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Historic Senate clock no longer ticking thanks to shutdown

Frank Thorp, NBC News

The Ohio Clock stopped ticking Wednesday because the workers charged with maintaining it have been furloughed.

The government shutdown has stopped the Senate's historic Ohio Clock.

The team of curators that wind the 11-foot tall, nearly 200-year-old clock every week have been furloughed, the Secretary of the Senate confirms to NBC News. It was last wound on Monday, Sept. 30 -- and more than a week into the shutdown, its hands are now frozen at 12:14.

Roll Call newspaper reported that it stopped at 12:14 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon.

The Ohio Clock dates to 1815, when Sen. David Daggett asked for a clock with "the dial to be about two feet in diameter, an hour, minute and second hand, a Spread eagle on the top and the United States arms at foot."

The clock arrived in the Senate in 1817, and initially sat in the Old Senate chamber. It was moved to its current location outside the modern Senate chamber in 1859.

No one knows where the clock got its name, but it's been long rumored that senators hid bottles of whiskey inside it.

Today, it serves as a landmark for reporters and senators alike, who gather almost daily in the "Ohio Clock corridor." Senators hold formal press conferences there -- and reporters crowd around other lawmakers who are just passing through.

There are a number of other historic clocks in the Senate that have also stopped, including one in Vice President Joe Biden's ceremonial office, according to the Secretary of the Senate.

With no furloughed workers to wind it, the historic Ohio Clock that has been keeping time outside the Senate chamber since the 1800s, stopped ticking. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

The curators maintain all of the historic objects in the Capitol, including the artwork, period furnishings and the clocks.

The curators are specially trained to wind historic timepieces. The Ohio Clock is nearly 200 years old, and over time, inexperienced people have sometimes wound the clock too tightly, threatening to do permanent harm.

The head curator emailed the Secretary of the Senate's office ahead of the furloughs to say that the clocks would likely stop after a week of ticking.

It's not known when it last stopped ticking. In 1983, a bomb that exploded outside the Senate chamber shattered the glass covering of the clock, but didn't damage its workings beyond repair. In August 2010, the clock was moved out of the Capitol and sent to be refurbished.