The New York City subway system traces its origins back to John B. McDonald (1844 – 1911), an Irish emigrant responsible for overseeing the construction of the city’s first subway line. With strong political backings and Irish ties to Tammany Hall, McDonald secured the bid of $35 million dollars to build New York City’s subway system. Beginning construction in 1900, the project was one of the city’s most complex designs extending from City Hall in downtown Manhattan up to 145th Street in Harlem. Construction would take four years and stretch over 23 miles. Expansions of the system would soon follow into Brooklyn, leading to today’s New York City subway system, which includes 472 operating stations and 850 miles of total track.
The present pendant-watch by Tiffany & Company was specially commissioned to commemorate the opening of the New York City subway system. Behind the domed crystal of one side of the watch is earth taken at the groundbreaking of the Subway on March 24, 1900, together with the initials of the original owner, Georgie Annie McDonald, the daughter of John McDonald. The engraving along the exterior reads “Some of the earth from the first shovelful taken out by Mayor Van Wyck at the breaking of ground for the first underground railway”. Christie’s is honored to present this rare and historic jewel for the first time to the public at auction, having been gifted to the present owner’s grandmother directly from Georgie McDonald and descending through the family until present day.