The William and Mary sundial was probably made in London during the seventeenth century or early eighteenth century. Scientific measurements of how lines on the dial by Dr. George W. Crawford, Professor of Physics Emeritus, prove it was engraved for use in the vicinity of Williamsburg and most likely for the College when it was chartered or soon thereafter to provide local time for residents in an age when a sundial was necessary to reset or adjust the timing of a clock or watch. Subsidiary dial rings simultaneously give the local time for six world locations indicating the sundial was made with a cultural or “world-view” intent.
The earliest authenticated reference to the sundial indicates it was located on a wooden pedestal in front of the President’s House on April 15, 1815. It was removed during the Civil War by Union Chaplain William H. Gilder for protection and returned in 1889. In 1912 it was moved to the rear of the Sir Christopher Wren Building and placed on a sandstone pedestal, a gift of "The Flat Hat" staff, to commemorate the first year of its publication.
In 1971, at the request of President Davis Y. Paschall, Professor Crawford, who had suggested a sundial for the New Campus Mall, restored the historic sundial by making a new gnomon to replace the missing original, which had been stolen soon after 1953, and supervised its relocation in the New Campus Mall. In 1975, when Professor Crawford had succeeded in making a bronze replica of the sundial for the new location, the original was placed in the Zollinger Museum on a walnut pedestal he had made and donated to the College. The original pedestal is on display in the Special Collections Research Center in Swem Library. Another replica is located in the Wren Building with 18th century Colonial Williamsburg artifacts, and one, given by the class of 1937, is located in the Alumni House. Documentation is available in the University Archives.
- University Archivist's Subject Files.