. Katz, GG, for his lapidary expertise in cutting the carnelian beads.


French watchmaker, Jean Antone Lepine, created the watch for George Washington in 1789 and in the following centuries was assumed to have been the maker of the key as well. Upon the forensic examination, Mr. Smith discovered that the key contained no hallmarks indicating the manufacturer or country of origin. I have reached the conclusion that the key was crafted by a colonial goldsmith because of the absence of markings, which all European countries strongly enforced, and had yet to be adopted by the colonies.


To make this story even more interesting, in October of 2004, Mr. Smith was attending the Fort Freeland Heritage Days in Turbotville, PA, and happened to recognize a charred artifact they had in a display. It looked identical to the one he had replicated just two years earlier. This one was a pendant, but one third larger in size, and was unearthed during a 1979 archeological dig at the site of the Battle of Fort Freeland.


The watch key and the pendant are both of Dutch design and identical in pattern shape, which gives them another possible link.  Mr. Smith did a presentation about the two pieces at the Fort Freeland Historical Association’s banquet on April 26, 2005 and also is a presenter at the Fall Heritage Days in October each year.  He will also be crafting one for the President of the United States in hopes to present it to him on President’s Day, 2007.


He also appeared live on WVIA’s broadcast of “State of Pennsylvania”. This was a live call-in show that people could call in and talk to Gary about the watch key. This was aired live on Thursday, May 5th, 2005, at 7:00pm and again rebroadcast on several occasions.

He has also made and donated a key that was auctioned on WVIA’s 2005 Great TV Auction in May, 2005.


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