The Poetry of Benjamin Gould


Observatory Lyrics 
Tom Tom the President
Begged Grabbed the money and quickly spent
But Jimmy was caught though he was bought
And now Tommy's going to get what he ought.
Published in NYT, July 28, 1858

Published in NYT, July 28, 1858

This little bit of doggerel was one of Benjamin A. Gould’s ways of blowing off steam.  He would pen a scathing poem directed at whoever was irritating him at the moment.  This one is undated, so it’s not clear what had Gould riled up, but we can puzzle some of it out.  Tom the President was probably Thomas Olcott, President of the Board.  Jimmy is harder to pin down.  The poem is clearly about some issue of money being spent, but there were so many issues about money during the founding of the Dudley Observatory that this doesn’t help.

We have no idea how many of these little verses Gould wrote because, of course, they likely got tossed away.  Only one of his poems ever got published, to Gould’s regret.  This one was written while Gould was trying to convince academics and politicians in New York City to adopt his plan of selling accurate time from Dudley Observatory.  As I wrote previously, this idea never took off, and Gould got frustrated with some of the administrators who were rejecting his idea.  He penned this bit of song, set to the tune of the nursery rhyme “Who Killed Cock-Robin,” to mock the cluelessness of some of the professors at New York University.

Somehow, someone got a hold of this Gould’s throw-away poem and slipped it to the New York Times while the Letters to the Editors page was still arguing about the Dudley controversy. Gould’s career at Dudley was basically over by that point, but this leak must have seemed like the door hitting him on the way out.

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