In response to my review of America Unearthed S01E12 "America's Oldest Secret," Jim Egan of the Newport Tower Museum wrote some comments that were too lengthy to fit into my blog's comment feature. I told Egan that I would publish his comments in full. Here they are:
Dear Jason and all,
I've enjoyed reading your opinions about "America's Oldest Secret" and the Newport Tower. That show, for all its nonsensicalness and non-sequiturs has sparked an interest in this incredibly important structure.
This is a quote from Jason's introduction
He [Wolter] meets with one such academic, Jim Egan, the curator of the Newport Tower Museum. Egan does not believe that the tower was a windmill; instead, he thinks it is the first English structure in Rhode Island, built just before 1600 and later converted into a windmill, based, again, on the fact that it simply doesn’t look like a windmill to him. He believes that Dr. John Dee planned a secret colony for Rhode Island, that the Tower was its first building, and that the colony failed, leaving behind, conveniently, no trace of its existence archaeologically or historically. In fact, Egan produced a video naming the tower the “John Dee Tower of 1583,” for which there is not the slightest hint of solid evidence.
I would respectfully like to disagree with several of the points you have made here.
First off I am not an academic, I have been a professional photographer for 40 years. I've studied the Tower for over 25 years, written 12 books on the subject, produced 20 videos, and opened the Newport Tower Museum. Over the past three years I've explained my research to over 2000 people from practically every state in the country and most of the countries in Europe.
Secondly, you suggest that I think the tower was converted into a windmill. Let me be clear. I don’t think this tower was built as a windmill, or that it was ever converted into a windmill.
Thirdly, I think it's misleading to refer to John Dee as Dr. John Dee. He was not a medical doctor. He was an expert on Euclidean geometry, mathematics, astronomy, optics, navigation, cartography, history, theology, and Vitruvian architecture. He wrote over 40 books and had a library of 4000 books, the largest in Elizabethan England
When you claim that there is "no trace of its existence archaeologically or historically" and that I have "not the slightest hint of solid evidence" for naming the tower the "John D Tower 1583. I can only think that you haven't read my thesis, listen to my videos, or been to the Newport Tower Museum.
You are however absolutely correct that I do not provide any evidence of my thesis during that bizarre episode of "America's Oldest Secret." All my erudite rebuttals to Scott Wolter’s absurd conjectures ended up on the cutting room floor.
As we sat on the park bench I explained to him that the drawing on the Mercator map of 1569 was a depiction of the mythical town of Norumbega, which is 90 miles up the Hudson. What is now Narragansett Bay is clearly marked on the Mercator map, just north of the triangular island of Claudia. Furthermore, both Norumbega and Claudia appear on John Dee’s 1580 map of North America. John Dee and Gerard Mercator were inseparable friends in when they were both studying under the renowned astronomer Gemma Frisuis in the Louvain, Netherlands.
Much of my work is based on the pioneering research done by William Penhallow, Professor Emeritus in Astronomy and Physics from the University of Rhode Island. In the early 1990s, he found numerous astronomical alignments in the Tower, and as a professional photographer, I photo-documented what he had predicted in his published papers.
I was astounded by astronomy Incorporated in the tower. There are alignments with the North Star, the Moon at Lunar Minor, and the Sun at each of the Solstices and at the Equinoxes. The Tower is a building which keeps track of time. The interior of the tower acted like a camera-obscura solar-disc calendar-room. (I have replicated this kind of a room in my Museum.)
I showed Scott Wolter all these alignments and not only did he “borrow” some of them to support his Templar Thesis, he botched a wonderful opportunity to share the depth of Penhallow’s amazing discoveries on National TV.
For example, in the winter of 2000, I was photographing Penhallow’s discovery that sunlight passes through two of the three windows in the Tower. This event only happens just after sunrise, on or around the Winter Solstice, and no other time of year. I got some great shots of the event, which only last 20 minutes, and decided to hang around to see if anything else happened. At around 9:00 AM, I noticed that egg-shaped rock being illuminated by a box of light shining through the south window.
Scott saw my photographs at the slide show I presented at the Newport Tower symposium sponsored by the New England Antiquities Research Association at the Newport Art Museum. He asked if he could use the pictures for his book on the "Hooked X." I refused, telling him I did not believe at all in his Templar theory. However, I told him when the event would happen, and where he should stand, and he was free to take his own pictures, which he did. And in the book, he courteously credits me with the discovery. Much as I disagree with Scott, I'm grateful that he is bringing a Tower to the attention of a wider audience.
Incidentally, that egg-shaped rock is completely contained within the first-floor room of the Tower. The patch of sunlight does not have to go through a floor. The tops of the beam sockets are clearly below the level of the egg shaped rock.
For the sake of brevity, I will not explain my full thesis, which can be read at: NewportTowerMuseum.com.
Or understood even more briefly in some short videos produced by Marc Creedon on my Facebook page: Newport Tower.
To conclude, if you think I'm making up this whole idea of the Elizabethan effort to colonize what is now Rhode Island, I suggest you dig a little deeper into the history books. Two of the most noted authorities on Elizabethan exploration, David Beers Quinn and Samuel Eliot Morrison both talk about at length about the 1583 colonization effort. The authorization for this expedition came from the Queen herself.
For example, on page 376 of his 1974, “England and the Discovery of America” David Beers Quinn writes,
“Moreover, Dee was able to point out to them on the large map of North America he had drawn in 1580 the precise place he thought their settlement should lie. Verrazzano had stayed for some time on Narragansett Bay in modern Rhode Island, which he calls his "Refugio," and there was decided that Peckham should lay out his seignory.”
And Samuel Eliot Morison, in his 1971 book, “The European Discovery of America,” on page 590 writes,
“And in 1582-83, Sir Humphrey Gilbert deeded to Sir George Peckham and his son a modest patrimony of 1,5000,000 acres. Guided by Verrazzano’s Letter (which Hakluyt had printed), the grant begins at "Dee River" (Narragansett Bay) with its five islands and extends 60 English miles ‘along the seacoast westward towards the river of Norumbeague.’”
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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